The bottom line is that the consumer has spoken. Multi-channel shopping is here to stay. With the ability to shop anywhere at any time with any device, consumers are demanding excellence and consistency at every turn and are challenging retailers and brands to keep up.
No magic formula for multi-channel retail operations
There is no magic formula for a successful multichannel operation. Those retailers getting it right have a deep understanding of their customers. The leading multichannel players are those that truly understand their consumer appeal, and can then replicate that consumer experience across all channels, backing it up by seamless behind-the-scenes execution. Retailers that are able to lower their cost of ownership with an ecommerce platform will be able to leverage their investment in an integrated model across as many channels as they choose.
Laser focus on consumers to be successful
When retailers manage their operations holistically across all channels, and treat their website not just as a sales outlet but as a way to get laser focused on a consumer, they can begin to catch up with consumers. Retailers are beginning to learn from this by designing websites that actively encourage quick and efficient online research, and making it easy to translate that research into either an online or local store purchase. Features like wish lists or the ability to book an appointment to view an item in-store can help build the same bridge. Other best practices for retailers include personalized recommendations, augmented product information and product reviews, and rapid checkout.
Integration of systems that work together
This consumer-facing activity needs to be supported by a structure that integrates the two different operations and forces them to work together collaboratively. Retailers face significant challenges in integrating their online, catalog and in-store operations. Retailers are learning they have to synchronize multiple databases (e.g., customer, sales, inventory, financial, etc.), manage merchandising and inventory management issues, disparate customer operations, and unify IT systems throughout the operation.
Managing from a centralized location
More and more multi-channel retailers are turning to web store providers also have the ability to manage complex applications from a centralized location in order to be more operationally efficient, customer responsive, faster to market, competitive and able to manage and communicate data with supplier and distributors who help support their business. Data in the cloud is also helping retail web store retailers run their sites and scale up with the necessary computing power and data storage.
The greatest challenge is to gather all this disparate data and exploit it in the most cost-effective way, while staying a step ahead to anticipate the future demands of the individual consumer.
The embrace of digital technology
As our global world and multichannel shopping world evolves, several trends that will influence shopping behaviors in the future:
Complete embrace of digital technology: By 2020 retailers will have fully embraced the use of digital technology, including mining consumer data to better understand purchase behavior, fully employing social media, and leveraging two-way communication channels with the workforce, whether in-field, in-store, or during travel. Additionally, smaller retailers need to focus on growing their customer base by keeping their customers happy and targeting marketing messages, product, and promotions as precisely as possible.
New retail formats for the multichannel retailer
The retail business model will emphasize convenience, range, and efficiency. In 2020, the conventional department store will have evolved into an operation fronted by a small number of strategically-placed destination showrooms, which will showcase only the best items, but will also be able to arrange extremely swift and efficient delivery through online channels based on the customer’s preference.
Differentiated value proposition
In order of to be consumer-centric retailers will need to have a clear, differentiated value proposition and create a unique customer experience to build and maintain customer loyalty. It is a great retail environment with great rewards for those who can align themselves with consumer expectations.
Anticipating customer needs and wants
Its not easy to anticipate customer needs and wants and in fact customers dont always know what they will want as social, cultural and business environments change and life events occur.
Having the foresight to know what is possible and how to give it to customers before they ask will be key to differentiating a business’ apart from the competition.
Small retailers need to take a step back, look around, gain a little analytic insight, share it, exchange it with existing retail management systems and distributors and be prepared to take care of the next big trend around the corner that will attract new customers to their site.
Retailers who embrace these technologies to deliver an integrated and seamless multi-channel shopping experience will be the ones who survive, and ultimately, thrive.
If our looking to improve your multi-channel operational efficiencies consider nChannel. nChannel is a complete web-based, multi-channel management platform. Using nChannel, companies can connect many of the systems you use to manage sales environments and easily manage the operations associated with multi-channel selling using the systems you already own.