Retailers operating a multichannel model often find that when they want to evolve into an omnichannel leader, there are multiple barriers to success. In-part it’s due to the fragmented nature of existing siloed systems, grafted on as new channels such as eCommerce.

Omnichannel retail requires breaking down these silos and, to a certain degree, forgetting about channels altogether. The omnichannel weak spots retailers must address are often hangovers from their evolving multichannel operations.

For retailers wanting to remove the limitations, constraints and operational inefficiencies associated with multichannel retail, these five weak spots are a great place to start. They address some core requirements of customers in modern-day retail and explain how retailers can adapt to put the customer first and deliver a better experience across the board. 

#1 Not Having Real-Time Stock Visibility In All Locations

In an increasingly demanding retail landscape, having products in stock has never been more critical. A recent survey asked consumers what they would do if they arrived at a store to find a product wasn’t in stock. 37% said they would buy the item from an online retailer when they get home. 35% said they would go to a different store to buy it. 

Lack of stock visibility is a huge missed opportunity for retailers who are not using a centralised system to manage their inventory. Top UK retailers, like DIY retailer Screwfix, are a great example when it comes to offering customers the right options if they don’t have stock in store.

In the first instance, customers can check stock online and reserve it in their local store for click and collect in under 1 minute. Alternatively, if a customer arrives at the store without checking inventory first, Screwfix offer customers the choice of:

  • Ordering the item to the store for collection the next day
  • Ordering the item to be delivered to their home
  • Checking stock in the next closest store and reserving it for the customer to collect

By using a system that gives you stock visibility across your estate, including warehouse and eCommerce fulfilment centres, you can offer a level of service unmatched by many retailers. You will also retain many more customers, even when you don’t have products in stock.   

#2 Not Offering Cross-Channel Orders, Returns & Exchanges

There’s no denying that ‘channels’ are becoming extinct in the eyes of the customer. When customers buy online, there is an expectation that they can return a product in-store and that getting a refund or exchange is quick and straightforward. Unfortunately, for many retailers this isn’t the case.

One of the main barriers is that vital information is not made available quickly enough to different channels, or even at all. Staggeringly, 58% of businesses are using over eight different systems to manage their multichannel model. This nightmare scenario is often the direct cause of omnichannel failure.

If you have a multichannel retail model, your channels must be connected in real-time. If you can’t offer same-day click and collect because your eCommerce and in-store systems don’t sync until the end of the day, it’s simply not good enough.

Bad integrations and lacklustre systems are a recipe for customer frustration and lost sales. The solution is implementing a system that centralises data and updates every channel in real-time with stock, customer and sales information.     

#3 Having Different Product Information & Images In Different Systems

Selling successfully via self-service eCommerce requires high-quality product shots and up-to-date, fully complete, consistent product information. These are essential for successfully converting the customer’s purchasing desire into an order.

Because many retailers have grafted online or offline channels to their existing outlet, often there are two or more systems in place to manage these different channels. Some of the problems this causes are:

  • Retailers are unsure if product information and pictures are up to date in all systems
  • Deleted products are still available because they haven’t been removed from all systems
  • Data is missing because specific fields are completed/required in different systems
  • Titles and descriptions differ because of restrictions on character count between systems

From an efficiency perspective, inputting the same information into multiple systems is a massive time-sink. The negative impact of this is heightened if information has to be tweaked and amended to fit the different conventions and restrictions of different systems. 

The knock-on effect is without the right information customers don’t have the confidence to buy. Missing size information, materials and pictures are all barriers to sale. This can easily be avoided by having one system that updates every channel whether that’s your EPoS, eCommerce site or online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.

#4 Loyalty Programmes That Only Work For One Channel

A recent Bond survey found over 70% of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand if it has a good loyalty programme. 77% say that a loyalty programme is more likely to make them stay with a brand.

Despite this, many retailers still struggle to implement schemes that work across every one of their sales channels. In many ways, a loyalty programme that doesn’t work correctly is worse than having no loyalty programme at all. It causes frustration for the customer because they can’t spend their ‘loyalty’ due to the retailers legacy system limitations. 

To successfully address this, retailers must have an effective CRM in place that is central to all retail systems. A CRM that feeds eCommerce and in-store systems allows data, including loyalty points and rewards to flow throughout all retail activity. Also, it enables you to gain a 360° view of the customer and deliver personalised offers and communications based on past purchases, loyalty level and purchase frequency. 

#5 Different Systems For Different Channels & Processes

All 4 of the problems set out above are caused in one way or another by data being held in different systems. Traditionally this may have worked, and on paper it appears to be a good solution to the complexity of modern retail. However, in reality, it causes problems, including:

  • Data is lost when transferred between systems
  • Another system overwrites data
  • Data is not updated or synced until the end of the day
  • Data is not available when it’s needed, e.g. real-time stock levels
  • Data is not available at all due to broken system integrations

This risk applies to almost all the information retailers rely on every day to smoothly run retail operations. Inventory and stock, purchasing, delivery, warehouse, sales, customer special orders and promotions. If one system goes down, the chain reaction can have significant consequences.

The ‘weak-spot’ is the integrations between these systems, which means having to deal with multiple vendors to get the problem resolved. This is time-consuming, and time is money.

The solution is omnichannel retail software which collects, houses and delivers critical operational data from one database. Data is then available across every channel, in real-time without no reliance on integrations. Unified Commerce is the new beating heart of retail. 

In Conclusion

In summary, retailers must be looking at how to remove the limitations, constraints and operational inefficiencies associated with integrating eCommerce, offline POS and back-office retail software. Doing so will catapult your retail operations into the 21st century, making you ready for the 2020s.