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Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Are Leveraging eCommerce to Their Advantage

In the not-so-distant past many believed brick-and-mortar stores were on their way out and the rise of eCommerce would enable online-only stores to dominate the retail industry. There is no denying the explosive growth, popularity, or benefits of online shopping: Consumers can shop from nearly anywhere, quickly search for products while comparing prices and reviews, and use simple, secure checkout features. With countless options and information online, it was looking as though brick-and-mortar stores couldn’t compete. However, savvy retailers are finding ways to level the playing field against their cyber competition. And one strategy that offers leverage by using a multichannel user experience is omnichannel retailing.

The omnichannel approach

Omnichannel retailing uses both brick-and-mortar stores and online tools to sell products. This approach combines all available retail channel assets and capabilities into a contiguous customer experience. It allows consumers to choose which channels they prefer, whether it’s shopping online, in stores, or a hybrid of both. And to not only stay afloat but also remain competitive, retailers “need to fully embrace a one brand, many channels strategy.” This has the added benefit of providing different points at which retailers can interact, offer incentives, improve user experiences, and customize tools according to ever-changing needs.

The key is to employ a data-driven strategy. Many customers do not shop through a single medium, and omnichannel retailing gives traditional retailers an edge that most online-only stores lack or cannot compete with — a personalized in-store shopping experience for every shopper. Through tactfully collecting and analyzing data, omnichannel retailers can employ highly strategic retailing efforts. Which types of products do customers tend to browse online but buy in stores? Which offers result in the highest conversion rates and through which medium? Those who are 10 steps ahead know what their customers want to buy and where. They understand consumer behaviors and spending patterns. And most importantly, they act on this knowledge.

As growth in online-only sales begins to taper off, brick-and-mortar business owners also have opportunities to capitalize through mobile influencers on social media platforms. Consumers help drive others’ decisions through building brand awareness, offering peer recommendations and reviews, sharing pictures or additional information, among other factors. Through strategic data tracking, retailers can also stay up to date on trends which, in turn, can allow companies to better anticipate and plan for sales efforts in the future. Strategic tactics, though, require constant attention.

Implementation and support

So how can retailers implement this strategy? The key is putting unified systems in place that share the same data while also providing unified customer experiences across all channels. This requires having the right tools and technology in place. Which platforms should they use? What applications support cloud-based point-of-sale systems, manage inventory, track customer preferences, and deliver company messages and offerings? By finding and utilizing the right services provider, retailers can have a better understanding of which platforms to use and what types of support they can — and should — expect.

When partnered with an experienced service provider, company leaders have access to analysts who can help you architect and implement a data-driven omnichannel strategy, ongoing maintenance, and management support. With the right provider, brick-and-mortar retailers can not only be sure they have the right tools in place but can also be assured they are functioning optimally and being properly managed. Brick-and-mortar retail isn’t dead — it’s being disrupted, and those who incorporate a multichannel user experience with a data-driven customized experience for their customers will likely gain an edge.

Value Global offers services for application design, implementation, and data analytics, with channel marketing support to help put you on the fast-track towards improved customer engagement and revenue realization. To learn more about omnichannel support and other services to support your business needs, contact a Value Global expert or visit us online.


(Point of) Service, Not Sale

For retailers, the months between October and December are by far their busiest time of year, so it can be expected that all of their time and energy goes into executing a successful holiday season, right? Wrong! In addition to laying a strong foundation for Holiday Readiness, executives and decision-makers must simultaneously look forward to their 2016 strategic planning. For many, this plan includes expanding and enhancing omnichannel operations.

Omnichannel and Store of the Future

The discussion regarding the importance of omnichannel retailing has dominated the industry for the last five years, and this year is no different. But, before we delve further into this topic, we want to clarify the differences between Multichannel, Crosschannel and Omnichannel operations. These terms are often used so interchangeably that even those of us working in the industry get confused!

Multichannel: multiple channels to engage customers and to purchase products, including brick-and-mortar stores, websites, call centers and catalogs

Crosschannel: a combination of different channels for the same purpose, such as purchase at home and pickup in a store

Omnichannel: multiple channels to engage customers AND provide consistent experience

  • Example: Start shopping online, continue on mobile, checkout in the store based on previously selected products. Pay online and have it shipped to the house

The fact of the matter is that consumers today aren’t just shopping for a product; they’re looking for an experience. Competitive pricing is no longer enough to keep customers coming back; ultimately, what will prompt them to choose your store over another will be the quality of their experience and the flexibility of their choices. Omnichannel retailing shows a 90%+ higher year-over-year rate for customer retention, and a 3%+ increase in customer lifetime value.

In order to execute this strategy successfully, retailers must have a Point of Sale (POS) system that allows customers to take full advantage of this flexible shopping experience. In considering a new POS system, the two most common questions are:

  1. Our existing system meets most of the business requirements — is the ROI for the new system significant enough?
  2. Large system change carries a significant risk and time commitment — will this be a distraction from direct revenue generating activities?
  3. Will merging sales channels negatively affect margins or brand recognition?

While all of these concerns are certainly valid, our experience is that the benefits of a new, more robust POS system far outweigh the drawbacks. Some of the pros include, but are not limited to:

  1. Increased consistency across experience, aesthetics and data integrity
  2. Mobile and self-mobile checkout
  3. PCI Compliance and EMV Compliance (Oct 1st deadline has passed)
  4. Advanced security and encryption for customer data protection
  5. Customer identification and guided shopping
  6. Usage efficiency and overall reduction of routing
  7. Improved integration capabilities with Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings:
    • CRM
    • Traffic data
    • BI, advanced analytics and loss prevention
    • Loyalty programs
    • Workforce and task management
    • Special orders
    • Inventory
    • Pricing
  8. Promotions and discounts engine
  9. Multi-language and multi-currency support
  10. Updated/supported OS, database and equipment versions

But, in a saturated market, which POS system is best?

The Forrester Wave published a report in July of this year analyzing 10 different POS systems to determine which systems truly offered the most robust qualities and capabilities for both retailers and their customers. They weighed the individual components of each system and gave them an overall score for both their strength of current offering and their future strategy.  The report found that, while all 10 systems* held up fairly well in each respective category, clear winners emerged within the Omnichannel space:

Retail Analysis2

Leaders (with eCommerce integration): Aptos, Demandware, Fujitsu, NCR, and PCMS

Competitive: Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, SAP, and Wincor Nixdorf

Based on this information, it’s clear that retailers have several strong options available for improving their omnichannel presence in 2016. Investing in a new POS system will improve the way your customers shop, whether it be in a brick-and-mortar store or on their phone, and we urge you to make this a critical initiative in your 2016 Strategy. New POS systems focus not on the “Sale”, as their name implies, but on the “Service”, helping retailers to offer a consistently superior experience across all platforms. Instead of logistical concerns dominating and shaping the purchase process, the customers themselves determine their shopping experience. Omnichannel retailing gives shoppers the freedom of choice; the right “Point of Service” system provides the experience that makes them choose you.

*Watch out for the new kid on Retail block: Infor announces CloudeSuite Retail


Holiday Retail Readiness: Making Lists and Checking Them Twice

It is officially October, which, for most of the country, means Halloween decorations, pumpkin spice everything and the arrival of cooler weather. Retailers, however, are already deep into “Holiday Mode”, preparing for the exponential increase in customer, sale and return volume that begins before Thanksgiving and continues through to the New Year.

Over the years, we’ve supported many Retail IT clients (both traditional and e-Commerce); some of our consultants have even worked in Retail IT themselves. This experience has given us a huge appreciation and respect for the effort it takes to execute and deliver a successful holiday season, both for customers and employees.

For many retailers, the best way to prepare for the holiday season is to create detailed checklists and plans of action. Of the questions we’ve seen retailers ask, some of the most common are:

  1. Will all IT projects and critical bug fixes be completed in time for the holidays?
  2. Will both store and call center systems operate seamlessly to minimize system interaction time and maximize customer experience?
  3. Are controls in place to maximize data security?
  4. Will the website support the anticipated record breaking Cyber Monday at its peak performance?
  5. Will distribution center systems be able to handle increased order and subsequent return volume?
  6. Is there time to test system preparedness and document results to avoid unexpected malfunctions?
  7. Can employees keep up with daily financial settlement cut-off times?
  8. Are IT systems equipped to monitor accurately data regarding inventory volume, availability and pricing?
  9. Will the Accounting Department have the support they need during year-end close process?
  10. Last, but certainly not least, have we provided for 24*7 monitoring and availability to support both customer-facing and back-office systems and processes? How will this coverage affect the already understaffed and overworked IT department?

We are extremely confident that the answer to all of the above questions is a resounding “YES!” However…in the off-chance that the holidays have sneaked up on you (as they are apt to do) and your “YES!” is not quite so resounding as you might like, we’ve outlined a few tips and suggestions that can be easily and quickly implemented:

  1. Talk with every business department about their plans and their absolute “Must-Haves” to deliver exceptional service
  2. Communicate to all departments what issues are not going to be resolved and agree on workarounds
  3. Set a firm code freeze date – do not allow any system changes beyond that point
  4. Get with your key vendors (technology, product, etc.) to get their status on holiday readiness – it takes multiple parties to deliver great service
  5. Stress test your e-Commerce infrastructure to make sure it can handle double the expected volume. Be sure to resolve issues before Cyber Monday
  6. Implement a sales audit process
  7. Have a Plan B to transact manually should your systems experience an outage. Train your staff in this protocol, as well as in the subsequent catch-up and reconciliation process
  8. Do not schedule physical inventory during holiday season (or too close to it) – your employees will thank you!
  9. Start year-end close process now – this way, you can resolve exceptions and clean up interfaces ahead of schedule
  10. Take the time to train a robust IT support team. Provide them with a full list of additional tasks, functions and expectations for 24*7 coverage (Monitoring and maintaining these systems is no small feat: the complexity of Retail IT Systems, and their varied interactions, inspired Value Global to create a Managed Services offering specifically for retailers, BPSM², which monitors both individual systems and their cross-functionality)

Happy Holiday Season, Retailers! We hope we’ve made it a little manageable by outlining a To-Do List that addressed at least a few of your most pressing items. Next week, we’ll help you start that 2016 Strategic Road Map by reviewing the pros and cons of a new Point of Service system, so stay tuned!

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