Commerce Trends

by Manhattan Associates

It’s time to take the channel out of omni-channel retailing

A new era of personalised customer service is upon us, driven by a growing number of savvy omni-channel shoppers who now account for a large proportion of total retail revenue. These are customers who know exactly how to navigate each retailer’s website; which companies offer a good click & collect service; and which provide a better returns experience or multiple delivery options. But, they’re customers who equally enjoy the social aspect of shopping in-store, and it’s here that an otherwise seamless retail experience starts to unravel.

Cheerful female shopper texting on mobile phone

After years of building the perfect multi-channel ecommerce offering, retailers have neglected to account for the role played by the store, its staff and technology in closing certain sales that began online. All too often, store associates have instead been left with no real information beyond inventory statistics and store location details; they lack the necessary tools, information and skills to match the customer expectations so successfully instilled online, let alone exceed them.

The click & collect scenario is just one example of how this divergence between store assistant and consumer knowledge is particularly apparent. Of course, if everything goes smoothly and the customer simply collects the item, likes it and leaves, everyone’s happy. When a problem arises – the customer doesn’t like the product and wants to swap it for another, say – the whole situation gets far more complicated and a retailer’s lack of end-to-end omni-channel support becomes patently clear.

If retailers want to truly deliver an exceptional, frictionless customer experience, they need to embrace a smarter approach that links the offline and online experience. It’s time to empower sales assistants with at least the same, if not more, information already available to customers online. And not simply so they can fulfil online orders via click & collect. Although that is a key role, it is also a chance to cross-sell and up-sell, increase customer lifetime value and build stronger customer relationships.

When consumers are better at buying than retailers are at selling, something clearly has to change. While acting on this might seem far from straightforward, it will rapidly become essential, and not simply to gain customers. It’s about retaining share and profitability and, in the end, staying in business. The stakes are only going to get higher – doing nothing is simply no longer an option. How will you prepare?