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3 Creative Ways to Advance Your Omni-Channel Retail Business

August 8, 2016

8:00 pm

For a successful company, every platform, every avenue is a sales opportunity. A retail business can’t afford to bury their head in the sand any longer. Whether you are a charming seaside boutique or a large departmental store, you need to have an omni-channel sales strategy.

But wait, it doesn’t stop at selling on various platforms like physical store, social media platforms, website and online marketplaces like Amazon, or eBay. Omni-channel business involves providing a seamless buying experience to customers.

For instance, today’s customer comes across your products on social media, goes to your website on the phone, browses products on the tab, orders on the computer and then collects the product from your physical location. She may decide to buy at any stage (and should be able to do it).

Also, he or she should get a similar experience (including loyalty schemes, personalized offers) at every step of the way. Here are a few steps through which you can build an omni-channel retail business.

1. Social Media Integration

We spend as many as eleven hours of our day online, of which we clock 1.72 hours per day on social media. That’s 28 percent of our time online. 24 percent of teenagers, usually assumed to be the “worst offenders,” say they’re online pretty much all the time. However, they are still notably behind the 36 percent millennials between 18 and 29 years, who are always online.

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Sorry for spewing out statistics like this… It’s not the not the numbers but the message that I want you to think about. The message here is that a lot of people are online and they are spending a lot of that time on social media.

You must have heard a gazillion times before that you need to be on social media. You might have seen everyone from your hairdresser to your dentist proudly sporting their Facebook page details on their business card. This is a great way to share details about your business and stay connected with your customers.

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However, what if I told you, you could book, buy and order on social media? A lot of ecommerce platform builders like Magento, Shopify and WooCommerce offer multiple sales channels that include social media platforms. Some of the most popular ones include POS (point of sale), Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest buy buttons, and buy buttons on your blog.

With these buttons and shopping options, your customers can buy right off the social media page or a blog, which means fewer pit stops and barriers to complete a purchase. With these buttons, you can treat every avenue as a possible sales magnet.

And of course “integration” means your social media network presence should find prominent and error-free presence on your website. This is easily done these days using a DIY website builder such as Spaces – see how apparel retailers have built ready-to-sell integrated websites here.

2. Unified Payment and Loyalty Systems

It has become a standard practice to place kiosks at retail shops and malls. You may have come across information kiosk at events and public places. You may have found out about a product at promotion kiosks and bought off something at product-dispensing kiosks. However, having a fancy kiosk placed in a central location is just half the job done. The other half begins by providing a unified payment and loyalty system over all channels, including your kiosks.

Target piloted wellness kiosks which included medical devices such as blood pressure monitor, heart rate monitor, weighing scale, BMI (body mass index) calculator, and a machine to measure full body composition. They then sent the visitors’ information to their smartphone for record keeping. Based on these records, visitors received health advice and information on wellness products (which are sold at Target, of course).

Invest in kiosk software that shows targeted offers to customers based on their loyalty or entry cards, allows customers to pay with bitcoins, PayPal or any other way they want, and remembers preferences across all customer touchpoints in all your physical stores as well as online. This means your customer gets a personalized, albeit consistent, shopping experience no matter which part of the world they are shopping in.

That said, you can give your customers a great experience, send a branded message or advertise with the aim of increasing loyalty without using payment and login systems, as McDonalds showed. They teamed up with JCDecaux in the Netherlands to create a sort of cross between a billboard and a kiosk, outfitted with a weather detection monitor set to open a motorized door when the temperature reached 38.7 degrees Celsius, allowing people to grab a cup that could be redeemed at a local McDonald’s for a free, specially flavored McFlurry.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V05YtVVtbUg?rel=0]

Thankfully, it appears everyone grabs just one cup!

3. Beacons, Nearables and Stickers

Beacons pack a powerful retail experience in its compact frame. It’s a complex web of cloud computing, mobile technology and retail business. Granted, it hasn’t revolutionized retail as it was once believed it would but still it is bringing in added sales at minimal expense and investment. At the end of the day, this is what matters.

Duane Reade (now owned by Walgreens) introduced iBeacons in order to offer its customers timelier pill reminders, product info and appointment scheduling. While approaching select Duane Reade store locations, customers see lock screen notifications with coupon offers based on historical data and product reviews for timely content at the point-of-decision.

Gino Rossi, a luxury footwear company, used beacon technology to deliver relevant content, offers and timely notifications, ultimately achieving a click-through rate of 85 percent and retention rate of 99 percent.

While in-store beacons that interact with apps on your customers’ phone might not yet be your cup of tea if you’re a small retailer, you could start by setting up a free Wi-Fi hotspot in your store (if it’s in a shopping center or mall, there is probably one already) and use hotspot software from providers such as Antamedia to collect customer data, get feedback or opinions with survey, offer coupons, interact with them on social media, or let them log in to your portal to make transactions.

Wrapping Up

The retail industry is in a slump in the US, UK, Hong Kong and a number of other countries. Target’s shares fell to a 52-week low after its sales went down, as did those of Nordstrom and Macy’s.

On the other hand, the world is becoming increasingly technology oriented, preferring the confines of the familiar couch to the happy and smiling salesperson dogging your every step. Which explains why global revenue from retail e-commerce keeps on ticking (clicking?) up even in tough times.

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If you want to beat the competition, if you want customers to get up from their couch and head into your store, you have to give them a “wow” experience that they can’t get on their phones, along with the same convenience they can get. If you successfully manage to do that, you will not only survive but also thrive.

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Tracy Vides is an independent researcher and content strategist, who blogs about things as diverse as tech, fashion, cars, and finance. You can follow her on Twitter @TracyVides or catch all her posts on Google+.

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