Not meeting your customers’ demands can mean the end of your company’s growth. Your competition sells through multiple channels. They offer fast delivery and different options for returns. If you aren’t doing the same, you are losing business to your competition.
This is true in virtually every market, but we’ll dive into some specifics in the outdoor industry to make it more tangible. If you’re not an outdoor retailer, think about how your industry faces similar challenges. They likely apply to you, too.
The outdoor industry is faced with a daunting retail reality. You need to be wherever your customers are. And you need to provide an exceptional customer experience at every customer touch point. Outdoor retailers have the opportunity to transform their strategy to accommodate this way of selling.
Adopting an effective multichannel strategy gives you the ability to evolve as your market does. (Don’t confuse the term multichannel with omnichannel.) It provides your business with the flexibility to make the most of out of new opportunities quickly and easily.
Applying Multichannel Strategy
You must have the right technology to implement a true, robust multichannel strategy.You need a technology platform that integrates your systems. You need a platform that provides a centralized place to manage all of your data. You need a platform that streamlines your operational workflows.
Multichannel strategy (applied with the right technology) allows you to consistently deliver an exceptional experience to your customers across all your channels. No matter the size of your business, this will be the difference between rapid growth or breaking even.
Your multichannel strategy and technology must empower you to:
- Expand to seize new market opportunities
- Deliver exceptional customer experiences
- Streamline your supply chain
Market Expansion: Reach More Customers
It’s vital to be where your customers are. And that usually means selling your items on multiple platforms; not just in your brick-and-mortar store. If you’re an outdoor retailer appealing to different type of customer than you’ve seen before, these customers likely prefer shopping on a different channel than you already provide. To appeal to your customer preferences, you’ll have to consider selling through web stores and marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.
It’s important to be able to add and remove your items from these channels, as market opportunities shift. Your multichannel technology must make it easy to adapt as your market evolves. Having a centralized location to manage these separate channels empowers you to adapt without rebuilding how you sync item, order, customer, inventory, and shipping data across your systems.
Deliver Exceptional Customer Experiences
Expanding your market presence to target a broader audience means your operations just got a lot more complex. Managing multiple, integrated systems can be time-consuming and complex, especially for outdoor retailers who are often new to this strategy. How you handle this can make or break the quality of the customer experiences you provide.
Delivering exceptional customer experiences requires that you have a handle on:
- Inventory management
- Order management
- Returns and shipping
- Customer data
If you sell an item on your web store, your Amazon inventory level should reflect that sell, in real time. You should be able to set rules like when inventory reaches a certain level, your Amazon store shows that item is sold out. You shouldn’t have to worry about manually updating inventory information in all the places you sell.
Accurate inventory information is critical for a positive customer experience. Finding out at checkout that you actually don’t have the item the customer wants is frustrating. You may lose that customer. That means all of your sales channels must present accurate, real-time inventory status.
By using a platform that syncs your inventory, you’ll avoid selling the same item to two different customers, stock outs, and advertising items you don’t have. More importantly, you avoid dealing with angry customers and negative reviews.
Companies like Zappos have transformed customer expectations of order management. Customers want to be informed during and after their purchase. They don’t want to wait in the dark for their purchase.
By centralizing how you manage your orders, you can keep track of order status and order history for all your orders. By tracking orders as they are being processed, you can respond quickly to shipping delays. All of this can be communicated to the customer, in real time, improving their experience and likelihood of future purchases.
Shipping and Returns
How your company handles shipping and processes returns has a huge impact on customer experience. If you can offer “buy online, pick up in store” you can give you customer a convenient option for getting their items quickly. If you can ship from stores, you can get shipped items into their hands quickly (and cheaply). These processes improve the overall customer experience when they differentiate you from competitors who struggle with these strategies.
In the outdoor industry this could be a huge differentiator.
Your multichannel technology must centralize your inventory and fulfillment data. This empowers you to know exactly where your items reside and what the most efficient fulfillment methods are. Your customer will be happier. You won’t tear your hair out trying to figure it out, every single time.
Customers want to feel important. Customers who consider themselves part of your community are likely to return. By centralizing all your customer data, you then have a complete sales history for each of your customers across all the channels they buy from. This empowers your staff to provide a personalized customer experience to every customer.
In a broad, dynamic market segment, like the outdoor industry, customer data is invaluable. The ability to maintain and utilize advanced customer profiles is a huge opportunity to generate mores sales and build a stronger relationship with customers.
Supply Chain Integration
The outdoors industry can present some uniquely complex supplier challenges. There are a lot of places from which to source products. Many suppliers sell the same or similar products. Many suppliers sell one specialized product. To be successful you need to be able to manage these supply channels, much in the same way you manage your selling channels.
Integrating your supply chain processes into your centralized technology platform gives you that control. It allows you to apply strategies that save you money and provide the foundation for exceptional customer experiences. Your platform should empower you to:
- Split and route orders to optimize fulfillment
- Effectively manage multiple suppliers
- Drop ship orders directly to your suppliers
These functions together allow you to get products into your customer hands faster and accurately. You’ll stand out in the market and build trust in your customers.