Efficient omnichannel strategies used to be the ultimate goal for retailers — a milestone to work toward on a continuous basis. But times have changed, and both shoppers and retail itself have evolved. Omnichannel is now the standard.
But what exactly does omnichannel retail mean? Let’s roll with this working definition: omnichannel retail unifies all available shopping channels (in-store, online, mobile, social media, etc.) in a way that provides customers with smooth, integrated experiences.
It’s that last part that’s the key, since seamless shopping experiences are one of the main things customers want from retail in the modern age. Today’s shoppers don’t differentiate between channels; rather, they switch fluidly from one to the other as if they’re one and the same, and they fully expect each retailer they patronize to successfully accommodate that practice. If a particular retailer doesn’t have an effective omnichannel strategy in place — or if the one a retailer does have is insufficient and disrupts the process in any way — customers are likely to avoid that retailer altogether.
Now that we’ve outlined the importance of a thoughtful and robust omnichannel strategy, it’s time to take a look at the list of actionable steps we’ve put together to help you upgrade your business’s game plan — and to increase revenue in the process. Learn more below.
1) Start selling on more channels.
Brick and mortar shops were once the foundation of retail, but ecommerce stores have largely replaced them as the primary sales channel in today’s digital age. Put another way: you don’t have to have a physical location. But you do have to have an online store.
In order to increase revenue and maximize success, you want to make it as easy as possible for potential customers to find you — which means you want to have a sales presence in as many channels as you can. So, of course, an easy way to upgrade your business’s omnichannel situation is to expand your sales channels.
If you’re a brick and mortar retailer without an ecommerce site, you’re losing out on business. But you’re in luck: setting up an online store and syncing it with your physical location is easy. Don’t believe us? Try Vend Ecommerce.
If you already have an ecommerce outlet going, look to some of the up-and-coming sales mediums to round out your omnichannel strategy. Make sure your web store is optimized for mobile (nothing irritates a customer faster than not being able to shop easily on his or her phone), and do some research into selling on social.
Ideally, customers would be able to buy your products via every major retail and social channel: online, mobile, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and in-store.
Take Rebecca Minkoff, for example. By recognizing that today’s shoppers want their journey to seamlessly span all possible channels, the fashion retailer has crafted an omnichannel strategy geared specifically toward its ideal customer — pairing a thoughtful in-store experience with tech and multichannel retail. Check out the video below to see how it all works, and use it as inspiration for developing the best omnichannel strategy for your business.
2) Make your channels work together.
It’s not enough simply to have a presence on all the sales channels we mentioned above. Each of your channels must work together, functioning as parts of a wider ecosystem.
This means you need to have a comprehensive solution for the problems this presents. Among them? Inventory control, channel management, and returns — three things that are particularly important in creating a seamless omnichannel experience.
But how exactly do you get all your channels to work together? How do you find a solution? For starters, get yourself a centralized retail management system if you don’t already have one.
By implementing one system to take care of every part of your operations, you’re simplifying and enhancing your business at the same time. Point of sale systems like Vend handle all those complex behind-the-scenes necessities, such as aggregating inventory in your store or across multiple locations to ensure you never have too much or too little of any product.
Let’s look at Vend customer TopShelf Style. Owner Christina Ruiz says Vend Ecommerce has allowed her to become a “true omnichannel retailer,” enabling her to sell across multiple platforms: in-store, online, and even in her mobile fashion truck! Here’s Vend and TopShelf in action:
When your sales channels act as intuitive components of a larger organization, both you and your customers win. Shoppers experience an easier, more fluid buying journey, and you don’t have to worry about manually reconciling numbers or inventory at the end of the day.
But imagine the potential headaches if you operate multiple channels independently rather than collectively. For example: you might sell out of a certain item without that being reflected on those channels, risking disappointing or even angering a shopper attempting to purchase that item. That negative experience can, of course, lead to poor reviews and word-of-mouth, as well as loss of future business.
But luckily, there’s an easy way to avoid these pitfalls. Do some research to figure out which centralized point of sale system or retail management system might work best for the ins and outs of your business, and make the switch. It’s an investment that’ll quickly prove its worth.
3) Play to the strengths of your various sales channels.
An effective omnichannel strategy doesn’t stop when you’ve expanded your sales reach and synced each outlet. It involves playing to the strengths of each channel and knowing both how shoppers use them and what they want from them.
The good news is that it’s pretty easy to do this effectively. The first step? Thinking critically about how you use these different channels. What do you want when you log in to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, or Twitter? Use that personal insight to develop a channel-specific content and omnichannel strategy.
Of all the potential social media sales channels, Facebook gives you the most space to impart information. But as we all know, “the shorter the better” is the name of today’s game — so you can write a bit more, but it’s best to keep it short. Facebook provides an ideal platform to summarize relevant content and then link to it, like activewear brand Girlfriend Collective does.
Instagram, of course, is predominantly visual. This is where you curate a brand image and feature compelling photos of your products or services. If a picture showcases one of your products, always include a link to it on your website or information on how to purchase it. For some serious Instagram retail inspiration, wander over to Wildfox.
And Twitter? Due to its 140-character limit, you’re fundamentally restricted in how much you can write. Because of that, it’s necessary to be strategic. Twitter’s a great place to showcase your brand voice — lighthearted, humorous, progressive, serious — while pushing to content, advertising a promotion, or simply trying to increase sales. Shoppers peruse brands’ Twitter accounts knowing they’ll likely be sent to a website via links, so take advantage of that. Use your tweets to send shoppers exactly where you want them to go. Check out ASOS’s feed for a crash course.
The bottom line
Developing a comprehensive, effective omnichannel strategy takes time and effort, but it’s absolutely essential to surviving and thriving in today’s ultra-competitive retail world. Will you be implementing these three steps to upgrade your game plan? Do you have other suggestions for creating an excellent omnichannel strategy? Let us know in the comments!