By Kristin Berg, Retail industry consultant, Lexmark
As trends like online shopping, smartphones and social media have matured, so have the ways customers research and purchase products and services.
Although the high street is far from dead, retailers continue to adapt their business models. For example, Amazon is trialling the use of online shopping pick-up lockers in rail station car parks, making it even easier to buy online and collect the goods at a convenient location.
Mobile devices are the bridge between our physical and digital worlds and they play an ever-growing role in the multi-channel customer journey. According to the Mobile Commerce Compendium, nearly six out of ten (57%) smartphone owners use their device to search information while out shopping. Retailers lose a third (32%) of shoppers to in-store mobile use.
This is why last year 'showrooming' made it into the Oxford English Dictionary – defined as 'the practice of visiting a shop or shops in order to examine a product before buying it online at a lower price'.
The different communication channels that inform customers in and outside stores, the different purchase and pay channels and the different delivery channels are now connected. Collectively, this is known as omnichannel retailing and ties closely into how businesses can overcome the challenge of showrooming.
The price tag isn't the only factor that impacts a purchasing decision. Trust, ease of use and service level is equally important. If retailers can provide knowledgeable, accessible staff and easy access to goods and services via any channel in a consistent manner at a competitive price, they can ensure customers will showroom and shop from the same store.
Of course, this is easier said than done. What have traditionally been separate business units need to become a single, completely integrated sales process. It must handle every element of the process from the sale (regardless of source) through to logistics, delivery - and return if needed.
At the front end, implementing capture and workflow solutions ensures paperwork is kept to a minimum and is processed efficiently. This can help ensure staff spend as much time as possible on the sales floor instead of doing back office admin.
Furthermore, in-store messaging that can be automatically updated to better reflect the channel mix and respond to changes in price and stock can help deliver sales. This can be augmented by including other online elements, such as a QR code or/and linking to retailer's loyalty programme.
Even the back-end has a part to play. Consolidating back-end logistical processes might not seem like the most obvious way to address a customer-centric challenge. But when a retailer wants to deliver a truly omnichannel approach every aspect of the service needs to be seamless. This includes delivery to the customer's home, for 'click-and-collect' or for store inventory.
Across complex networks of warehouses, distribution centres and stores, retailers must be able to deliver consistently high levels of service. Furthermore, if high street chains are to compete effectively against the online only retailers, the organisation needs to achieve profitable, cost-efficient operations.
This is where powerful process and content management solutions can be brought to bear, offering the back-end support to help retailers gain control over the tremendous amounts of data generated in the movement of goods. Improving document control and retention ensures instant access to relevant information to respond to shop/vendor enquiries, eliminates the need to fax or email forms between departments and facilities and reduces operating costs. Reducing all these lengthy, costly and error-prone tasks mean customers get the service level they require and will stick with the retailer regardless of channel.
The end result is an infrastructure of complete service and support that is consistent, regardless of the channel used. It enables retailers to embrace showrooming rather than fight it!