Are you bracing up for the future of retail and the Amazon onslaught? Omni-channel is the way to do it.

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.

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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.

5 Festive things retailers should do to relish a successful shopping season.

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It’s time for the festive holiday season once again, and for a retailer, this should only mean one thing: it is time to ramp up the planning and implementation of processes. The festive season is the biggest shopping period of the year, and for many retail businesses, festive shopping can be the opportunity to really boost their sales. It goes without saying that retail owners will do their best to rise to the occasion and add that extra bling to their business. In-order to help retail companies ring in higher festive shopping sales, here are a few simple things that need to be done.

  1. Festive displays – Ensuring the displays, those at the window and in-store, shop layouts, online websites, and mobile apps are aligned with the theme of the festive season, and are attention grabbing, enticing consumers to at least take a look. Once they peek, the merchandising and product displays should be able to hook the shoppers and lure them to take further actions. At the brick-and-mortar store level, elements like lights, signage, and props can be used whereas on e-commerce sites and mobile apps, color theme, banners and images can be used to bring that festive look.
  2. Festive merchandise – Merchandise and products need to have the flavor of the festive season. As such, having limited edition merchandise for the festive season or running attractive offers on certain merchandise exclusively during the festive season is sure to spike interest amongst shoppers. In some cases, even planning and arrangement of merchandise on the shelves with some festive touch can be good enough for consumers to notice.
  3. Festive inventory – To ensure that shoppers are able to get the desired products in their preferred quantities and time-frames that they are looking for as well as to reduce the out of stock situations, retail owners must plan their festive inventories right. Not only that, they should keep a track of the stock turnover and order new inventory accordingly, keeping it ready to replenish stocks without delays. In some cases, it may be advisable to have additional stocks in order to avert no stock situations. Using techniques like ‘endless aisle’, retailers can avert lost sale situations when the inventory is not obtainable at the store.
  4. Festive support – If retailers are expecting shoppers to pour in large numbers especially during peak and rush hours, they need to hire additional staff not only at the store, but also at the call center or online support to handle such situations. This would ensure that adequate number of associates are available to assist customers in such situations. In addition to this, having extra point-of-sale (POS) counters for check-out, using handled/mobile POS devices for billing can help forestall long queues. Also, retail owners should manage their websites and apps well so that they load and update quickly despite heavy traffic. All this will ensure that shoppers experience no lags and reduced wait times warding off situations of cart abandonment.
  5. Festive offers – In the festive season, shoppers look forward most for the umpteen discounts and promotions that retail brands offer. Festive discounts and promotions are a norm now and most of the retailers run various marketing campaigns to attract customers. Thus, it is important for retail businesses to offer more relevant and personalized promotions that will entice shoppers. Using cross-selling and up-selling techniques would further benefit both customers and retailers.