Todays’ consumer is very independent and understands and adopts technology easily. With this level of informed customer, it is crucial that that firstly retailers have an online presence, as without it the retailer will lose market share to the competition that can deliver both an online/offline message.
In the current environment, a seamless integration between online and bricks & mortar offerings is key to building customer loyalty and truly understanding your target audience. If your customer does not receive the same level of experience through the various shopping channels available, then the retailer runs a significant risk of losing market share.
Typically retailers have managed web stores and Bricks & Mortar stores with different management structures and disciplines. Both independently delivering customer service, but ensuring the level of service not only is maintained but increased is a crucial component to the success of this integration. In the first instance this is about the retailers personnel, aligning their working processes and values to deliver a true cross-channel customer experience. Stock availability and customer service at local store level is critical.
With technology evolving daily, the modern retailer will find it difficult to keep pace with the customer expectations especially if they are still attempting to build on legacy applications. Consumers expects more from a retailer today, they want to purchase a quality product, receive independent affirmation that their purchase will be a good one, and they expect the same high quality customer service regardless of their preferred method of purchasing.
When a retailer can deliver the same experience through a cross-channel, multi-channel or Bricks & Mortar transaction customer loyalty will increase and therefore a true commercial advantage can be obtained.
Customer centricity is the true driver of the need to integrate online/offline systems. In my opinion this leads to the seamless integration of many systems – Accounts package, POS solution, Inventory Management, Web Store(s), Warehouse Management system, ERP and CRM.
To truly deliver the customer experience, the Epos solution and webstore(s) need to be completely integrated delivering a strong message to customers from a marketing perspective through social media applications such as Facebook or Twitter. Front End or customer facing solutions must be the first components on the road to customer centricity followed closely by all traditional back office applications supporting this activity.
Todays’ consumer is informed and has access to various sources of information via the internet to research and buy products, but the Bricks & Mortar store will always exist for the following reasons:
- Having researched the item ‘ I want it now’ so whether this is reserve & collect or just drive to the store and purchase, immediacy will drive bricks & mortar sales.
- Some products are very personal and therefore the product needs to be seen and considered in person even if it has been researched previously.
- Customers look to the retailer to have expertise and knowledge so speaking to a member of staff in a store will again instil confidence in the customer purchase.
A truly cross channel experience means that your customers have total choice in the way they shop with you. Competition is mounting and I believe only those companies that embrace technology to reach out to their customers, will be successful.