I am astounded by the number of times I search for a product online, click the option to purchase, only to find that I then need to phone the retailer to pay. In 2016, this kind of disconnected experience is not good enough. Connected consumers want the freedom to buy from anywhere at any time, with a recent Zendesk survey revealing that 67% of consumers use multiple channels to make purchases.

Omnichannel Retail

Omnichannel retailing gives customers the freedom to have a connected, multi-channel purchase experience. Originally, omnichannel was about connecting the physical store with ecommerce, mobile, and social media, but has now evolved to a flexible and seamless shopping experience for consumers, regardless of whether the customer walks into a store, browses on a website, or orders via mobile phone.

As a customer, I want to be able to pay for my order from my office computer and call into the store on the way home to collect it. Alternatively, let’s say I’m looking for a new BBQ. I might also want to be shopping in-store, make the purchase on my mobile device, or via a self-serve point-of-sale device, and then leave the store, without having to wait in line to be served. I might also want to organise for the item to be shipped direct to my house and be there in the afternoon so I can cook for my guests that night.

To fully realise the omnichannel experience, retailers need to focus on the following points:

  1. Focus on making the customer the centre of the experience.
  2. Document and walk-through every step of the customer journey (including the automated emails you send to your customers).
  3. Integrate all channels. A good ecommerce SaaS platform will enable you to retain one warehouse (or multiple warehouses) and list your products through multiple channels.
  4. Redefine what the store is—you might find you are able to lease a smaller store but change the customer experience in the store.
  5. Streamline the logistics. Customers are seeking flexibility and convenience. Your ecommerce platform should be configured to offer a range of different fulfilment options.
  6. Enable cross-border trade. Third-party warehouses and logistics , drop-shipping, or international carriers allow retailers to sell internationally and the good quality ecommerce Saas platforms are now enabling this functionality.
  7. Watch out for the next big change. Australian retailers need to regularly monitor consumer adoption of new technology. For instance, augmented reality and artificial intelligence are starting to become commercially viable and are gaining traction in US, European and Asian retail.

Sell Everywhere

With online shopping cart SaaS solutions starting from around $49 per month, anyone in retail can start offering an omnichannel experience to their customers. If you are a retailer or wholesaler and you are not currently providing your customers with an omnichannel shopping experience, you are:

  1. Losing market share;
  2. Not providing your customers with the best experience possible;
  3. Losing future shares of customer spend; and
  4. Experiencing a higher costs base than those who are running an omnichannel experience.

As digital continues to touch every step of the customer journey, retailers are having to build their businesses and develop marketing strategies to enable customers to convert on any channel. According to a 2015 study by IDC, multi-channel shoppers have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel.

Increasing the presence of your products and brands across channels can also help increase total sales. According to Deloitte, awareness generated through websites, apps, and online marketplaces creates a related positive affect across all sales channels, not just online.

Manage Everything

The first part of omnichannelling is being able to sell everywhere. The second part, which is often the forgotten component to omnichannelling, is being able to manage everything to create seamless processes for you and your staff.

For some time now, there have been a number of expensive enterprise solutions such as Hybris from SAP, Demandware, NetSuite or Magento, which have offered retailers the opportunity to integrate their back end. However, a number of SaaS solutions are now starting to make the same seamless integration possible for small to medium enterprises at a fraction of the cost.

The quality and robustness of some SaaS platforms presents an opportunity for retailers to enjoy enterprise-level functionality for a fraction of the cost. Why spend $30,000 on annual license fees and another $40,000+ to maintain your ecommerce platform when you can achieve the same performance for much less? At the same time, retailers need to ensure they don’t settle for the cheapest option or the option that their web developer recommends without undertaking some further analysis. Selecting the right platform to enable your business to Sell Everywhere and Manage Everything can really help you grow your sales by providing an amazingly connected customer journey and reduce your annual operating costs by streamlining your back of house processes.

Things to look for in a good ecommerce Saas Platform:

  1. An agnostic platform (i.e. one that allows you to integrate with other best-of-breed SaaS solutions), but one that has POS, order management, shipping and logistics and inventory all built into one platform. This will save you, your staff, and your accountant many headaches.
  2. With inventory in the Cloud you are protecting your business against Facebook’s recent launch of peer to peer eCommerce or Amazon as it continues with its global domination. A Saas platform with inventory in the Cloud will allow you to sell on any of these platforms/marketplaces.
  3. The ability to run multiple warehouse locations.
  4. Will write and maintain all of the core integrations themselves, so you are not relying on third-party connectors.
  5. Ability to sell into negative inventory.
  6. A core platform that is very feature-rich. You get what you pay for. Many retailers building their business get caught out with having to purchase many ‘add-ons’ which can add up to hundreds of extra dollars every month.
  7. No transaction fees or excess bandwidth charges. How many of you are being penalised by your SaaS platform as you grow your business?

I hope this introductory blog on omnichannel shopping has given you a few things to ponder. If you start your journey by understanding the specific traits of the omnichannel shopper and build your offering around their desires and behaviours, you’re making a great start. Get to know who they are and what motivates them to shop online and in-store by using tools that will help you measure online and offline purchases across channels. The next piece of the puzzle to is to study your staff journey as they go about their daily routines. What can you automate through your ecommerce platform? Which processes as part of the journey are being performed by outside suppliers/contractors that you can also automate?

With the right platform, you should be able to exponentially grow your sales and reduce your costs, resulting in a significantly enhanced bottom line and more time to focus on growing your business.