The Future of Retail isn’t Digital, it’s Omnichannel

The Future of Retail isn’t Digital, it’s Omnichannel

E-commerce, Just for Fun, News, Retail, Web Tips

The Future of Retail isn’t Digital, it’s Omnichannel

Play to Win.

By John Garvey

It’s funny how in business a single headline, data point or catchphrase can overshadow the big picture. We’re talking about the Retail Apocalypse, but we’re talking more specifically about the impact of e-commerce on brick and mortar retail.

Contrary to the impression news headlines can create, many sectors of traditional retail are thriving. The number of store closings in recent years, however, may be costing you sleep regardless of how your business is faring. For all the turmoil, this is actually a time of great opportunity for traditional retailers. In fact, Forbes, Business Insider, Entrepreneur and others have maintained the perspective that:

  1. The impact of e-commerce on brick and mortar retail is overstated and misunderstood, and
  2. The long-term outlook for retail is great.

The Best of Both Worlds

Woman online with dog in bedRetail chains that have continued to prosper through the so-called “Retail Apocalypse” are those that “understand the biggest advantage e-commerce retailers have is their ability to collect and leverage insights into consumer behaviors gained by technological innovations like big data,” according to Forbes Technology Council Lucas Roh. “They are adopting technology and processes to achieve the same advantage and adapt to today’s retail landscape.”

Roh boldly and bluntly states that “The Retail Apocalypse Is Not Happening,” and he’s not alone in that belief. But nobody’s saying we’re not in the midst of a seismic shift.

“The real impact e-commerce has on the retail industry is in consumer expectations,” Roh continues. “Consumers now expect a more convenient, tailored omnichannel shopping experience, whether they are online or in-store.”

This all points to at least one key lesson:

Four people gathered around looking at a guys cell phoneBig Data, customer analytics and online marketing are no longer competitive advantages.

Yesterday’s advantages are today’s necessities. That may sound stressful at first, but we’re excited about how these can benefit retailers and consumers.

That’s because today’s solutions address issues that have plagued retail for generations. They can make your life easier and your business more profitable. Even mom and pop retailers can now use business intelligence tools to reduce spoilage, pilfering, and stock-outs; enjoy higher margins; and optimize staff scheduling.

NCR Counterpoint—which RCS has used for decades— can now integrate data across multiple departments and generate over 40 reports. Among other things, these help forecast inventory, flag suspicious transactions and optimize pricing.

Instead of thinking of this as a David vs. Goliath thing, think of e-commerce style capabilities as ways brick and mortar retailers can solve problems that were around long before Amazon.

Omnichannel, not digital, is the face of the future

Companies that provide customers flexible purchasing options understand that decades from now there will still be thriving brick and mortar stores with e-commerce integrations. We’re not moving to an e-commerce model; we’re moving to a hybrid model. Why else would the kingpin of e-commerce be opening brick and mortar grocery and book stores? Why would Amazon have acquired Whole Foods if brick and mortar were tanking?

“Brick and mortar retailers no longer have to feel that they’re staring up helplessly at the giants of e-commerce,” writes Jia Wert, CEO of the fashion brand Studio 15 in Forbes.

E-commerce firms, it turns out, need a physical presence to build brand recognition and achieve their long-term business objectives. More to the point, traditional retailers who make use of the digital economy’s capabilities can not only survive but prosper with the help of modern inventory, marketing, and point of sale platforms.

Contact Retail Control Systems

Learn how we can optimize your ominichannel marketing, inventory management and sales.

Reduce spoilage, pilfering and stock-outs | Increase margins | Optimize staff scheduling

10 Ways FoyerLive Digital Displays Improve Life for Retail Associates, Managers and Customers

10 Ways FoyerLive Digital Displays Improve Life for Retail Associates, Managers and Customers

E-commerce, Gift Stores, Museums Attractions, Retail, Specialty Retail, Sporting Goods

by John Garvey

Saving time, ease of locating products, greater product variety and selection, and avoiding checkout lines are among the reasons people turn to ecommerce rather than shopping in-store. FoyerLive offers solutions to each of those issues, providing a better customer experience and addressing major causes of lost sales.

FoyerLive isn’t just a solution for brick and mortar retailers. It also makes it easy to integrate ecommerce and brick and mortar operations. Their endless aisle digital kiosks bring many of the conveniences of ecommerce to brick and mortar shopping, empowering retailers to create a nearly seamless shopping experience as well as a more personalized one.

Here are a few examples of FoyerLive applications that solve everyday problems for retail associates, managers and customers.

1. Ease of exploring product features and reviews.

For technically complex products, the information on the box or print display isn’t enough to go by. If you’ve ever browsed product information on your phone from a store you’ve probably sensed that there’s a better way of doing things. Now there is.

FoyerLive’s interactive kiosks allow customers to view product descriptions, comparisons, demos and reviews on attractive touchscreen displays. If they’re just getting started they can search by category and add items to a cart.

One perceived advantage of ecommerce for shoppers is access to customer reviews. People can be hesitant to buy products without seeing how they’ve measured up to other consumers’ expectations. If your customers aren’t looking at these reviews in store, odds are they have in advance. Facilitating that can increase sales and reduce product returns.

FoyerLive displays at Hurley surf event.
Click to enlarge

2. Eliminate stress and guesswork.

With FoyerLive’s capabilities, retail associates don’t have to memorize as much product information as they otherwise would. If they can’t answer a question off hand they can easily access product information using digital kiosks. The employee and customer are viewing the same information on the same screen and the employee can fill in where he or she has specialized knowledge. This is especially valuable if your store has complex products or a large number of SKUs.

And it builds trust.

3. Reduce lost sales from out of stock items.

If you don’t have the right color or size in store, no problem! FoyerLive gives you ominchannel fulfilment options, allowing customers to order out-of-stock items for home delivery. Customers don’t have to make inconvenient return trips to get what they want. For retailers, that amounts to fewer sales lost to online competitors.

4. No more yelling over the changing room door.

Even if delegated to a retail associate, going back and forth between a dressing room and clothing racks is time-consuming. Some people dread this aspect of clothes shopping. Digital displays in changing rooms allow the customer to order additional sizes and colors without leaving the changing room or verbally communicating detailed information to a frazzled associate.

5. Queue Management: Reduce or eliminate lines.

With FoyerLive you can give customers a self-checkout option if that’s appropriate to your business. That means your associates are available to help customers with needs other than sales transactions. Ergo you can provide a more personalized experience as well as greater convenience.

Alternatively or additionally, customers can order products from anywhere in the store so they’ll be waiting when it’s time to go up front and pay.

6. No more scrounging for products on crowded shelves.

FoyerLive’s touchscreen navigators free customers from meandering through aisles in a long and potentially fruitless search. Guests can now request products or find them with digital item locators. Since they can order physical products from the back of the store with touch screens there’s less need to keep them all up front. The additional space creates a more pleasant all around experience.

Nike, for instance, uses FoyerLive digital displays to allow customers to pick shoe and clothing styles, colors and sizes. Employees collect the requested products and bring them to customers to try on at pop-up stores and in store.

FoyerLive Nike display.
Click to enlarge

7. Choose the right vintage.

Most dinner hosts don’t harbor sky-high expectations as far as their guests’ beer or wine contributions go, but it’s nice to make a good impression. What goes well with tri-tip steak? How about scallops, quesadillas, BBQ chicken, or samosas? I have no idea and there’s a good chance even a well-trained clerk at a liquor store doesn’t either.

Digital kiosks provide educational tools for both staff and customers for just this kind of situation. This functionality makes up-selling easier as well as educational. People are happy to pay more when they’re confident that they’ve chosen the right product.

8. Effectively multiply your sales associates.

Many of the above applications allow associates to get more done, better manage peak hours and provide more individualized service. Whether you’re a garden center, liquor store, boutique clothing retailer, a fireworks seller or the storefront for a major brand, these solutions free employees from busy work. They’ll be happier and so will your customers.

9. Make products tangible to customers.

Digital displays, by allowing customers to view how products actually work, make them more engaged and confident selecting products that suit their needs. Fireworks stores, for instance, use digital displays which allow customers to see what artillery shells, roman candles and other goodies look like in action.

This list of applications is by no means exhaustive. The sky’s the limit.

10. A final note: Cost, functionality and integration.

The cost and functionality of digital displays have improved a lot over the last five years. Historically setting up a video wall was exorbitantly expensive. Now you can get a decent-sized, touchscreen, commercial device and targeted, customizable digital display for less than a thousand dollars.

In-store digital displays used to be stand-alone products. They’re now integrated with websites, and because FoyerLive is in the cloud, managers can control kiosks and display screens from anywhere. Displays can also be automated by time of day and special promos offered in real time.

Integration.

FoyerLive is designed to integrate seamlessly with other enterprise-level retail solutions such as NCR Counterpiont, so if you like what you’re using there’s no need for a complete overhaul. Many of our clients use multiple systems which compliment one another.

In sum, FoyerLive is a diverse, customizable tool that different businesses can use in the ways that most benefit them. It brings many of the advantages of ecommerce to brick and mortar retail, while also facilitating ecommerce for those who do both. It provides convenience and assurance to customers who want to make the right choice and don’t have all day to do it.

Contact Retail Control Systems for more product information or a free FoyerLive demo. We’ll help you find the best solutions for your store.

Google Runs the World, Not Your Business

Google Runs the World, Not Your Business

E-commerce, Just for Fun, Retail, Technical Tip, Web Tips

By Ryan Parks

Everyone on Facebook does a good job of updating me about enjoying a vanilla latte at their favorite coffee shop (at least my friends do). However, people don’t always remember to update their business profile on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and other platforms if there is a special event or something out of the ordinary happening.

Google search screen on a computer on a tableOn a recent trip to Seattle I was reminded how important it is to keep your business profile up to date. While visiting we went to one of the main attractions in the city. Now, we only had a few days and this particular attraction was only open the first day we were there due to construction, so we knew it was going to be a time crunch. According to their website they would be open till 8pm and the last tour left at 7pm. We arrived at 6:45 with what we thought was plenty of time, only to have the security guard tell us that they close at 7pm. But… we contested, the website says 8pm, he then proceeded to tell us, “well, that’s google’s listing, we don’t control that.” As someone who traveled from out of town and wasn’t sure when he’d be back, this was disappointing to say the least.

Google Business

Yes, you do control your business listing on Google, or at least you should… If you haven’t already, go add or claim your business listing on Google. Seriously, go do it now, stop reading this. Okay, you are now in control. You can now edit your post, add pictures, change the hours, add special hours for holidays, events, or construction. The Google business listing is often one of the first things people see when they google your business, if you don’t see one for your business you should create one. Keeping this listing up to date will greatly benefit your business, but it isn’t the only listing to keep in mind.

Facebook

Phone with Facebook next to computerIf your business isn’t using social media, you are missing out. Even if you feel like your company doesn’t have anything exciting to share on social media, it is an area you need to have a presence. With over 70% percent of Americans on Facebook, your business page has the potential to reach millions. Facebook now has a feature that allows people to ask for recommendations. For example, if I was traveling to Austin, Texas, I can now ask my friends who live there or who have traveled there if they have recommendations for a restaurant or a record store. Facebook will then add details about your friends recommendations. A Facebook business page is a great way to get more online traffic, but don’t forget to keep that information up to date as well. Learn more about creating a Facebook business page.

Website

Lastly, but certainly not least, your website. You want to make sure your website’s information is always accurate. Companies list their address and store hours in all sorts of places, the about section, the contact page, an information page. It’s okay to have this information in more than one area and certainly don’t remove it if you’ve always had the information in a certain location. However, the easiest and most convenient section is at the bottom of your site in the footer. The footer is on every page and is an obvious place for your location, phone number and/or store hours. Even if you only do online orders it is a good idea to have a physical location listed on your website. Sometimes people want to know how far away an item may ship from, if you’re local or what timezone you are in if they want to call. Also, it helps let people know that you have a physical location and aren’t just a vague concept floating around the internet.

These three areas are not the only places where your information can be listed, but they’re a good place to start. Keep in mind that people traveling from out of state or even out of the country may be relying on this information and you don’t want to damper their experience or cause them to write a bad review. Remember, Google knows a scary amount of information about your business, but you still control most of that information, for now…

Having a standard e-​commerce store is so 1995

Having a standard e-​commerce store is so 1995

E-commerce

When the d​ot-com era started back in 1995, having an online store was an expensive venture. It was reserved for dreamers, visionaries and business owners that wanted to be a part of the next big thing. Many people tried cutting corners to gain ground, ​but only those who understood the true vision of the e-commerce flourished. Those who pushed through back in ‘95 created what we now know as e​-commerce.

That was all 22 years ago! Today, there are over 100,000 online stores in the U.​S.​ alone. Internet giants like Amazon, e​bay and the like have changed the way that the world buys products. It is easier than ever for retailers of all shapes and sizes to offer their inventory online. It is no longer a question as to whether or not you should have an e​-commerce store. The question is, what do you need to be doing now to prepare your online store for the future?

Man sitting at apple computer

Today’s customers are highly educated about the product they are looking for. They want a seamless interaction with your brand, no matter what platform they are on. If they pull up your website they want to see what inventory you have, in real time. They want to be able to buy on your website and pick up the item in store. They also want to be able to return their online purchase in store. They even want to be able to ask questions and get quick, accurate information on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. The piece to this equation is that according to recent statistics 50% of these customers do all of these things from their mobile phone.

Today, 30 million people use the amazon.com application on their cell phone every month. The interesting take away from that number is not how big Amazon is, but that there is another major shift happening in the way that customers expect to interact with you and your store. You can either plan for your future or be left in the dust wondering why customers are no longer shopping with you. All of this ties back to your brand and how it can manage these interactions.

Did you know that $0.36 of every dollar spent in stores is influenced by a digital interaction that a customer has with your brand? That’s estimated to be 1.1 Trillion dollars per year of retail spending in the U.S. alone.

So what do you need to get started in this digital era?

  • A mobile optimized online store.
  • Regularly updated social media accounts
  • Employees managing customer interactions within your social media accounts.
  • Real time inventory control from your Point of Sale system to your online store.
  • The capability to manage customers in one central location.

Does this sound like a lot for you to manage? If you said yes, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, even large retailers rely on technology partners. They trust them to provide up to date information about trends, new technology and products that make it all happen.

Retail Control Systems (RCS) is an industry leader that helps small to medium sized businesses navigate these challenges. RCS can provide everything from basic store management solutions all the way to completely integrated Omni-channel solutions.

If you are interested in learning more about e​-commerce and how it can unite your online and in store experience you can join us for one (or all!) of our e​-commerce webinars:

  • SESSION 1:  Why E-Commerce – February 7th – 2:00 pm EST
    • Trends taking place and an introduction to getting a store online.
    • Leverage your physical store (pickup in store, ship to/from store, returns, etc.).
    • Leverage your investment in NCR CounterPoint (order/inventory/purchasing).
  • SESSION 2:  E-commerce Strategy – February 13th – 2:00 pm EST  
    • First steps in getting an e-Commerce solution online.
    • Platform choices based on needs (NRO, Commerce5, and others).
    • NCR CounterPoint integration considerations.
  • SESSION 3:  E-commerce Success – February 21st – 2:00 pm EST
    • Traffic Generation / SEO
    • Traffic Conversion
    • Fulfillment / Resource needs (people)
    • Budgeting for success
  • SESSION 4:  Ongoing Expectations – March 7th – 2:00pm EST
    • Future considerations (marketplaces, mobile, and social media).
    • Maintenance and upgrades.
    • Branding / Marketing Strategy.
EMV Myths Debunked

EMV Myths Debunked

E-commerce, Specialty Retail, Technical Tip

Heard about EMV (Europay, Mastercard, Visa), but you’re not sure what’s real and what’s not? Be aware of these common myths surrounding Europay, Mastercard, Visa and stay in control of when and how you want to implement EMV in your store.

While a shift to EMV – ready POS terminals has been well under way for years, there are still a lot of myths remaining about this secure payment technology. So to help you separate fact from fiction, we have gathered the 10 most common misconceptions told about Europay, Mastercard, Visa and debunked them all just for you. Get the facts, now!

On October 1, 2015, a liability shift occurred relating to who is responsible for paying for charge-backs for counterfeit cards that are used at a retail store. Between the bank that issued the credit card, the retail store and the payment processor, whoever is least prepared to accept EMV-enabled payment cards is now responsible for paying for the charge-backs.

3 Common Holiday Retail Challenges & How to Solve Them

3 Common Holiday Retail Challenges & How to Solve Them

Clothing & Apparel, E-commerce, Gift Stores, Retail, Specialty Retail

The 2016 holiday season is officially upon us! As a retailer, you know that the holidays can promise a steady stream of revenue, and put a high demand on your retail operations.

So what can you do to ensure your holiday challenges don’t become New Year’s losses? Be prepared and leverage your point-of-sale system to track sales and inventory, manage promotions and staff, and gain critical insight into your customers’ behaviors to stay ahead of the holiday-rush and realize huge profits.

Here’s a list of 3 common holiday challenges and how you can solve them with an integrated point-of-sale system.

Challenge #1: Managing Crowds & Unpredictable Demand

Making the holidays “the most wonderful time of the year,” requires retailers to pay close attention to the details in order to successfully meet demand in this busy season. As the holidays inch closer, malls and stores will begin to get more and more crowded. Retailers across industries must be prepared to deal with the holiday rush, but how do you plan for something that is often seemingly unpredictable?

How You Solve It

Utilize your omni-channel point-of-sale system to become a data-centric business. By observing current trends as well as your store’s historical holiday sales data, you can more accurately forecast demand and predict inventory needs to maximize profits. Armed with a statistical, comprehensive picture of your business, you can take the guesswork out of inventory management, reducing the possibility of running out of stock or being left with overages.

An omni-channel point-of-sale system, like NCR Counterpoint, will also allow you to expand sales across a variety of platforms – physical, online, and mobile – to reach your customers, according to their preferences, so you never miss an opportunity to sell. Operating under a single, centralized system also allows you to effectively manage inventory across all your locations to transfer stock where it’s needed the most.

Challenge #2: Selling to the Holiday Shopper

Holiday shoppers need a streamlined, intuitive, and direct shopping experience. As a retailer, you need to be able to anticipate their needs and adjust your products and services to solve issues before they arise. So, what can you do to meet their expectations and successfully sell to the holiday shopper?

How You Solve It

Enable ecommerce, mobile pay, and gift cards to increase your speed of service and simplify the buyer experience to optimize sales. The best way to satisfy a shopper is to give them the service they expect and more. Modern consumers want to be able to quickly find, shop, and buy the gifts they need easily and efficiently. By creating or using an online store in addition to your brick-and-mortar location, you can deliver your products to a wider audience and accommodate their individual shopping habits – whether they prefer to shop in-store or online on a laptop, tablet, or mobile device. This allows you to spread demand across multiple places, so no one location is overwhelmed and stock can be strategically sold.

You can also increase your speed of service by investing in mobile POS stations or tablets. Short lines and efficient payment systems keep customers, especially those who are new to your store. Having the ability to sell products anywhere in your store as well as process mobile payments helps keep check-out lines shorter, reduce wait-times, and lessen the likelihood of customers reconsidering a purchase.

During the holidays, gift cards are a retailer’s best friend. In fact, research has consistently shown that people using a gift card to make a purchase spend 20% more than the value on the card. Aside from this profit incentive, gift cards are also a convenient option for customers coming into your store who may be unfamiliar with your product. As gift-givers, holiday shoppers aren’t always your typical clientele, so offering gift cards can be a great way to make your product more approachable, improving customer satisfaction, and increasing sales. You can easily sell and manage gift cards on an advanced point-of-sale retail solutions like NCR Counterpoint.

Challenge #3: Providing Effective Store Promotions

Holiday shopping has become synonymous with the word SALE. With increased demand comes high-competition, which means everybody is slashing prices in hopes of attracting big crowds. However, you can’t just discount everything in your store and expect to meet your bottom line. You need to be able to leverage your promotions strategically so your sales boost profits. Well how, do you ask?

How You Solve It

Use sales reports and customer insights to personalize your promotions and manage inventory effectively. Leverage a POS system that integrates sales data with customer engagement tools to capture crucial opportunities for your business. With a comprehensive POS solution, you can identify your loyal customers, view their purchase history, and send them coupons tailored specifically to their needs. Understanding when, how, and what they purchase gives you the competitive advantage to offer promotions they’ll want when they’ll want them – motivating further interaction, online or in-person. You’ll also be able to identify your best sellers to strategically price products so they fly off your shelves!

Make the holiday season merry and bright – see how RCS can help you choose and implement a complete point-of-sale solution that will increase sales and improve operations. Contact Us or visit, www.retailcontrolsystems.com to learn more about our customizable retail management solutions!

eCommerce in your store (literally)

E-commerce

Last week Dave Albert and I traveled to Denver, Colorado to participate in the Retailer Workshop that our Fort Collins Office put together. The 2 hour trip down to Logan Airport, combined with the 4+ hour flight to Denver, and travel in between started to take a toll on me once my body realized we’re another 5000 feet above sea level. We planned on being there all week so I had no other option than to acclimate myself to this new environment, knowing the thin air would certainly slow my bike commute.

This was a welcomed challenge to Dave and I, and to be honest, it’s worth it to educate our customers on ways to better their business, especially when they’re acclimating to a new retail environment like eCommerce. It’s a big undertaking putting your products and business online. It’s very similar to opening another brick and mortar location. You’ll need to manage inventory, and dedicate an employee to manage orders and fulfillment while making sure your online payments are securely processed. Those steps can keep a business from successfully launching their business online if they don’t have the right tools for the job.

Luckily Counterpoint and NRO are integrated to take a lot of the work off your hands and help you automate many of the processes that take up precious time.

“What if I want my customers to be able to look up items I have in my store, while they’re IN my store?”

At the workshop, an attendee brought up a really fantastic idea. “What if I want my customers to be able to look up items I have in my store, while they’re IN my store?”. With the features offered by NRO I realized that the solution was right in front of us. You can use an eCommerce store not only online, but also in your store. For people shopping in your store, you can setup a computer  displaying your eCommerce store, allowing customers not only to check if you’ve got a certain item in stock, but also order it through your eCommerce store and pick it up in store.

NRO makes it so easy to manage your eCommerce store just like your brick and mortar store (and quite possibly easier than managing your brick and mortar store). If you have been thinking of making the jump, just give us a call, and we’ll see if NRO is a good fit for your business.

How to get more conversions on your E-commerce site

Clothing & Apparel, E-commerce, Web Tips

Today, online shoppers are highly informed on the products they want to buy. Getting them to chose your product over someone else’s has and always will be the key to a successful business. So how do you convince your potential customers to buy your product?

One successful way has been to offer coupons or discounts on the item, which is usually a one-way street. The customer gets what they want, and you may never see or hear from them again.  The best approach in this situation is to ask for their email address, while offering them a discount in return. So, how do you know when to ask the question? Right when they enter the site? No, that would more likely turn customers away, and people don’t like popups to show right away, especially if they frequent your site. There is a smarter way to make this happen, and I’ll show you the FREE tools to do it, and with little, to NO coding knowledge required! Seriously, your 16 year old nephew Justin could do this.

Let’s get started

The first step is to head over to www.sumome.com and watch the video on how their plugin works. The code they supply you can be easily added to the <HEAD> of your website. If you’re using Magento/NRO you can add it under System>Configuration>Design and look for the HTML Head section (see below).

SumoMe code screenshot

Once it’s in, save it and head to your Home Page. You’ll have a little blue box to the top-right side of your website. Click it, and Sign Up for an account. From there, you can click on the Sumo Store, where they offer some other cool additional plugins. The one we want here is the List Builder. If you open the List Builder, you’ll see the green “settings” option. In there you can change things like the color of the popup, what text is displayed, and more. Here is where you’ll put your amazing copy such as “Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll give you 15% off your order!” or “Get 15% off your order by entering your email address below”

Now for the cool part

You’ll also have the ability to change the Timing of the popup. For our use, we’re going to pick “Smart” with a frequency of 2 Minutes. This can be changed of course, but what it’s doing is saying that if the visitor is on your site for more than 2 minutes, then allow this popup to be shown. Now the “Smart” setting is really cool but very simple. When the visitor moves their mouse outside of your webpage (let’s say they want to close their browser window), the popup displays which gives you a greater chance of converting that visitor to a customer.

So where do the emails go?

You have the option to connect with a third party service, like Mailchimp or Constant Contact, to not only collect these email addresses, but also to assign them to a list for your weekly newsletter, or to automatically send out a coupon for that 15% off you promised them. Alternately you can download the email list from the plugin as a CSV file, to import into Counterpoint’s Customer Connect, or any other service you might use.

Hooray for more customers!

At this point, you’ve got a free tool that provides an easy way to convert a visitor who may be on the fence about purchasing a product from your online store, and it took you all of 15-20 minutes to setup, right? And it’s a benefit to you because you get an email address to add to your fun-tastic newsletter, and possibly drive more sales through that as well! It’s a win-win (and I don’t use that term lightly)!

By the way, if you haven’t already signed up for our newsletter, now’s just about as good a time as any. We provide free tips, like this one, and many other including social media tips, new retail technologies and more!

The Rise of Omni Channel Retailers

Clothing & Apparel, E-commerce, Retail

Consumers increasingly embrace digital technologies and devices in all stages of their buying journey. Digital is integrated with off-line shopping behaviour and retailers are being advised they should look at omni-channel retailing.

In his recent blog post on Econsultancy, Darren Hitchcock defines omni-channel retailing as “an integrated sales experience that melds the advantages of physical stores with the information-rich experience of online shopping”. It’s, among others, about building bridges between online and offline.

While omni-channel retailing is still relatively new for most retailers, it gets more attention as consumer behaviour keeps changing and retailers gain a single customer view, integrating customer and shopping data with behavioural profiling, preferences, etc. To see what possibilities it offers, exploring the possibilities and doing some tests might be a good idea, as long as it’s relevant. However, it all depends on the individual context of the retailer: the market, the types of products, the profile and behaviour of customers etc. Obviously, what your multi-channel shopper wants is essential when you start.

There are many tactics and ways to provide a more integrated shopping experience. While some have been proven, others are fairly new. In his blog post on Econsultancy, Darren Hitchcock explains five ways to embrace omni-channel retailing.

5 omni-channel retailing trends and ideas

1) Making use of social media

Peer-to-peer communication is one of the most effective ways to sell something. Brands using social media and social communities are stepping out of the traditional advertising model and allowing customers to help build the brand through their own discussions and recommendations. Social is definitely part of an omni-retail shopping experience as experiments in stores prove (for instance, displaying ‘likes’ on small screens near the actual products).

2) Integrating customer reviews

Like social media, reviews are powerful advertising tools. Shoppers tend to trust the experiences of their peers more than brand advertisements. Companies are beginning to take advantage of the growing mobile trend to make reviews and product guides available in-store. Customers can access this information while they shop and use it to help make purchasing decisions. Being able to read reviews and see detailed product information while shopping creates a comprehensive buying experience that can help drive sales.

3) Use digital means to personalize physical shopping

Consumers enjoy a personalized shopping experience. Being greeted by a trusted associate at a favourite store, having someone remember their buying preferences and being shown what they want rather than sitting through generic sales pitch all make shoppers more likely to buy. Some stores are rolling out apps that help their employees accomplish these things with each customer. Other apps deliver information about in-store sales and events to customers as they shop. This is one of the applications the retailing industry is testing most.

4) Technological advances in-store

As technology becomes more powerful, businesses will be able to offer more detailed, personalized shopping recommendations. In-store stations that allow customers to interact with the products available for sale can collect important information about things such as clothing size and buying history, allowing retailers to deliver comprehensive product guides to each individual consumer.

5) Merging social and local

Location-based social media like Foursquare and Facebook Places allow businesses to use social channels to market to local customers. These services link mobile users to their friends via “check-ins,” showing who has stopped where and any comments they had about the experience. Businesses looking to get in on the action can offer coupons, sales alerts, messages about important events and more, delivering advertising and information to shoppers as they go about their daily routines.

The evolution towards an integrated physical, digital, mobile and social shopping experience is just starting. Retailers are increasingly moving towards cross-channel customer experiences. It’s interesting to see what’s happening and what works. In the end, using closed loop marketing with a single customer view across all marketing and shopping channels, provides the insights and data you need to experiment.

Again, it’s about integration around the customer.