The way we shop has changed so that companies that want to sell us products have to provide us with consistent and engaging information at the various points that we interact with them. With most of us carrying around a high powered mobile computer in the shape of our smartphones, we have constant easy access to price comparisons and product alternatives.
In response to this, the drive to becoming an Omnichannel retailer has been gathering momentum in recent years. Omnichannel retailing means providing a clear and consistent experience for the customer online, over the phone or in-store. The practical implementation of this requires a retailer to have the necessary systems and procedures to interact at different touchpoints without there being a noticeable rupture in the communication.
What is the productivity gap?
If a retailer does not recognise this shift of power to the consumer, then it is unlikely they will have made the changes to their business that will allow them to compete successfully. They are likely to be running legacy software systems that require staff to operate workarounds to meet the necessary information and reporting needs of running the business. Re-keying data and correcting persistent system inaccuracies wastes many hours.
And in modern retail, surprising as it may seem, this is where a severe productivity gap exists. Multiple software systems that are past their prime are often held together with patchy and unreliable integrations. Information fails to synchronise, and systems and procedures go down regularly such that things simply don’t work and productivity plummets. The opportunity for a smooth, uninterrupted customer experience is completely lost to troubleshooting and firefighting.
The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of eCommerce to bolster plummeting sales from empty high streets. It has also served to highlight the importance of adopting streamlined systems to serve customers better, eliminate workarounds and close the productivity gap.
How can Omnichannel help?
Evolving towards being an Omnichannel retailer is not complicated. Indeed it should represent a simplification of things. The foundation of achieving a consistent customer experience across channels is having real-time access to information. This means unifying your eCommerce operation with store-based EPoS, customer tracking and retail reporting and management. In this way, your key customer touchpoints are fed by a single relational database of product and customers.
In practice, if a web order comes through, the lead time given to the customer will be the right one – there aren’t different lead times online and instore. When a phone order is received and the customer asks about stock availability, the information about stock and its location (across multiple stores or within a single warehouse) should be easily accessible and accurate.
With Unified Omnichannel Commerce, there is no delay, no sales order file to be updated, no data to be re-keyed later in the day, or warehousing updates held up by an integration. All data is entered into one database in real-time.
In the last decade, many retail businesses have hung-on and got-by with systems that are now not fit for purpose. In the 2020s, a continued failure to adapt threatens their viability. Omnichannel offers a route to meet customers’ information and service expectations in-store, online and on the phone.
With the right Omnichannel system in place, the opportunity is also there to delight the customer and build loyalty through personalising the shopping experience. This means tools that make it convenient for the customer combined with tailored offers and functionality that enhances their shopping experience. With Omnichannel, productivity improves along with sales growth and profitability.