3 Ways to Improve Your Omnichannel Commerce Strategy
2016 was another explosive year for e-commerce growth. E-commerce accounted for nearly 12 percent of total sales in the U.S., growing more than 15 percent from 2015. With that expansion comes both a massive opportunity and an imposing challenge for retailers looking to gain market share. At the forefront of that challenge is providing the frictionless, consistent experience that consumers demand.
Unfortunately, many retailers have yet to master omnichannel. While more than half of all shoppers have used an online purchase and in-store pickup option, only 31 percent describe it as a “smooth process.” What’s more, most shoppers believe that stores need to put more effort into integrating online and in-store processes. Thirty-seven percent want kiosks or digital helpdesks at store locations.
This break between consumer adoption and retailer capabilities can be seen across the entire retail industry. Too often, retailers focus on next-generation commerce capabilities like beacons and virtual reality without successfully implementing their most foundational initiatives. To improve, retailers need to go back to the basics. But how?
Provide Rich and Consistent Content Across Platforms
With so many channels available to retailers, including website, mobile website and app, brick-and-mortar, and third-party marketplaces like Amazon.com, consistency is crucial when developing a strong presence across each one.
Provide consistent, accurate product information everywhere your products are sold. A customer viewing a sweater on your brand’s mobile app should see the exact same product details on a third-party seller’s site, including a high-quality photo, sizing information and other specifications. The shopper who sees a sweater in-store should be able to order the same color and size on your website later. This seems simple, but it’s the foundation for a positive, consistent omnichannel experience.
Implement Transparency Across the Entire Supply Chain
Consumers are beginning to expect inventory transparency across industries, and many businesses are struggling to keep up with these demands. Transparency is crucial to maintaining positive customer experiences. No one wants to make the trip to a store only to find that an item is out of stock. In fact, consumers shouldn’t even have to call a location to check product availability — they should be able to access clear, accurate in-store inventory information from their phones or computers.
To support this, you need cloud-based infrastructure that can be updated in real time across all platforms, leaving no mystery about when products are available for pickup or delivery. Additionally, if products are unavailable, consumers should have the option to receive alerts once items can be purchased again. Clearing up confusion and providing customers with as much information as possible ensures that they will return time and time again.
Invest in Cloud-Based Infrastructure That Can Adapt to New Challenges
With new channels emerging for retailers, it’s easy to be overwhelmed when trying to prioritize investments. It takes time to understand what channels are right for you and how to best take advantage of them. Instead of scrambling to piece together offerings on the hottest new channel, invest in a solid foundation that can adapt to whatever market changes occur, without requiring major overhauls to your existing infrastructure.
As new technology emerges, agility is crucial for competitive brands that don’t want to fall behind. This requires a cloud-based solution that can be improved upon quickly to handle new challenges, regardless of what those might be.
Without establishing a firm foundation, brands can’t handle the challenges that a smooth omnichannel experience entails. However, brands that invest in the right technology and implement proactive measures are more likely to succeed regardless of how sales channels or customer expectations evolve.
Nick Manzo is the global omnichannel lead at 1WorldSync, a a multi-enterprise product information network.
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