Last week I wrote a post about why you should sell on Amazon. I touched on the importance of driving efficiency into your Amazon sales process to offset tumbling margins that result from Amazon seller fees and price pressure from competitors. I suggested that by replacing manual processing with automation and integration you could cut costs enough to lower prices, making your products more attractive to buyers.
While price can differentiate you from other sellers, another powerful way to set your company apart is by creating a better buying experience. Stellar service is not quickly forgotten and a great tool to build brand loyalty. If you can hook in a customer by making their purchasing process a pleasing one, they are much more likely to seek you out again for future purchases.
Building such an experience when you sell through multiple channels is a tricky venture. Shoppers make multiple stops to various channels on their journey to a purchase. Consider this example of a typical buying process.
Regardless of which step they are in throughout this process, buyers want simplicity, speed and convenience. As a seller, you must meet these expectations in order to compete. You must exceed them to win. Follow these three guidelines to get started:
1. Ensure that every shoppers experience is consistent across all channels
According to Retail Systems Researchs 2013 Benchmark Report, consistency is the most valued capability among retailers who sell across multiple channels. To understand why, you must realize that customers relate to your brand, not to the channel. So whether they are shopping at your retail store, mobile app, web store, kiosk, call center, online marketplace, or through social media, its critical that their experiences are similar especially when they interact with several of these in the same transaction. In the buyers mind they assume that they will be able to access the same products online as they do in the stores, that prices will be the same on every channel (even if the item is on sale), that any service person they talk to can edit their order, and that product availability will not be an issue once they decide to buy. If these conditions are not met, it damages your brand image. If they are, it improves your reputation AND you have a much higher chance of the interaction resulting in a sale.
2. Know your customers
No matter how the customer interacts with you, be sure that each sales channel and customer service point has access to customer data, including contact information and cross-channel order history. Knowing your customers intimately personalizes the interaction, makes them feel important, enables faster service and enriches the entire buying experience.
3. Say yes as often as you can to build loyalty
People dont like to be told no, especially from a business from whom they are considering making a purchase. So look at your business and think about what a customer may ask for and prepare in advance to say yes to every request. At a minimum, these questions must be answered in the affirmative.
? Do you know the status of my order? Yes!
- Any employee that interacts with buyers must know the status of every order (including shipping details).
? Is that product available? Yes!
- Current and accurate inventory count and the location of every product should be accessible in every store and listed on every website where that product is sold.
? Can you ship that to my house? Yes!
- If a product is out of stock in a store location, the sales associate should be able to look up where inventory is available and ship it directly to the customer. Bonus: at no charge!
? Can I pick that up in the store? Yes!
- Customers who place order online should have the option to pick items up at a store close to their location to avoid shipping delays.
? I bought this online: can I return it at the store? Yes!
- Online order information should be accessible from store locations so that customers can return items at their convenience.
? Do you know what I ordered last time? Yes!
- Sales associates, customer service representatives and the buyers online profile should have access to customers order history.
Making it happen
Transforming buying experiences requires access to data. It must be collected, stored and shared in a way that the right people have access to it at the right time. Data has historically been stored in individual systems that support a single channel. This structure is no longer an option as providing a great experience in one channel but a poor one in another may actually damage your brand more than it helps it.
These infrastructure changes may sound unrealistic, especially if you dont have a huge IT budget. But these capabilities are not out of reach, even for the smallest sellers. nChannels multi-channel management (MCM) platform provides a framework that centralizes customer and order data and orchestrates many of the key sales processes needed to meet customer demands. It includes:
- A web-based portal to view consolidated sales data from multiple sales channels so every employee can service customers and respond to inquiries quickly and accurately
- Item management to push consistent item data (descriptions, pricing, etc.) to every channel also enables central management for pricing and promotions across multiple channels
- Inventory synchronization to ensure that all channels have current and accurate inventory counts
- Inventory management to enable purchases from one channel and fulfillment through another (i.e. in-store pickups)
- Supplier integration to improve inventory visibility and enable drop shipments to customers
- Order management to quickly route and split orders to fulfill them as quickly (and cost-effectively) as possible
Cross-channel selling is a great strategy to get found on the Internet. But once a buyer finds you, the trick is to get them to make a purchase then another and then another. Providing a better buying experience than your competitors is the best way to make sure they stick around.