Previously, we stressed the importance of implementing an omni-channel system for retailers. It is extremely important in this day and age for retailers to have a consistent storefront across multiple touchpoints. Today’s shoppers want to be able to look online or use a mobile app to find a product. They also want real-time inventory updates, so they can know if the item is available at a brick and mortar store. While an omni-channel system is important to keep retail customers happy, it has a few other major benefits as well.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Retail used to be all about finding the best physical location for a storefront. Virtual “location” on search engines has all but rendered this obsolete. How easy are you making it for consumers to find your store when they search for something related to your store, brand, or product?
Eighty-one percent of consumers research products online before buying, and 60% begin their research on a search engine (Amazon searches are gaining a remarkable amount of ground in the initial touchpoint as well—something for forward-facing retailers to consider). Highlighting the importance of local search, a recent study found that 50% of retail consumers will visit a brick-and-mortar location within a day of conducting a local search.
These shifts in consumer behavior are creating dramatic new realities in local retail: not only changing the mindset of customers, but also changing foot traffic patterns. According to some stores, holiday foot traffic in brick and mortar locations has decreased year over year, yet in the same time, sales have risen. This astonishing correlation can be attributed to the fact that the modern customer is more purposeful and driven than ever before; after identifying a product they desire, researching it online, reading about it on blogs, identifying local retailers that carry the product, and evaluating the retailer on consistency, customer experience, and price, the customer is arriving at the store already intent on completing the purchase. It is because of this dramatic shift from aimless to ad hoc shopping that omni-channel retailers are rising above the rest and winning the day.
Despite our increasingly connected world, few brick-and-mortar retailers are adjusting to the shift in consumer behavior that mobile devices have enabled. Therefore, this presents an incredible opportunity for retailers to leverage. An Ipsos study found that two-thirds of consumers were unable to find the details they needed in a store, with many turning to the retailer’s own website or app to fill the information gap. One in three surveyed even responded they would rather research the item themselves on their smartphone than get the responses from an in-store associate.
Granted, when comparing the physical and the digital world, the digital has an obvious advantage in that it is not constrained by the physical space necessary to communicate item details in-store. And in-store associates, while helpful, will in all but extremely rare cases lack the encyclopedic knowledge about each and every on-hand item that a retail location carries (more often than not, they may end up Googling it themselves). A forward-thinking solution that has presented itself in response to the in-store information gap is the loyalty application. By providing branded loyalty apps, retailers are providing a digital means for customers to collect points, save coupons, and research products in store and online. Many loyalty programs fail because customers sign up on purchase, throw a card in an already over-stuffed wallet or purse, and never use it again. By providing a mobile app, you’re tying the benefits of a loyalty program to a device that most millennials always have on their person, and reaping the rewards (pun intended).
Loyalty apps offer ample opportunity for personalization based on buying behavior or consumer profile; personalized coupons, offers, or notifications will keep customers coming back to your store and spending money. Not linking your loyalty app to the entire omni-channel experience, however, means you’re taking a shot in the dark and only capable of making educated decisions based on behavior in the app itself. A holistic omni-channel experience will include e-commerce visits and purchase history when generating offers and opportunities your customers will legitimately find engaging.
Enough about the customers; most retailers might be asking, “What’s in it for ME?” A unified omni-channel management system will empower in-store employees to better serve customers and complete sales on the ground. Examples of this are mobile POS systems—streamlined, mobile-optimized systems that allow in-store associates to access item information or complete purchases from the floor. Apple, a company that was ahead of the curve in implementing mobile POS, has consistently ranked as the highest seller per square foot of retail space in this decade.
The reason? Empowered and knowledgeable employees armed with tablets ready to answer questions and process transactions immediately for an improved customer experience. A mobile POS system integrated with the omni-channel management system will be capable of live inventory look-ups, accessing item information, loading customer loyalty data, and processing payments for customers—no long checkout lineups or searching for an associate to have a question answered; just providing the customer with what they need, when they need it.
Building an omni-channel experience for tomorrow, today
The final benefit of implementing a unified omni-channel management system in retail lies in the opportunity to keep an eye on the future. The rate of technological advancement in mobile and digital frequently outpaces solution providers’ ability to keep up. In addition, the cost and time necessary to upgrade or replace a number of outdated, disconnected systems can ensure that the best intentions of retail technology are never realized. Location beacons, recommendation engines, and personalized in-store re-marketing are examples of omni-channel advancements that have yet to reach mass-market adoption. Be rest assured, however; they’re coming. It’s just a question of how prepared you will be when they arrive.
The retail experience for shoppers and retailers alike has fundamentally changed within the past decade—and will continue to do so for many years to come. By utilizing a single end-to-end system such as LS Retail to encompass the entire omni-channel experience, forward-thinking retailers can ensure they’re providing an experience their customers love, collecting the data they can use to thrive, and setting their operations up for success today and far into the future.
Contact our software experts today to learn how your retail business can reap the benefits from LS Retail omni-channel management system.