From multichannel to omnichannel

Why a joined-up approach is vital for retail success

With consumer expectations increasing, prices rising faster than wages and economic uncertainty the new norm, Chris Booker of digital transformation specialists DeeperThanBlue highlights the ways in which retailers can achieve sustainable growth in an aggressively competitive industry.

Make silos a no-no

Retailers frequently struggle to gain a single customer view. To attain this Holy Grail, they need to unify information coming in from every single touchpoint, across all the customer’s chosen channels of interaction: on the high street and in the mall, online through a mobile device, laptop or desktop computer, through a call centre…

Rather than having multiple channels creating multiple silos of data, retailers taking an omnichannel approach create a holistic picture of the individual’s buying patterns and preferences. It empowers them to provide personalised service, which in turn makes for a more engaging shopping experience and helps to build customer loyalty – an increasingly elusive quality.

Here at DeeperThanBlue, we’re seeing more retailers offering a concierge-like service. They can recommend products and alternatives based on the shopper’s purchasing history and preferences, or proactively track down an item in stock in another branch.

Providing joined-up service demands back-office systems that are truly integrated. Stock levels need to be able to accommodate promotions driving traffic to local stores. To avoid disappointment and lost sales, online purchasers need to have confidence that the webstore reflects supply chain reality and that the items they order are genuinely available in stock.

In our view, having seamless back-end processes is the new battleground: all elements need to work in harmony – from order, to payment, to picking, to delivery when and where the customer wishes.

Don’t let Black Friday make or break your business

In 2016, the annual sales frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday outsold the festive season by around 28%. Online retailers took approximately £1.23 billion on Black Friday of Britons’ record £6.45 billion spend during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend.

This year, Interactive Media in Retail Group is predicting that the same period will hit £1.35 billion on Black Friday, and be up 9% and £7.42 billion through the weekend on to Cyber Monday, which is set to be up a whopping 15% on last year.

Some major retailers are stepping back from the Black Friday Weekend phenomenon. Those who continue the practice need a well-planned strategy. Without it, there’s a danger that the UK consumer’s purchase of all but the most mundane goods will become a once a year event, with customers delaying planned purchases in the hopes of getting a better deal.

There’s also a real risk that Black Friday and Cyber Monday become a make or break event. They place huge pressure on staff, stock and systems, with websites crashing and logistics overloaded. Plus there’s the negative publicity of an unattractive in-store scrum as shoppers tussle over bargains.

These problems can be mitigated by smoothing the peaks and troughs. In the few short years since Black Friday first hit the British shopping scene, savvy retailers have already extended a short-lived spree into ‘Black Five-Day’ and, more recently, into a month-long discount period. They also put price promises in place or offer loyalty points to tempt those willing to bring their purchases forward instead of waiting for the Big Day.

Technology also has an important part to play. Cloud computing puts the power in retailers’ hands to harness flexible computing resources, which can scale up and down as trading volumes fluctuate. This elasticity eliminates the capital outlay and expense of purchasing a new server, which then sits idle in the corner once the rush has subsided.

The days of having to plan server capacity months in advance in order to cope with the spike of Black Friday or other seasonal trading period should now be a distant memory.

To find out more

View a short (under 3 minutes) DeeperThanBlue video sharing insights into optimising the customer experience.