Money Matters

Why the online vs offline rivalry is dead for retailers

Mega-retailer Amazon, a brand synonymous with online shopping, has moved into the physical world with brick-and-mortar stores in locations such as New York and Berkeley, California.

You might ask why Amazon would do this, considering it dominates the online retail market. The main reason is brick-and-mortar stores increase brand awareness. Instead of thinking of Amazon as an online shopping destination, in the mind of consumers, it’ll be seen as one, singular brand.

In the US, physical retail is alive and well. Retailers such as Target, Walmart and TJ Maxx reported strong sales and increased foot traffic in 2018 due to a strong economy.

But these companies haven’t stood still when it comes to innovation – Target, for example, acquired a grocery startup called Shipt to expand same-day delivery services for groceries ordered online.

It’s true that many traditional retailers have struggled with ecommerce since its inception. And it’s true that ecommerce has represented a significant threat to brick-and-mortar retailers. And in some cases, led to their demise.

However, the advent of omnichannel retail has levelled the playing field – a new era of retail in which lines between the online store and the physical store are so blurred, they’re practically non-existent. In the mind of a shopper, all channels are simply one store.

Taking an omnichannel approach in retail is increasingly important – modern shoppers expect a smooth and seamless customer journey, whether they’re shopping in store or browsing for products online.

It’s not about online vs offline retail anymore. It’s simply about driving sales through in-store or online traffic. Let’s discuss the tools and technology retailers need to understand and consider.

System integration: The secret to retail success

Retailers should use technology to build a flourishing omnichannel ecosystem. To make it happen, they must use fully integrated systems, centralising data to engineer seamless shopper experiences on any channel.

The most vital integration is between point of sale (POS) or retail management systems and modern ERP (business management solutions). This can build a solid foundation for a successful omnichannel retail business.

Retailers need to go beyond the basics and invest time and resources into optimising customer experiences and operations at every level.

There are five main areas of a retail ecosystem where business system integration matters:

1. Throughout the shopping journey

Omnichannel retail is all about adapting to fit the customer’s needs, whether they browse or purchase in-store, online or through an app. Unless a retailer is able to meet these needs, wherever and however consumers choose to shop, they will inevitably lose business – and perhaps customers.

Our consumer research shows that most shopping journeys involve multiple channels, with people taking advantage of options such as Buy Online Pickup in Store (BOPIS) or Click and Collect.

When customers use multiple channels for a single purchase, retailers need to make sure their shopping experiences are seamless as they move from browsing on a PC or mobile phone to the physical store for pickup and additional shopping.

Retailers that get it right will enjoy benefits such as increases in foot traffic at their locations, enhanced opportunities for upselling or cross-selling, and increased revenues.

2. On the sales floor

Mobile point of sale (mPOS) via tablets or other handheld devices gives sales associates the power to access important data.

They can complete transactions without leaving the customer’s side – a strategy many appreciate because it saves time, eliminates the need to wait in a checkout queue and makes shopping experiences more personal.

In fact, according to our omnichannel shopper survey, more than one-third of shoppers want store associates to have handheld devices to look up inventory and stock levels at other locations, and 38.8% want to be able to checkout with an associate with a mobile device.

Using mPOS allows sales associates to provide in-store shoppers with the same inventory data they would be able to access online. Providing this level of customer service is impossible if you don’t have an inventory management facilitated by integrated modern ERP and POS systems.

3. In the back office

Omnichannel retail has many moving parts. Without the right technology, the back office can become disorganised, causing confusion for both sales associates and customers. It’s critical to integrate your key systems to ensure data is accurate across the board.

Retailers can then make smarter decisions in areas such as forecasting, purchasing, labour management and promotions.

4. In the stock room

When it comes to inventory management, a single stock pool model is the only foolproof way to ensure customers have consistent information on item availability across channels.

Items being advertised online, but nowhere to be found in stores, causes significant frustration among customers and usually results in lost sales. Furthermore, inconsistent inventory information may reward customers for shopping online but deter them from venturing out to your location in person.

Instead of reserving stock for individual channels, a single stock pool means all of your inventory will be available to all of your customers, regardless of how they are shopping, on a first-come first-served basis.

Integrated modern ERP and POS systems will provide the real-time visibility you need to successfully manage omnichannel inventory.

5. On mobile phones

More and more, shoppers are choosing to shop on their mobile devices instead of on PCs – a trend that many omnichannel retail operators can take advantage of while building a successful retail ecosystem.

Since shoppers always have their mobile phones in hand, retailers can deliver digital passes and vouchers right to their phones – even using geolocation marketing to deliver offers to relevant consumer demographics.

Again, a profitable ecommerce and digital promotion strategy that targets mobile phone users is only as good as the integration between your digital pass software, inventory system and POS – and all of them fully connect to modern ERP solutions.

Omnichannel retailers will prosper

Technology used throughout a retail organisation can allow business owners to run seamless omnichannel retail operations and draw more customers to brick-and-mortar locations, but only if those systems are fully integrated.

Forget the old delineations of online vs offline retail. As ecommerce has become a permanent part of the competitive retail landscape, omnichannel retail strategies have breathed new life into traditional retailers and the rivalry between online and offline retail has died.

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