Best practices for omnichannel management
When we talk about omnichannel, we tend to imagine that it’s a new concept created by white-collar officers. Whilst that is true to a certain extent, omnichannel retail is also closely tied to the expected behavior that the customers were used to having years and years ago.
For example, do you remember those times when there were no smartphones and you went shopping and you couldn’t find some shoes in your size? There was no internet on which to look up and find your shoes at another store or through another channel, such as online commerce or via a marketplace. What used to happen in this case was that the physical store called another nearby store and asked them to hold those shoes for you.
So what exactly does this scenario present us with? To make the sale, the stores used the stock of other stores and helped the shopper get what they wanted. To make the sale, the business unknowingly yet naturally adopted an omnichannel approach.
Indeed, omnichannel is when all your channels work together to offer the customer a smooth and seamless experience.
If you’re asking yourself how to achieve this omnichannel experience for your target audience, here are three pieces of advice I can share with you.
1. Create a spiderweb channel
Omnichannel customer experiences are incredibly valuable to today’s shoppers. In turn, thanks to the convenience they receive, omnichannel customers spend more than single-channel customers — 4% more in the store and 10% more online, in fact, according to a Harvard Business Review study. These customers are also more loyal to the brand, with 23% more recurrent shopping trips to stores in the six months after an omnichannel shopping experience.
To take advantage of this opportunity, start with this question: which are all the channels you want your customers to connect with? When you map and analyze this side of the business, remember to think about all the touchpoints your customers have on their shopping journey: ads, social media and traditional media, stores, warehouses, etc.
You’ll see that you have lots of channels and a lot to do. You’ll find so many ideas and initiatives to improve your omnichannel connection to your customers that the main question will then be: what should you prioritize? Go ahead and embrace a cost-benefit analysis and decide what your MVP should be.
2. Omnichannel is about the customer — but don’t forget about internal culture
The first tactic one usually thinks when it comes to omnichannel is implementing BOPIS (i.e. Buy Online, Pick-Up In Store). This is not all that omnichannel can offer, but it is a good first step, and we’ll cover it in-depth below. Before talking about implementation, however, it’s important to highlight that a key piece of the omnichannel puzzle that business leaders and ecommerce managers sometimes forget about is the company’s culture and employees.
Technical integrations, ecommerce technologies and great marketing strategies can only get you so far — in order to succeed at omnichannel, you’ll need the buy-in of those who execute your vision, namely the store associates. If they view ecommerce as a threat, channel conflict will arise soon enough.
What should you do?
First of all, when planning to implement BOPIS, both the brick-and-mortar stores and the warehouses should be your allies, two of the definite stakeholders that need to comment on your channel strategy in order to collaborate properly.
Second of all, according to your culture, you can implement incentives for the BOPIS purchases or even more: all online purchases, made through BOPIS or Home Delivery, will be added to the sales of the nearby physical store. Whilst this brings in actual commissions, the operations team at the store will also be responsible for the purchases and returns that were made online.
And, last but not least, it is important to set up which stores will be your “hubs”, which means asking yourself how you are going to implement the delivery of orders from one store to another or from one store to the last mile. Do your operations team have a schedule? How are you going to separate the stock and where is it going to be located?
Plan a strategy with your team, test it and improve it! Don’t be afraid to make a mistake as long as your team wants to come out stronger than before.
3. Remember, omnichannel is also about innovation and technology
If you want to integrate your channels, the customer is expecting that you have and manage the same information everywhere. Therefore, it’s imperative to have an open architecture that can handle the exchange of information for every channel and a great back-end that transforms this information into actionable insights.
Let me give you a different example besides the well-known BOPIS: the digitalization of the in-store journey.
When I was working at a retail store, the operations team discovered some pain points on the customer journey at the store, including: too much time waiting to pay (and nobody likes that!) and lack of sales people inside stores to give more information about the products .
During a brainstorming session, the operations team saw that technology could be an ally: if the ecommerce channel has all this information about the products and the know-how of paying without having to pass through a cashier, why can’t we use this information on the in-store journey?
We started to use the ecommerce technology in the mobile app, but it was incredibly difficult to do everything that we wanted, such as showing product ratings and price tags. We needed a greater architecture and the integration with the POS was not the greatest. We completed parts of the project, but with heavy delays.
Thus, it is important to have an open information architecture and to be open to use third-party technologies, like the ones we have in VTEX that will help you to implement your omnichannel strategy.