About 80% of consumers browse for product information while still inside a store. Brands that communicate instantly and intuitively through clear information have a better chance of making a sale. What’s more, the math really is simple — more channels lead to more streams of revenue from consumers who may be aware of the brand but have no way of buying from it.
Wherever you look, every fact and statistic points to the benefits of implementing an omnichannel retail strategy.
And yet, retailers big and small fail to do just that! Argos UK is a commonly cited example in this context. However, haven’t we all had experiences where we’ve received delivery feedback emails without the actual delivery having happened, or ended up trying to return the product, only to discover that we’d have to use the same route it came in through?
Which is why it is important that we discuss some common, and not-so-common, omnichannel mistakes that you could be making. We also discuss some ways to correct them.
Mistake #1: KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!)
The premise of omnichannel retail has been widely misunderstood. Many retailers still believe that being present on all channels possible will result in more sales. While that’s not a bad idea in itself, there are two things to consider:
Do You Need To Be Present On All Channels?
The choice of which channels to use, and for what purpose, should depend only on what your customers want. For a young, Millennial audience, the option of shopping on or interacting on a social media platform like Instagram is almost second nature.
However, a more elderly demographic may not appreciate having to interact with a chatbot for problem resolution and would much rather be on the phone with an executive.
What would your customers like? What interaction modules have they shown a preference for? If they prefer to browse offline and purchase online, are you doing everything in the store to further encourage this habit?
You will soon discover that you don’t have to be present on every single sales channel there is.
The Operational Difficulties Of Being Everywhere
The operational issues with being present everywhere also need to be discussed here. Often, customers encounter a broken omnichannel experience. They make a purchase on a marketplace and then try to return it in a store. However, the store representatives have no clue how to process such a return, or a system to do so does not exist.
If you are just starting with your omnichannel efforts, we strongly recommend choosing no more than three sales and two marketing channels to focus on. Over time, you can make adjustments to this strategy.
If you’ve already started and are having problems, remove those channels that give you the least sales/engagement and solve one problem at a time. Do not try and tackle all channels at once as this may lead to more difficulties.
Mistake #2: Segmenting Customers By Channel
Where does the customer belong?
Not on any one channel, that’s for sure. If you are preparing for them to shop on any channel, be prepared to be discovered, reviewed, scrutinized and contacted on any channel.
Many retailers make the mistake of treating an online sale as purely online, or an offline sale as a chance occurrence. Come to think of it, every sale event begins with awareness and that could have happened on any medium before the customer actually paid you (or your web site) a visit. If you segment people by sales channels, you lose valuable data on discovery and purchase intent.
The easiest way to consolidate customer data is to keep a common record of transactions. If a customer bought from another channel earlier, use this data to promote products to them in-store. The truth is that you have their data, and you might as well use it to give them a better experience.
Maintain a common customer database. Match all old orders with the given phone number and email address. In a store, offer to send them an email receipt of purchase so you get access to their email address, which you can then map to past online purchases.
Mistake #3: Not Thinking About Uniformity In The Experience
Brett Bair says in an article on the Monetate blog that, “Both of my bad omnichannel experiences occurred when I found a product I wanted online, complete with an ‘available in a nearby store!’ badge, only to show up at the store to find that the item was definitely NOT available.”
More often than not, the biggest problems in omnichannel retail are these everyday issues. What’s worse — these are the issues that omnichannel retail was supposed to solve in the first place.
Simple elements like using colors other than the brand colors or a different logo on different channels can discourage people from buying. The same goes for all content and communication.
Another major aspect to consider here is the seamlessness between experiences. If a customer chooses to go BOPIS, their order needs to be packed and ready at the scheduled time. If they want to try in-store before a purchase, their cart must be ready for them at the dressing room. If these seem like indulgences, that’s exactly what consumers want today.
Here are some things to try to fix this mistake:
- Take a close look at all of your sales and communication channels to identify discrepancies in visuals, language or brand element usage. If there are issues here, fix them immediately.
- Think like your customer — with every new omnichannel service you offer, what might be their expectation? Try and offer these benefits before they need to ask.
- Consolidate your inventory across locations and channels so you never sell something that is actually out of stock. We will explore how technology can help you do this.
Mistake #4: Not Using Technology For A Better Omnichannel Experience
Today, it is safe to say that technology runs the world, and yet some retailers are hesitant to switch to new systems either due to legacy issues or because switching will take too long.
However, it is safe to say that an omnichannel strategy cannot be implemented successfully without using technology at all touch points. In some cases, not using technology means fragmentation among and within sales and marketing channels. In other cases, this can mean operational issues that arise due to poor visibility over stock levels.
The best thing you can do for your retail business is use an omnichannel inventory management system. Such a system can help integrate all of your sales channels. You get one, consolidated view of inventory. You never have to worry about running out of stock, or even worse, not knowing until it is too late.
Using an omnichannel inventory management system also means that you can see which channels perform well and eliminate those that you think don’t keep up. Even as an omnichannel retailer, you can run your business using optimal inventory levels and software can help you achieve that through dynamic updates and low stock alerts.
It is also worth thinking about similar integrations for your marketing channels so that your messaging is uniform. Tools like HubSpot can be used for better marketing management, and you can set alerts for when someone messages your brand’s page on any social media network.
Mistake #5: Expecting Omnichannel Retail To Solve All Problems
Omnichannel retail has taken the retail world quite by surprise in just how pervasive it became, and how soon. However, it isn’t a magic pill that can solve all problems. For example, if you have a faulty product, there’s no retail method that can automatically improve your sales.
A common mistake that several retailers make is assuming that going omnichannel will automatically help improve their bottom line.
Omnichannel retail only works when other aspects of your retail business are sound. Good sourcing practices, a strong orientation towards customer service and sound marketing understanding are absolutely necessary. Going omnichannel will not fix any of these issues — in fact, it may even make them worse.
So, if you have basic business issues, it is worth fixing them first before choosing to go omnichannel. Simply put, an omnichannel retail strategy can help a good retail business thrive even further.
Succeeding As An Omnichannel Retailer
Simply put, omnichannel retail is about bringing together the warmth of a local store, the convenience of an online store and the ease of choosing a channel based on the customer’s current needs. On a smaller scale, it may be easy to achieve, but in scaling this experience is where most retailers fail.
Mohammed Ali is the Founder and CEO of Primaseller — a multichannel inventory management software that helps sellers manage inventory better and fulfil orders on time, with nifty integrations that make business better. When not running a startup, Ali is often caught lapping up the latest book in fantasy fiction.