5 KEY FACTORS FOR A SUCCESSFUL OMNICHANNEL RETAIL STRATEGY
Many companies were forced to heavily invest in services like curbside pick-up and BOPIS during the early days of the pandemic. These new alternative shopping methods helped stores thrive despite lockdowns in many parts of the country. For example, Dick's Sporting Goods reported a 250% growth in their curbside pick-up and BOPIS services, which helped fuel a massive 57% increase in their e-commerce revenue for the year. The sporting goods giant is not alone, many retailers saw their alternative shopping methods grow by triple digits in 2020. This pivot toward omnichannel retail has permanently reshaped the U.S. consumer shopping experience. Fundamentally, this new focus on omnichannel retail has benefited the average consumer because it “seeks to provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience.” It gives people the ability to shop any way they choose - whether online, curbside, BOPIS, or in-store.
A recent study by the IBM Institute for Business Value found that 19% of customers plan to continue using omnichannel retail services like curbside pickup after the pandemic. A report from McKinsey & Co predicts that “many of these new engagement models [are here to] stay. Consumers report high intention to continue using models such as BOPIS and grocery delivery after the pandemic.”
COVID-19 was a catalyst for a lot of change, and the adoption of omnichannel retail has dramatically changed customer expectations. As a result, it is important to think about how to prepare your business for this new omnichannel age. As more businesses think about implementing a new omnichannel strategy, there are several key logistical factors/processes that should be considered:
Inventory systems that provide near real-time accuracy is the first step to implementing any successful omnichannel strategy. “Retailers should embrace technology with inventory visibility. There are instances where retailers’ IT systems have proven inadequate to meeting the needs of their omnichannel retailing ambitions.” A properly functioning inventory system is mission critical for any retailer. Check out our analysis on Why Target Missed the Mark in Canada for an indepth look at the importance of accurate inventory systems. An inventory system that communicates with other systems allows you to do things like maintaining a real time inventory count on your website so customers can know what is available to purchase at your location. This kind of system gives you immediate insight into what orders you can fulfill. Inventory visibility is “a fundamental [issue] that any brick-and-mortar company must address.” By investing in a comprehensive inventory management system, you are building a strong foundation to implement any omnichannel strategy.
Customer communication is often overlooked when thinking about omnichannel retail. It is important to quickly and clearly communicate about the status of an order. “The more information customers have throughout their experience, the more likely they are to become repeat shoppers via [these] fulfillment option[s]. Even seemingly small differences matter a lot.” Timely notifications that keep customers updated on the status of their order goes a long way in building a strong sense of trust. Your customers should be “updated from the moment they place their order till they've safely picked up their purchase. And after they're done with pickup, be sure to not only thank them for their business, but keep them engaged with promotions and upsell offers.”
Businesses should think through their customer’s entire experience. It’s important to manage the details and work out where customers will park, wait, etc. Identify bottlenecks in your process and optimize everything for efficiency. Businesses should “have dedicated parking spaces for shoppers picking up their orders [and] manage vehicle traffic so cars don’t pile up at your location” Businesses should ensure that shoppers know where to go when picking up orders. More importantly, businesses should communicate these instructions to customers when they make their purchases. Customers should never feel lost. It can be frustrating to arrive at a store and have no idea who to approach about an online pickup order.
Retailers should also take the time to train staff members to handle these kinds of new orders. “Good training will result in a consistent workflow that delivers timely pickups and customer satisfaction.” It’s important to think through and fairly delegate these new responsibilities. If it is not properly addressed, employees might forget to prioritize these orders in the hustle and bustle of their everyday tasks. Every business should “layout an order of operations that gives each employee a specific task [and] assign each employee a specific role [such as] taking orders, boxing up goods, or handing out each curbside pickup order.” This will help create a quick and positive experience for your customers and will help grow repeat orders.
None of these steps matter if your customers can’t place orders online. Read our recent article on 5 User Experience Tips to Increase Ecommerce Sales for tips on how to optimize your website for omnichannel retail. More customers are shopping online than ever before. Now more than ever, it’s important to meet your customers where they are and how they want to shop.
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