From Brick and Mortar to Online: Multichannel Integration for Retailers
- Jul 25, 2014
When Paul and his business partners decided to open The Double Windsor catering to beer connoisseurs, they had many challenges in front of them. One of those challenges was order-taking. Initially, they went with a PC-based POS (point-of-sale) solution. They quickly learned that these systems were not only expensive; they had a steep learning curve. That’s not what they wanted.
Eventually, they ended up choosing an iPad POS system for its simplicity and cost-effectiveness. These point-of-sale systems are driven by software and, unbelievably, by and large by iPads that connect all aspects of a business together.
What did they get from their new POS experience? For starters, they were able to take control over the order process, because setting up the system was intuitive and uncomplicated. They were able to track sales, inventory, and even employee hours all from one interface. Even the training time for the new system was laughably short. If you’re thinking about switching POS systems, here are a few more reasons why you should consider a simpler iPad system.
Real-Time Sales Assistance
One of the key features of these new cloud-based systems is that they can take a traditional retail store and transform it into an online business virtually overnight. But, what’s usually lost in transitions to the web is the person-to-person interaction – not this time. iPad POS cash register software can allow your store employees to interact with customers in real-time, assisting with sales, and even making purchases for customers.
Photo by: Shopify
This real-time assistance can extend to shared shopping interfaces so that customer service personnel can do a live search and look up product details right in front of a customer. The customer can ask questions and immediately get answers. And, if the customer has a webcam, there’s even the potential for a face-to-face chat with a real human being.
Live Chat To Replace Live Staff
Live chat can also help users navigate a website before they’re ready to make a purchase. You’ve probably seen interfaces like this already. You land on a site and a little box pops up to ask you if you’d like assistance.
Photo by: The North Face
This kind of feature is already used by many popular retail and online stores like The Vitamin Shoppe, and more and more customers are expecting the live chat experience. In a study done by Forrester, a full 44 percent of online consumers prefer having their questions answered by a real person while they’re in the middle of an online purchase. A live chat right from the homepage means that users don’t have to hunt for support staff, and that puts people at ease about doing business with you.
Transparent Virtual Shopping
Both the customer service associate and the customer should be able to view the customer’s shopping cart simultaneously. Additionally, both should be able to make changes to the cart. Why would you want this kind of functionality? Well, many older users (think 60+) aren’t as comfortable with the Internet as younger generations.
Photo by: Shopify
If you serve an older generation, you may need to put their fears at ease with a more hands-on approach to online shopping. If both you and the customer can see what’s in the shopping cart, and can both make changes, it’s like having an associate hold the customer’s virtual hand through the entire ordering process.
In Store or Home Delivery
If you run a brick-and-mortar store, a kiosk can save your staff a lot of time, and enhance the customer’s experience. Sales kiosks, where shoppers can place orders themselves, mean that the customer is in control. According to National Retail Federation’s Senior Asset Protection Adviser Joe LaRocca, improved checkout kiosks will help all retails stores, and some industries, like grocery stores, already employ rudimentary versions of them.
Photo by: Pin Add
Consider stores like Harris Teeter, Tops Friendly Markets, Kroger, and others that have “self-checkouts.” Customers love them, and they make checking out much simpler. In fact, according to a study done by Zebra Technologies, there were 92,000 kiosks shipped in 2007 alone. At that time, sales reached $432 million. That number has since increased. That serves as concrete proof that consumers prefer self-checkout, and aren’t getting tired of this option.
In-store kiosks of the future may also allow shoppers to shop in the store, but have merchandise shipped to their home if they wish.
What happens when customers buy something online, but want to return it in the store? Traditionally, this was a problem. But, EPOS systems integrate both online and offline stores, so this isn’t really a problem anymore.
Customers can take merchandise into the store for a refund that they purchased online. How is this handled on the books? Companies simply set up the software so that offline refunds aren’t subtracted from offline sales.
By far, one of the best examples of a company successfully implementing this is Walmart. Its multichannel support allows customers to shop online, have items shipped to their door, and even allows for in-store refunds.
Photo by: Mike Mozart
In-Stock Checking By Customers
Letting customers search your product catalogue for in-stock items before they even venture out into the wilderness to come to your store is a very good idea. That way, they won’t be upset if or when you’re out of something they need. Why bother with this feature? Because, when people travel to your store to find out that you don’t have something, they’re upset. They’ll go somewhere else but, if this keeps happening, they’ll soon learn that you never stock anything they need and you’ll permanently lose them.
But, if you let them check the stock online first, you have the opportunity to make the sale by letting them order right then and there before they come into the store. Customers can then plan a trip for another day when the merchandise arrives from the warehouse.
Multichannel Commissions for Employees
Incentivize your employees to sell products through all of your channels. If they aren’t earning commissions for online sales, they won’t sell anything from your online catalogue. With an EPOS system, tying commissions together for online and offline stores is simple, so do it.
Total Integration Of All Departments
One of the best features contained in nearly all-new iPad POS systems is the integration of account, sales, marketing, management, and HR. You can also tie together all aspects of your online business too. Sync everything across all store locations, and you have a truly “connected business.”
More Visible Telephone Number
Don’t forget that customers still want the ability to contact you at the end of the day via a phone number. Put that number at the top of the website, above the navigation, and make it prominent. Users should feel that they are just a phone call away from support – regardless of where they are on the site. It’s a safety net just in case the website doesn’t work as expected.
Companies, like The Vitamin Shoppe, use this to help steer customers to their online and phone support so that customers don’t feel overwhelmed or frustrated by homepage or individual page content. You, too, can implement this tactic for better customer retention and reduced bounce rates.
Jess Anderson – Guest Contributor
Jess Anderson is a retail tech whiz. From inventory management to consumer engagement, she enjoys putting innovative software and devices to the test. You can find her on Google+.
Photo by: Mark
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