Omnichannel started out as a marketing phrase and has evolved into an ecommerce term that describes the increasing importance of using digital tools for an improved and consistent shopping experience. The “channel” part of the term refers to any point of customer interaction: the web-store, mobile site or app, in-store app, POS, etc.
A few years ago, a lot of the software running these systems was optimized and focused on the channel it was developed for. So, for instance, a web-store had its own separate system for keeping track of inventory, customer information, orders, etc. If you bought something online and then went to the brick-and-mortar store, the systems at the store didn’t know anything about you or your purchase. To make sure there is adequate data and enough inventory to cover all orders, often companies had to copy/paste or even enter by hand the order information from one system into another—sometimes into multiple systems.
With omnichannel commerce, this has changed dramatically. Now all systems are at the very least “talking” to each other, automating processes and providing the same information about customers, orders, inventory, products. This has allowed businesses to focus on branding, customer satisfaction, and growing their businesses—not just running them. What does this all mean for the small business owner? As in many cases, the devil is in the details.
The growth of Mobile is formidable. From a convenient communication device just a decade ago, our smartphones have turned into the control centers of our lives. Play, work, shopping, communications, video, music—all of these are just a daily routine for your device. We have started to take it for granted that we can (or should be able to) do anything with our phones.
This is why it is important to think through all your commerce activities with Mobile in mind. Are you about to run an email campaign? Then check out how it looks on all smartphones and tablets. Is it usable, or irritating? Or if you are ahead of the game and emailing customer receipts, with a nice link for providing feedback, check out if this feedback form works on small screens. The majority of emails are now being open on mobile first.
Does your inventory system link to your order system? Is it an automated link and in real time, or do you need to run batches manually? What happens if one day all the people who know how to sync the two systems don’t show up? These are some of the questions that a small business owner should be looking into. The answers can become critical when, for instance, the holiday season rolls around, and the customers want their item before that one critical date.
When someone buys an item on your site, they expect the best level of customer service and product satisfaction. Whether it’s yourbusiness.com or a billiondollarcorporation.com, the customer treats it all the same. So while, as a small business owner, you don’t have the budget to design, develop, test and deploy a killer web-store, you have something that the big corporations lack, and this is a unique understanding of your customers and their needs.
The customer has chosen to buy from you—chosen you over other stores. So find out as much as you can about your customer, and give her more reasons to come back again, or to recommend you to her social network. Did the customer use mobile to search for products? Did they solicit recommendations from friends? How did they research the product details? All questions that will impact how you evolve and improve your customer experience on all channels.
It is impossible to run a successful online business without the help of technology providers. Since you and your customers are paying for this technology, don’t stay satisfied with features, which are suboptimal in one way or another. Your ecommerce provider should have helpful features that you can utilize straight away for your business, and offer product support in case you need help understanding how to use them. If you don’t like what is offered, keep shopping.
Omnichannel is not another fad-phrase. It is a new way to look at your business and to leverage all the latest technologies to your advantage. It is about staying competitive and growing your brand, so make it a habit to learn about these new technologies and how best to use them.
Most likely, the next big thing will build on and evolve omnichannel, both as a concept and as a technology. In the meantime the competitive pressures will only increase and make it more difficult to catch up later.
Make sure that whatever solutions you are using, your customer data and the financial information they are giving you is protected with the highest security in the market. Always insist on Level 1 PCI DSS Compliance.
Omnichannel is a better way to use the latest digital tools to make your business run better, while providing the best possible customer experience. A well thought-out Omnichannel strategy, in many cases, will dramatically improve your business. But at the end of the day, it should give you more time to focus on your customer needs and how your products or services are taking care of them.
Implementing the right Omnichannel strategy helps a business owner with unified customer information, central and flexible order management, and comprehensive inventory tracking. These are the kinds of features that make a difference as they save time, increase accuracy and customer satisfaction, and allow a unified view of inventory, orders, product data and customer information.
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