An Omni-channel perspective on Retail - Generate Loyal Customers
The retail industry is being turned on its head by a new breed of consumer – one that is informed, empowered and always connected. This demographic is incredibly demanding, expecting a near-perfect retail experience, no matter whether it's in-store, online or via a mobile device, and it's these demands that are driving merchants to re-evaluate their retail strategies.
Omni-channel is expected to be one of the biggest drivers of retail technology spend over the next five years. According to Retail Week, retailers are now investing the equivalent of three per cent of their annual turnover on omni-channel alone. But what does this investment look like and how will it benefit merchants?
Improved customer experience and increased conversion rates
It's clear that consumers are already on the omni-channel journey. Indeed shoppers can research products on their mobile, buy online when they return home and then pick up the item in store. It's now up to retailers to make this journey more frictionless.
From research to purchase, an omni-channel driven business provides a seamless customer experience across every possible channel – whether it be mobile internet devices, computers, bricks-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail or catalogue.
From the shopper's perspective, it means more choice and less hassle.
For a retailer, a frictionless customer experience will help drive conversion across multiple channels and ensure brand "stickiness", helping to equip them with the right tools to stay ahead of the market.
Technology foundations of an omni-channel strategy
For those merchants who choose to direct their mindsets, and budgets, towards a seamless, fluid customer retail experience, they will need to consider embracing a number of technologies across the supply chain – from inventory to point of sale. They will also need to take into consideration how these all integrate to maximise the potential benefits of multi-channel retailing. So what are the latest technologies that will best serve a seamless customer experience for the retailer?
1) Connected retail
Without real time integration of retail systems including inventory, production forecasting, click & collect and relationship management (before, during and after the transaction), it is hard for retailers to take full advantage of technological advancements that are taking place around the supply chain. Typical blockers can include ageing, incumbent Point of Sale (PoS) platform. Many national retailers still have to wait 30 minutes or more at the end of the day just to get their sales reports from over 100 stores.
Omni-channel PoS systems are therefore likely to become the enabler for connected retail, as they integrate all aspects of the customer experience – such as supply chain and stock management – in one user-friendly system.
2) Big Data and visual analytics platforms
Platforms such as Tableau and Qlik, alongside omni-channel PoS data, will enable retailers to make smarter and speedier supply chain decisions. Decision makers will be able to analyse sales information at the touch of a button and act instantly, rather than relying on old, raw data that can often go ignored.
3) Cloud technology and storage
Cloud technology enables data to be available in real time and stored indefinitely. People that need data can access it anytime and anywhere. Having the data in the cloud, with the ability to share it with other systems, becomes an enabler for many other supply chain improvements that were not possible in real time – especially with the incumbent PoS platforms that rely on an on-site server.
4) Super fast delivery
Delivery services such as the one offered by exciting new startup Shutl, offer delivery of consumer items in 30 minutes, while some retailers are still making a big thing about next day delivery. Expect to see this more in large cities, alongside warehousing deals. E.g. Argos is using Shutl, while working alongside eBay, to maximise unused warehouse space for the pickup and drop off of auction items.
With the probability of repeat customers buying a product between 60 and 70 per cent and the prospect of new ones doing so below 20 per cent, it's clear why so many are looking to omni-channel for answers. The future of retail is an omni-channel approach that enhances the shopping experience, which then leads to satisfied, loyal customers, in addition to increased footfall, engagement and revenue. As the retail technology sector ramps up the pace of change and innovative solutions to support this cycle continue to pop up, what's certain is the retail sector is more than capable of staying one step ahead of the connected consumer.