Are you giving your customers a cohesive brand experience between your stores and e-commerce, or are you still in denial?
Q: My e-commerce platform and retail store systems are not in line with each other. Any advice on how to achieve omni-channel retailing for an independent specialty store?
A: The word omni-channel is getting much attention these days, and although it may just sound like the latest buzzword, it is absolutely critical that retailers understand this concept. Omni-channel means providing the same customer experience across all channels, with shared inventories and complete customer data transparency across your entire retail business.
Many retailers think they are omni-channel simply because they have multiple channels, like stores and e-commerce. This is a misconception. Omni-channel is different from multi-channel because you can have several sales channels without any of them relating to each other.
A quick acid test for omni-channel retailing: Do you have total visibility of customer history across stores and e-commerce? For example, if a customer walks into your store, can the staff easily view all the purchases he made on the web and use that information to make recommendations? Can loyalty points or a gift card balance be used in the store as well as online? Does the customer have options for order fulfillment, such as in-store pick up for a web order?
This may sound like a tall order, and if you are using outdated legacy technology, it is. In many cases, retailers will need a ground-up overhaul to get their operations to speak the omni-channel language.
The great news for retailers is that by operating physical stores, you have a strategic advantage over pure e-commerce sites. Stores can offer an experience that a website could never duplicate. However, while brick & mortar stores are the life force for customer engagement and offer that critical human touch, retailers must deliver an all-encompassing brand experience on the web as well.
There have been great technological advancements toward implementing these omni-channel strategies, at a fraction of the cost compared to 10 years ago. The cloud and the centralization of all data across channels is certainly one of those innovations.
If you are interested in learning more about omni-channel retail initiatives, please contact Michael Dattoma firstname.lastname@example.org.