The Multichannel Point of Sale Experience and Real World Execution
In today’s retail environment, sellers are forced to evaluate their multichannel strategy. Cross-channel selling is a great way to boost reach and access more buyers – but it needs to be executed properly. A successful multichannel operation is the key to unlocking sustainable growth for retailers today – and it starts with a few guiding principles.
1. Consistency is king
Retail Systems Research’s data shows that consistency is the most valued trait among retailers who sell across multiple channels. Customers relate to your brand, regardless of the channel on which they find it. Whether they are shopping at your retail store, via a mobile app, web store, kiosk, etc., it is critical that their experiences match their expectations for your company. Buyers assume that they will be able to access the same products at the same prices at all of your outlets. They expect that any service person they connect with can edit their order, and that the product will be available via any channel when they’re ready to buy. If these conditions are not met, it damages your brand image and could cost you sales.
2. Knowledge is power
No matter how the customer interacts with you, ensure that each sales channel and customer service point has access to customer data, including contact information and complete order history. Knowing your customers’ preferences personalizes the interaction, makes them feel important, enables faster service and enriches the entire buying experience.
3. Saying yes builds loyalty
No one likes to be told “no,” especially when they’ve decided they are going to spend money on a purchase. Anticipate what a customer may ask for and be prepared, in advance, to say, “yes” to their requests. At a minimum, these questions must be answered in the affirmative.
- Do you know the status of my order? Yes!
- Is that product available? Yes!
- Can you ship that to my house? Yes!
- Can I pick that up in the store? Yes!
- I bought this online: can I return it at the store? Yes!
- Do you know what I ordered last time? Yes!
Establishing consistency and service is an essential part of retail business. Transforming buying experiences requires access to data. It must be collected, stored and shared in a way that the right people on your team have access to it at the right time. These capabilities are not out of reach for any seller today. Software like nChannel’s multichannel management platform provide a framework that centralizes customer and order data across various sales channels and orchestrates many of the key sales processes needed to meet customer demands.
As an example of the power of a well-executed multichannel strategy, Denver- based Trouts Fly Fishing is a specialty shop with an expanding online presence. The site launched eight years ago as a content-based and how-to hub for fly fishing enthusiasts, but the team quickly realized that people from across the country wanted the ability to purchase items and gear directly from the site.
In order to streamline efforts and ensure a cohesive experience across their brick and mortar and online stores, they started working with nChannel in late 2013. Their biggest challenge, and opportunity, was to ensure their in-store products were also available online and vice versa.
The merchant now thrives on fast service, instant product availability, same-day shipping, and high-speed data. They manage 5,000 products with more than 10,000 SKUs via its in-store merchandise, a Magento-based web site, and Amazon and eBay portals.
Trouts sends complex product fields, stock levels, transaction data, customer records and financial records coursing through its multi-vendor network and energetically pushes marketing with its newsletter, gift cards and an Anglers Rewards Program.
In the years before their process was perfected, waters weren’t as smooth. Trouts Fly Fishing eCommerce Manager Kevin Cooke notes, “we were always coping with out-of-sync inventory on our website, so customer experience was spotty. We either couldn’t answer or had to go research everyday customer questions that deserved fast answers. ‘When will you get it? What’s a good substitute? When did you ship? When does it get here?’ We were too often quick-stepping reactive customer relationships, not building them.” Since implementing this system, Trouts revenue has been increasingly steadily with a 20 to 50 percent annual bump. Cooke adds, “If you don’t automate all your online sales functions, the added detail will eat you alive. Plan it out. I learned ‘Always automate so you have time to innovate!’ Make sure you have scalable systems from an eager and innovative company.”
That said, do your homework before deploying any multichannel software – here are a few key feature to look for to make sure you’ve found the right one:
- A web-based portal to view consolidated sales data from multiple sales channels so every employee can service customers and respond to inquiries quickly and accurately
- Item management to push consistent item data (product attributes, pricing, etc.) to every channel; this also enables central management for pricing and promotions across multiple channels
- Inventory synchronization to ensure that all channels have current and accurate inventory counts
- Inventory management to enable purchases from one channel and fulfillment through another (i.e. in-store pickups)
- Supplier integration to improve inventory visibility and enable drop shipments to customers
- Order management to quickly route and split orders to fulfill them as quickly (and cost-effectively) as possible
To compete effectively today, retailers must deliver a better buying experience across all channels, to ensure customers can easily find you, shop when it’s convenient…and ultimately, be enticed to keep coming back.
About the Author
Steve Weber is the president & CEO nChannel, the leading provider of multichannel management software that simplifies selling for retailers of all sizes. Steve has over two decades of software industry experience, and is a 13-year veteran in the retail space. He is the former Vice-President of eMarketplace Outsourcing Services for Sterling Commerce, a division of IBM. More recently, he was named Microsoft Partner of the Year for Dynamics Retail and awarded Microsoft Retail Independent Software Vendor (ISV) of the year.