As the New Year 2018 is predicted to bring fortunes for retail businesses across the globe, retailers, both online and offline, continue to seek ways to slow Amazon’s dominant run in the retail landscape. And this seems to be the ‘need of the hour’ as Amazon, having already captured the online retail market has set its sights on offline retail in the last 2 years. Since 2015, the online giant has opened a half dozen bookstores as well as spent a whopping $13.7 billion on acquiring the Whole Foods chain in 2017. Amazon will continue this blitz in the coming years and look to burgeon its market share, thereby threatening other retailers’ success.
And whilst Amazon seeks to disrupt the retail space with its omni-channel prowess, many brands that were traditionally seen as pure-play brick-and-mortar retailers or pure-play online retailers have begun to expand their omni-channel presence and this trend will continue. However, in their endeavor to make it big, they will have to brace up for what lies ahead and the Amazon onslaught.
As customer service and customer experience is the battle ground for retailers’ survival, the basic fundamental is to focus on consumer expectations and to supersede those in ways better than the competition. The modern day consumer’s expectations live in both the online and offline worlds simultaneously.
Below are four tactical ways retailers can address consumers’ expectations without further ado, offering the omni-channel experience that consumers will crave for more:
Integrating local in-store inventory with eCommerce
Imagine a scenario where a shopper headed to a birthday party realizes she needs to get a gift. With about an hour left for the party purchasing on Amazon is not an option. In this case, she could look to buy the gift from local store’s website and then pick it up on her way. This is an ideal case and that is the kind of service that brick-and-mortar retailers must look to offer while competing with Amazon and safeguarding their customer loyalty. The process uses both online and offline channels, and thus makes it a seamless omni-channel shopping experience.
Receiving returns in-store for online purchases
Another important advantage that brick-and-mortar retailers have over Amazon is that customers looking to return a product purchased online could just do it at the local store instead of mailing it back or waiting for someone to come and pick it up. Only having a truly omni-channel business can make this possible. Retailers can thus use the power of their own stores and online sites to impress their customers and beat the Amazon heat.
Ensuring information availability in-store
Having well-informed sales associates at the store will help retailers ring up more sales is obvious and there is a lot of scope for this. One of the ways of ensuring the sales associates are informed and ready is by equipping them with tablet devices carrying information related to the product such as availability price, offers, popularity, and information of the customer, such as purchase history, preferences and more. The devices can also have competitor related information regarding products, prices and promotions. With all this information they’ll be able to respond to any question a consumer throws at them. Moreover, extending this concept using an in-store kiosk or an interactive device where the customers can themselves browse and gather information will also help the cause greatly. These techniques will help retailers retain customer loyalty and compete with Amazon.
Using the stores beyond display and selling
At Apple Stores, customers can learn how to take better photos with their devices, learn the basics about operating their Macbooks and discover their use for art and design projects. The Home Depot hosts workshops for people keen to learn new carpentry skills. Some brands don’t even sell anything in their retail spaces. These are excellent examples of extending the real estate of the brick-and-mortar store as an opportunity to use this space for creating experience beyond just displaying products or selling. Additionally, retailers can use their online sites to inform customers about such happenings at the store. And this is one of the major advantage that brick-and-mortar retailers going omni-channel have over online players like Amazon.
These techniques may seem beyond the immediate capability of retailers. But the urgency to acquire these operational capabilities is real and unforgiving. If retailers want to be ready for the future and compete with Amazon but they continue doing business the way they have been, then it spells nothing but doom. Without the right omni-channel retail software solution, right from the Point-of-sale (POS) to the supply chain, retailers may end up being thrown out of business.