How Small Retailers Can Implement Omnichannel

Consumers are no longer satisfied with a one-dimensional shopping experience. Shopping —  like many other parts of our lives — has become all about instant gratification. We want to shop when we want to shop, browsing products on different devices before heading to the store, and vice versa. Most importantly, shoppers want experiences to be seamless as they move from their smartphones and tablets to their PCs and physical stores.
As a small retailer, it may be difficult to imagine being able to take advantage of the tools that big box retailers are able to implement. Many independent retailers think that the technology needed to implement an effective omnichannel strategy is too expensive or too time-consuming, but there are a few simple and cost-effective ways to bring an omnichannel experience to your customers.
Maximize Reverse Showrooming
According to Deloitte Digital, 69% of people say they check the web before going to the store and 36% of people use digital devices while shopping in stores. Reverse showrooming allows customers to view and compare products online without having to step foot in the store. Customers might start their wish lists online, and then move to the brick and mortar store to make the actual purchase.
An e-commerce site should always feature your products, but you can also use social channels to showcase inventory. For example, Instagram can be used to show photos of the newest products; you can take it a step further and use hashtags to drive traffic to the store. By utilizing Facebook ads, you can push a promotion to a specific demographic with a link to your e-commerce store. Pinterest has also proven to be a solid marketing tool and puts products in front of people who may not have seen them otherwise.
Make Store Inventory Visible
One of the reasons customers prefer to shop in-store as opposed to online is the instant gratification they get when walking out of the store, new purchase in hand. So, if your customer is browsing your site during a lunch break and sees you have the perfect pair of shoes available in her size, she will finish that sandwich and run to your store before heading back to work.
Inventory visibility is an essential component of omnichannel retail. Inventory information should be up-to-date across across locations, including all physical stores and the e-commerce site. Pricing and inventory selection should be consistent as well. Store associates should have the power to check inventory if the shelf is empty, look up pricing for items, and transfer items from store to store or have them shipped to another location.
Offer Buy Online, Pick Up In Store
Convenience is king, and the added value of being able to compare prices and make purchasing decisions before walking in the store makes for a happy customer.
Customers may hesitate to buy things like shoes or clothes online for fear they won’t fit. A buy online, pick up in store polic’ bridges the gap between online and offline, and provides a complete customer experience.
When customers pick up items in store, the added value of an upsell comes into play. If a customer purchases a dress, for example, your sales associate can pull some accessories such as earrings, shoes and a handbag to show the customer when she arrives to pick up the dress. This is something that is easy to implement online as well — and when retailers provide a personalized experience in store, studies show that it is likely to create repeat customers. According to a Harris Interactive study, 56% of U.S. adults would be somewhat likely to switch brands or companies if offered more personalized options and channels.
To make the experience even more convenient, consider having a designated counter for buy now, pick up later customers. All of these little additions to the experience will make customers more likely to think of your store next time they make a purchase.
Harness the Power of Data and Analytics
There’s a reason everyone is talking about big data. The data you can glean from your customers is invaluable to providing the best shopping experience possible across channels. Customers want a personal, customized shopping experience.
This data can help retailers understand customer transactions and interactions, like how often they visit stores, how much they spend, and the kinds of items they most frequently purchase. With that information you can tailor your advertising to individuals, using predictive analytics to make specific offers and recommendations to specific customers.
This information also allows business owners to make educated decisions about how they run their stores. They can tell what items are best sellers in which stores and reorder and purchase inventory accordingly. It can even help to organize the store more effectively. If you notice that customers always buy two items together, you can place them next to each other, making the selection process more obvious. Ultimately, big data is about putting the right product in front of the right person at the right time.
Implementing these tips to provide a level of personalized attention and transparency across channels is the key to a successful omnichannel strategy.
Jason Becker is the COO of RICS Software.