There is no doubt that shopping habits, preferences, and expectations have shifted seismically in 2020. More customers than ever are shopping and browsing online, and spending is reaching record levels. But with increased digital adoption comes exponentially higher customer expectations, particularly when it comes to shopping across channels.
Previously, shopper expectations were defined by brick-and-mortar operations. Now, with pureplay brands charging forward and countries weaving in and out of lockdowns, it is online channels that are defining the experience of the future. Visibility across stock levels, in-store inventory, fulfilment options and step by step order processing, is key to creating better experiences and removing barriers that exist between channels.
The pandemic has dramatically altered the retailers’ experience as well. Footfall is down in store, stock sits stagnant in large physical locations laid out for immediate face to face sales and in some cases, these locations have become impromptu distribution centres. Covid-19 has proved that digital-first, omnichannel retail isn’t only optimal in gaining and retaining customers by meeting their expectations, but essential for survival.
Consumers now demand transparent and visible stock availability, in all locations, in real-time. This means that they want the item, they don’t care whether it is in your warehouse, in-store or with a third-party supplier. Providing full stock levels across all channels means that you utilise all your stock and customers aren’t left unhappy when they can’t order a piece that sits outside of the online warehouse availability. We can see retailers such as Cotton On taking this a step further and putting this info in the hands of both the customer and store staff through their app, which allows the user to scan a barcode and instantly retrieve stock level data as well as see other styles or colours and even add it to their wish list to buy later.
When we consider the in-store experience, we of course must mention endless aisle. We have been talking about it for a while now, but the pandemic really bought the value of these features home with some stock being delayed or even worse, cancelled as the world ground to a halt and stores started to close. By having strategies like pre-ordering combined endless aisle, you can extend the range available to customers in-store and make it shoppable. Retailers like Argos in the UK do this with great effect having smaller physical footprints but giving maximum range to customers. When combined multiple shipping options, it allows the customer to access your full range and make them feel like they are getting the best shopping experience, even if they don’t know what goes on behind the scenes.
When the customer places an order, they want to have the choice on how they receive it and most importantly, receive orders as quickly as possible. By establishing a complete view of stock and connecting it all together, you can enable the best possible speed of delivery and convenience for the customer. This includes options to split shipments, click & collect, ship to store for collection or shipping from store to utilise available stock.
This year, we’ve seen retailers starting to adapt and turn their stores into mini distribution centres to help them reduce pressure on warehouses and shift stock that would otherwise have stagnated. This can also be complemented by having multiple distribution centres that ease pressure on having single points and get orders out at rapid rate.
Inefficient order processing results in lost orders, fulfilment delays, unhappy customers, and stunts growth as lifetime value decreases when your brand promise isn’t met. The challenge for a lot of retailers is connecting it all together, but it’s not impossible with the right tool set and OMS.
Customers expect to be able to quickly satisfy their buying demands and track their order and returns status anywhere, anytime. By connecting us systems with the right OMS and backing technology, you can empower customers by giving them visibility of every step, in real time, as their order or return progresses. This also reduces stress on your customer service team who often get incoming calls to get updates on progress.
By connecting all channels, the internal benefit of exposing a single customer view comes to light. This data is invaluable for retailers to track purchases across all channels as well as tie together any customer service data, so your customers truly feels like you know them and they have a consistent experience, no matter what channel they use to interact with you. This knowledge can also be used to extend your capability with tools such as chat bots or artificial intelligence for recommendations.
Having cohesive and connected systems in place with an OMS means that retailers can add new geographies with less friction and speed up global growth. In addition to having a cohesive view of stock, multi-currency can be easy tackled using the right PSP or processing through your OMS system so there is one less hurdle to jump over.
One way to deliver on your brand promise and provide a consistent experience is through an agile, customer first, Order Management System (OMS). An effective OMS will manage every aspect of digital orders, from browsing through to the last mile experience. The best retailers will empower customers to display stock availability and location and allow retailers to see distribution options and fulfilment status in real-time. The more sophisticated order management systems are fully integrated into digital commerce solutions, meaning orders can be easily made, processed, tracked, and fulfilled, regardless of channel, whether that is digital flagship, social channels or even kiosks.
Order management has developed into so much more than simply processing orders. It has evolved into an all-encompassing end to end process that covers everything from pre-purchase to the post-purchase experience. Unified and accessible omnichannel retail can be the difference between a business being efficient, profitable, and winning or losing when it comes to sales, margins, and customers.