Business, Design

Three steps to getting started with omnichannel

April 26, 2016

Read time 4 min

Discussions about omnichannel often turn into debate about what’ll be the next big idea in combining the digital and physical experience and what are the possible new gimmicks to luring in consumers. Yet the necessary first steps towards the omniexperience are actually quite obvious. It’s not about the size of your idea – it’s about how fast you can implement and validate it.

1. Collect the low-hanging fruits

Making the customer experience of online shopping entirely seamless with running errands in the physical store should be one of a retailer’s top priorities. Picking up and returning online purchases to the physical store, ‘click & collect’, is a natural way to start blending the two channels together. This might sound like an unimaginative exercise, but it’s the first step the organisation has to take to build a solid foundation to start maneuvering in the omnichannel universe.

Building relevant sales tools and technology, training sales personnel to use them and aligning business objectives are solid first steps of a successful omnichannel strategy.

2. Turn the store into a space of inspiration

It is important to strike the balance between the joy of finding exciting new stuff while providing the things that the consumer originally came in the store to get. The traditional retail business metric is profit per square meter; physical space is expensive, so getting maximum profit out of it is a top priority. The danger in this model is that filling the space with goods with most demand can render the inventory rather uninspiring, expectable and dull. The retailer could optimize itself to extinction by alienating urban drifters that long for new experiences and want to tell their peers about it in social media.

Online channels add a new dimension to this equation. Effective combination of the online and physical can save square meters while improving the customer experience: customers can go to the physical store to feel and try out the products, pay for what they like, and the products are delivered to their home from a warehouse – or better yet, straight from manufacturer’s stock, when the retailer’s inventory is kept low. Brick and mortar acts as a showroom with relevant shop-in-shops, while logistics and storing are taken care of online.

3. Leverage data and invest in APIs

When it comes to aging, applications are like fish and data is like wine. Focus on preserving, cherishing and enabling easy access to all data in your organization.

The Holy Grail of advanced omnichannel business is the ability to leverage data effectively. Combining data effectively from product information systems, CRM, point of sales, ecomm sites and even indoor positioning systems can be a huge competitive advantage in rapidly changing environment. They can be used to build predictive models, making personalized offers for customers and even steer the whole buy-in process.

The problem is often that the integrations, migrations and cleaning up the data is a time-consuming challenge. However, investing in easy access to the data with APIs and microservices can pay itself back with efficient implementation and faster time-to-markets. For example, accessing a customer’s contact information and transactional history should be as easy as implementing a Facebook login.

Even though the pervasive trend of the decade is offline becoming online, there is traffic the other way around as well. Big digital first companies like Amazon are expanding to physical world because physical stores are more effective in building a lasting bonds with customers. My colleague Ville talks more about retailers wanting to build a closer relationship with customers using physical locations in his blog post. 

Omnichannel is a part of a bigger digitalization transition our society is going through. Instead of looking for big, disruptive ideas, I find it’s more important to tune the organization to be better equipped to try new things with faster time-to-markets and smaller investments. This can be achieved by building competence that makes it possible to experiment with ideas and iterate accordingly. Successful retailers are where they are because they practise, have discipline, try new things and hone their performance. They don’t succeed because of some secret trick or magic move. It’s a marathon, not a pub fight.

Reaktor and Motley have formed an alliance to provide one-stop shop for omnichannel strategies from business consulting to technical implementation and designing customer experiences. 

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