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Customers, whether they’re B2B or B2C, now expect bricks and mortar counter or retail stores to have an online presence, seamlessly merging the gap between physical stores, distribution warehouses and eCommerce websites.
For an omni-channel approach to be successful, every touchpoint needs to focus on the customer journey – from product browsing to purchases, deliveries and returns. Whereas most businesses will focus on the connection between physical stores and online channels, many can forget that warehouses are also an integral part of this process. A streamlined and efficient warehouse cements the overall customer experience, determining how quickly and cost-effectively you can action things such as fulfilment to stores, home deliveries and returns.
With this being the case, knowing where to start your omni-channel strategy can often be confusing and leave businesses investing in new processes and technologies that aren’t carried out effectively, or don’t even fit the bill in the first place.
So, what should you focus on? In this feature, we’ve highlighted four key essentials that lend themselves to a successful omni-channel business.
Generic communications are almost pointless with today’s shoppers. Personalised interactions are a great way to deliver a memorable experience that helps you to stand out from the competition. By adopting a variety of engagement tactics, you can boost sales and increase your average order value. One way to do this could be by using information about your customers and their browsing history to make relevant product recommendations.
A recent success story you may have seen, Games Workshop recently stated that a more customer-focussed approach has helped them to turn in their best year yet. When their yearly results were published at the end of July, they showed a 16% rise in revenue from over £221 million to £256 million, with pre-tax profits also up to over £81 million.
They’ve achieved this by keeping customers at the forefront of their marketing efforts, ensuring they’re developing a two-way dialogue and listening to their customers’ needs. By monitoring their customer service and engagement through their social channels and their content channel, warhammer-community.com, they can clearly see how their customers are responding.
By injecting their communications with what they describe as “a real sense of passion and fun” they have successfully engaged with more customers than ever before, clocking in 6 million users and 114 million impressions on warhammer-community.com.
However it’s not just online where Games Workshop are putting customers first to get more traffic – their re-branded Warhammer stores have become social hubs for their customers, with in-store gaming making them a popular destination. This in-store experience helps to pull in their target customers, providing Games Workshop with more chances to convert browsers into buyers.
Their success, both online and in-store, highlights the effectiveness of creating memorable interactions for your customers. If you’re struggling with ideas for how you could adopt this into your business, you could try:
Online trading has been rapidly taking over from traditional high street sales in recent years, so becoming online first in your approach is a natural progression for any current omni-channel strategy. However new statistics released this August further highlight the importance of UK businesses needing to put the spotlight more on their online channels and use this platform to support their physical stores.
Global research from Episerver has found that the UK do more online shopping than the rest of Europe, Australia and the United States, with a third of consumers buying online at least once a week. They’re also shopping on a huge array of devices, with 34% frequently using a smartphone, 12% shopping via a home assistant and 11% via smart watches.
With this in mind, it’s essential that your brand has a strong online presence. For this to be effective, you need to ensure your eCommerce websites are fully responsive, displaying correctly on any platform or device whilst also maintaining a seamless user experience.
Another reason it makes sense to be online first in your approach is the additional sales potential that online channels bring. The Episerver study shows that UK consumers can bring reliable traffic to your online stores once you have established yourself within the market, however this online traffic can also present more sales opportunities. With traffic to your eCommerce website far more trackable than the footfall to your stores, you should be making the most of the information being gathered through online customer interactions.
We’ve already mentioned how emailing an effective follow-up when someone abandons their cart can help to put your products back into the mind of your customers and ultimately increase sales. However, you can also use the same information to target recently viewed items as suggested items to the customers that showed the interest.
However, although omni-channel traders should be taking an online first approach, you should also be using your physical stores to enhance the overall customer experience. Ask yourself, how is your online store supporting your physical store? For most people, we’re guessing the answer is ‘not much’, which is why so many high street stores have suffered in recent times.
A statistic that really highlights this notion is the fact that a staggering 61% of high street retailers have said that they don’t share their in-store stock availability on their website. This is a feature that 42% of UK shoppers have said they want, causing so many businesses to miss out on potential sales. The other downside to this is that businesses end up paying the cost for delivery, when the customer may have been willing to pick the goods up from their local branch if they had known there was stock available. Therefore, to avoid losing sales and increasing costs, it is crucial that you always show full visibility of the stock you have available across all locations.
It works the other way too, as your physical stores should be able to tell customers what stock is available at other branches or central distribution centres should items be currently out of stock at that particular branch. By offering these endless aisle orders, your business can further bridge the gap between physical and online, allowing customers to order in-store and opt for home delivery.
However, to adequately pull this off, it’s important to have the right back-end infrastructure in place. Through using a good, accurate stock management system integrated across all your sales channels, you can effectively support your online and your physical stores through seamless data sharing. This will mean that accurate stock levels will not only be visible across all channels but other key information such as order history and product pricing too.
Click and Collect is also proving to be valuable way for brands to bridge the gap between online and in-store. It provides an opportunity for you to increase your in-store shopper numbers, encourage additional purchases and reduce your returns costs. It can also greatly reduce the cost of having to fulfil orders through delivery that could have been fulfilled through store collection. But it still needs some improvement in the eyes of the consumer.
Barclaycard unveiled research this August that showed £228 million worth of items are left uncollected from UK stores each year, causing numerous stock flow and returns issues. Although 71% of shoppers now use Click and Collect, it aids the argument that more needs to be done to enhance the customer experience for those using this service. So why aren’t people collecting their orders?
Some customers simply don’t want to pay for the service while others argue that the collection process is a ‘hassle’ and would prefer to re-order for home delivery. 25% of people put it down to long wait times, a further 25% blame poorly staffed collection points and 17% of customers simply say they can’t find the collection point altogether.
However, this isn’t to say that consumers are moving away from the Click and Collect concept. In fact, the same Barclaycard study showed two in five shoppers would visit stores more often if the process was improved. What’s more, 89% of those offering in-store Click and Collect have seen an increase in footfall and a huge 97% have benefitted from additional revenue as a result.
This clearly shows that there is a desire from consumers to use Click and Collect, however omni-channel traders need to make sure they are getting the process right, or risk facing costly returns and other issues. Therefore, to combat the negatives, stores need to ensure that their Click and Collect points are well signposted, staff are always available to process these orders and that collection handling is as both straight-forward and streamlined. Additionally, you might also look to queue-busting technologies such as mobile till points to help reduce long wait times in-store.
By using these four key points as the pillars of your omni-channel strategy, you can give your business the foundations from which to maximise sales and enhance customer service. By taking a customer-centric, online first approach, while also coordinating information carefully between eCommerce websites, warehouses and counter stores, you will be able to successfully implement the holistic shopping experience that your customers demand.
To find out more about the OrderWise omni-channel solution for eCommerce trading, stock control, mobile warehouse management, EPOS/POS, accounts and more, get in touch on 01522 704 083 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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