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Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead
Recently, it seems that you can’t open a newspaper without hearing about the ‘death of the high street’ and how the rise of online shopping is bringing about its demise. Whilst there might be some pertinent arguments surrounding this issue, one thing is clear: in today’s society, customers have evolved to shop exactly how – and when – they want to. Whether that’s shopping online or in-store, convenience is king and retailers that fail to support this will find themselves struggling in this challenging retail climate.
This is why omnichannel retailing is so vital to retailers. It’s important to recognise its central work and the very reason why it operates: making the shopping experience for a customer absolutely seamless. Whatever device they may be using to access online purchases, whichever physical location they may be visiting at the time – or even both options at once – all channels must be intrinsically interlinked.
The major advantages of achieving this position of seamless interaction are the positives it brings to the customer experience. Providing access not just to the products themselves, but all the other information such as materials, sizes, dimensions and reviews – at whatever time of day or selling channel – is vital. When these can be supplied across multiple platforms, the customer can be fully engaged.
Increasing the engagement which customers have involves knowledge and awareness of their shopping habits and actions. Omnichannel customers will fit into many different brackets: there will be those who see items in physical locations, consider them, then complete the purchase on an online platform, as well as those who reverse that process. Some may investigate making an online purchase whilst in-store, if they consider this more convenient or availability of things like sizes or colour is greater. Others will simply use one platform and one platform only. Omnichannel retail ensures that all of these habits can not only be catered for but encouraged and allowed to thrive; crucially, it is also the only way to ensure that this happens.
Firstly, keeping the product information relevant and up-to-date is critical. If a product changes the design it uses or if different materials are used, getting this across quickly and efficiently to consumers should be a priority. Using software such as a PIM solution will help to minimise inaccuracies as PIM uses a single point of data entry, so that any changes can be implemented immediately across every platform, without the need for this to be manually handled with the chance of error this may bring.
While the customer journey may embrace all of these stages, it will come to a halt if an item is found to be ‘out of stock’ or ‘unavailable’. Loyalty will be lost as they look elsewhere and other retailers will be able to step in and poach the unsatisfied customer. Using an omnichannel supply chain solution, such as Merret, will allow retailers to have a single view of stock so that products can be sent to the locations that they are most needed, so that more stock can be sold at full price.