By Karlie Taylor, Marketing Manager at Comestri
Almost half of multichannel retailers said their main physical location strategy in 2021 would be opening hybrid shops. The role of the retail store has forever changed; digital transformation is abundant and customer expectations have undergone a seismic shift.
Retail stores have an important part to play in tomorrow’s digital strategy. The goal is to provide a friction-free, consistent shopping experience wherever a customer chooses to touch your brand.
Now is the time for retailers to take a fresh look at their digital strategy and assess whether it aligns with their needs now and into the future.
With the right tools and technology in place, retailers can keep stock turning over, no matter where it’s located. Real-time inventory management is key to preventing stock outs, offering omnichannel features such as click & collect, and minimising the impact of distressed stock.
These past 2 years have illustrated just how important live inventory is. Knowing exactly what stock is available in what location, whether it be stores, warehouses or dropshippers, is critical. Allowing this stock to be sold online and shipped to where it needs to go is key to keeping inventory turning over. A pair of last season’s trousers sitting on a shelf in Brighton might be exactly what a customer in Sheffield is looking for. If they’re not available to be purchased via the website or any other online sales channel, they may never be sold!
Here are our 5 top tips on how to bridge the gap between your online and offline worlds, and reimagine your retail stores for the future.
1. Unify Your Inventory.
Ensure you have one single source of truth for all your inventory, allowing it to be sold across your entire commerce network. Live inventory feeds should be sent to your ecommerce and sales channels, preventing stock outs and enabling customers to shop your brand on their preferred channel.
Knowing where inventory is located also empowers store staff to make the sale, even if the item in question isn’t available in their store. Order instore, ship to home is a powerful tool for retailers to never miss a sale.
40% of consumers say that they won’t do business with companies if they can’t use their preferred channels, and 45% said product availability at a nearby store was one of the most important logistical factors that influenced when and where they shopped.
Greater product availability online.
Allow customers to checkout via their preferred channel.
2. Unlock Your Instore Inventory To Keep Stock Turning Over.
Inventory sitting on shelves is no good to anyone. If store inventory isn’t available to be sold on your website or across your sales channels, it’s not going anywhere! By unifying your inventory, stock is able to be sold wherever it’s located.
An intelligent Distributed Order Management System will allow you to set stock buffers and sophisticated order routing rules. Set rules to only send orders for fulfillment where there are more than 10 items, send online to the closest location to the customer, or send everything to the flagship store for fulfillment. The options are endless and agile, meaning you can make changes on the fly and respond quickly to changing market conditions.
Keep store stock turning over and reduce the impact of distressed stock.
Increase conversions by connecting the right stock with the right customer.
3. Enable Click & Collect And Ship From Store Functionality.
By unifying your inventory, you allow customers to purchase instore stock online. Store staff are empowered to pick and pack orders, and either ship from store or offer local click & collect. Not only does store stock keep turning over, but fulfillment time is often shorter.
45% of consumers said product availability at a nearby store was one of the most important logistical factors that influenced when and where they shopped. Online searches for “in stock” grew by over 700% in 2020 – a new trend brought about strained supply chains and the need to be in and out of shops as quickly as possible.
Two thirds (67%) of UK retailers that invested in Buy Online Pick-up In-Store (BOPIS / Click & Collect) services in 2020 reported increased sales volume.
Create a sense of urgency by displaying how many items are left in stock at a particular store.
Reduce fulfillment and delivery time, while also giving customers choice at the checkout.
Retailers 100% need to do ship-from-store. You have to utilise your inventory. From stock turnovers to improved conversion to increased sales, it’s a no-brainer, but you’ve got to choose the right partners. You need the right backend, the data flows and the right smarts that Comestri can provide to manage that, particularly if you have a multi-store environment.
Jay Munro, CEO, Munro Footwear Group
4. Expand Your Instore Inventory With Endless Aisle.
Open up the world of endless aisle with unified inventory, allowing customers to browse and purchase out-of-stock items instore and have it shipped to them at home. Customers have access to a wider selection of products, while retailers can hold less stock.
Integrating an easy and efficient way to “save the sale” can help store revenues increase by upwards of 20%, and allow retail staff to focus on customer experience and personalisation.
Help customers find the exact product they’re looking for, rather than experiencing real-world cart abandonment and losing the sale to a competitor.
Couple endless aisle kiosks with new technology, such as smart mirrors, to wow and excite customers.
5. Empower Staff To Interact With Customers Online.
Empower retail store staff to be effective sales agents online. Allowing them to assist customers through live chat, on social media or via email will keep customer engagement up, and orders flowing in. Cult Australian cosmetics retailer MECCA have recently launched “Mecca Expert”, giving virtual access to their instore team. The team connects with customers, usually via video chat, advising on colour, shades and products, assisting all those shopping from the comfort of home.
Wow customers and increase conversions with a personalised service.
Keep staff engaged and incentivised, rewarding and acknowledging top achievers.
Key to integrating retail stores into your digital strategy is creating a seamless, consistent experience for customers across all channels. By harmonising all channels, payment systems, products, and customer data, retailers can deliver a totally integrated, measurable, and frictionless experience. By connecting all back end systems with customer-facing channels in a single platform, retailers benefit from better data insights, a simplified commerce ecosystem and a consistent brand experience for customers.
By Karlie Taylor, Marketing Manager at Comestri