Article by Josefine Jensen Wulff, LS Retail
An average customer journey today may include 3...4...5 channels – and counting. Most people don’t even think about channels anymore; they just see your brand, no matter whether they look at your products and communicate with you in your store, on your e-commerce platform, on social media, via email, on the phone to your customer service, or on your mobile app.
The profitable omni-channel shopper
The number of omni-channel shoppers keeps on growing, according to the 2016 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper report. Although keeping up with the connected customer’s demands can be tough, omni-channel is great news for retailers. In fact, research shows that customers who shop across channels are more profitable than those who only buy from one channel. According to a 2015 study by IDC, omni-channel shoppers have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel. If you think that’s a lot, then listen to this: When department store Macy’s analysed its omni-channel shoppers, they discovered that these are 8 times more valuable than single-channel customers. Wow!
Shoppers crave seamless shopping experiences across touch-points – but few retailers seem to be able to provide them with that. When responding to a 2016 McKinsey/Periscope survey, only 6% of retailers said they were fully ready for omni-channel.
A simple solution
Many retailers go into a cold sweat when they hear about recommendations, big data, personalization. It all just sounds so complicated – where to begin? Take it from me - having an integrated retail management system is a great start, solving a lot of omni-channel disconnects. Don’t believe me? Take a look at these four common omni-channel failures:
Failure 1: Your channels don’t communicate.
Imagine this: You just ordered a dishwasher online. The retailer sends you a message with the time window in which the product will be delivered. Then they send you another time window. You call them to clarify. It all seems settled, until you end up waiting at home for nine hours, and the dishwasher never arrives. This misadventure happened to a customer of Argos, a UK catalog retailer, and it has no happy ending: The retailer blamed a system error, didn’t offer a viable solution, and the customer ended up cancelling the purchase.
To add insult to injury, a few days after cancelling the order and leaving negative feedback to the company, the customer received… an email from Argos asking to leave a review for the dishwasher.
The takeaway: If your channels are disconnected, leaving gaps and miscommunications between your delivery services, warehouse, website and customer service, you can be certain of failure. An integrated management system would improve the reliability of retailers like Argos; when all sales channels are visible in one platform, the retailer can track products, purchases and communications, and fix problems that may arise without disappointing customers. Visibility is paramount. When you lose sight of any of your sales processes, you risk losing business, too.
Failure 2: You can’t guarantee real-time stock visibility in the e-commerce.
Seeing items 'in stock' on a website and finding out that – oops! – they are actually not available only after having placed the order is one of the most infuriating things that can happen to an e-commerce shopper. As a retailer, once you have sold an item that you do not actually have in stock, you are left with two scenarios, both of which are inconvenient and unpleasant: You either have to let the customer know and cancel their order, OR you have to delay the order until the item is back in stock. Your customer is going to hate you for it, but hey – your competitors will love you for your poor service!
The takeaway: Once you start selling stuff you don’t actually have, you disappoint buyers and lose credibility. A system with total omni-channel integration, like LS NAV, ensures that your online store always contains up-to-date product information. That’s because the e-commerce site uses the general ledger to pull up real-time stock information, always maintaining the inventory up to date across your channels.
Failure 3: Your staff have no tools to know what is available where
A customer requests the green silk jacket in size L. It’s not available in your store – 'But is it available in any of you other locations?' the customer asks. Depending on your management system, you could; call headquarters; wait for them to call you back; find out it’s possibly still available in your 5th Street store; call the store and check if they still have the jacket, or if they have sold it during the day.
Or… you could click a couple of buttons on the POS and immediately see if the item is still available, and where.
The takeaway: Option 1 is a real-life horror story one of our customers told us. Option 2 is what happens when you use an integrated management system. If the first option rings familiar to you, your management system is clearly outdated. Consumers are used to quick answers - it’s crucial for your staff to have all the information at their fingertips. To do that, you need a management system that allows you to check real-time inventory at the stationary and mobile POS.
Failure 4: Your website can’t display in which store products are available.
If you identified with the issue above, you will probably recognize this problem, too. Unfortunately, online there is no sales staff who can assist your customer. If the information about which locations stock a specific item is not there, your disappointed customer might decide to call several of your stores to know if they have the product… or she may not bother, and look for the item elsewhere.
The takeaway: Shoppers expect to be able to check online whether specific products are available in a certain store, so they can drop by on their way home from work or other errands. If you can’t offer full inventory visibility on the e-commerce site and mobile app, you are failing at omni-channel.
Customer behavior has changed, and single-channel shopping is a thing of the past. For retailers, omni-channel is not a choice anymore – it is a must. To offer consistency and flexibility throughout your channels, an integrated management system is necessary.
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