“Omnichannel requires diving deep into understanding end customers, client’s business, current operations, necessary changes and plan for optimizing the process.”
The first step to designing an effective approach is assessing both a realistic and an accessible timeline. Retailers might be operating on a tight timeline, having an established go to market date or a critical launch date. Visibility around timeline & launch functionality requirements helps to build a realistic time frame for the development and launch of the platform. With this baseline, a development team can assess potential limitations the time restriction creates.
Retailers need to be self-aware when establishing their approach; depending on the functionality desired, the project can range from weeks or months to years. The key thing here is to plan for the long term, but have awareness of the first step.
Omnichannel might seem like a one-and-done process, but in actuality it is a constantly evolving approach to add additional functionality for customers. An Agile Development framework, leveraging a customer collaborative process that is individual focused, prioritizes meaningful interactions and communication, over processes and tools. This enables rapid flexibility in development approach, allowing teams & retailers to quickly pivot.
Timeline is important, but it is by no means a limit. Ecommerce will require constant development, refinement and updates to continually compete and address customer needs. The initial iteration should be designed to meet current market needs, with additional iterations planned for the future based on platform performance.
“E-commerce is an investment. Before you go saying: "This is my platform of choice." consider functionalities that you need, the budget that you have, and the timeline you are constrained by.”
The idea of Omnichannel is essentially to enable latent functionality within the business, engaging a variety of additional solutions to empower a complete and flexible approach to the marketplace. The cost of Omnichannel solutions represent a significant upfront investment for retailers, however, this investment also enables long term evolution for businesses.
Ultimately, the primary consideration in deciding a budget centers on key goals & values of the business. Off the rack eCommerce themes might work for a small business, but they lack long term evolution. Ecommerce is a strategic investment, representing a key long term opportunity for retailers. The needs of the end customer needs to be the priority in formulating this approach. Additionally, there are further decision points in identifying how the budget should be allocated:
What is the purpose of the Ecommerce platform?
- Will this be a primary purchasing channel for customers?
- How will customers use this platform?
What is the cost of goods sold?
- How will this change with the addition of eCommerce?
Where are the customers?
- Does the brand have an established online presence?
Investing in eCommerce is similar to investing in a physical retail location. While appearance is important, functionality is even more so… customers need to be able to easily navigate, locate items and complete their transactions. Platforms need a specific budget, consistent maintenance and a long term strategy.
Factors in Designing Omnichannel
“It is not just about building a website to sell products but designing an enjoyable online shopping experience which enhances brand recognition, and trustworthiness. A well-designed website encourages customers to shop more, more often and is tailored according to their needs.”
Omnichannel is by nature a limitless approach to retail, enabling a wide array of functionality and features to drive improvements in the customer experience. For retailers it can be challenging to filter what is available against what they actually need. Much like assessing budgetary concerns, retailers have to be introspective in their approach to designing Omnichannel:
Who are the customers? Understanding who the customers are, where they are and how they use retail locations, enables clear and comprehensive decision making. It also enables design of an experience that suits the expectations and common needs of the customer base. Helping to simplify the retail process and remove any unnecessary friction.
How do the customers pay? Recognizing how customers currently pay, as well as all the future evolutions of payment options, is essential. Having a clear conception of all required payment options helps to simplify the development process and enable a seamless payment experience for the end customer.
Do the customers purchase on mobile devices? The mobile shopping experience can be one of the most fragile. If customers cannot easily access, locate and purchase products they will go somewhere else. Understanding the way your customers use mobile devices to shop with your business is essential to design an experience that supports them.
Does the company operate in multiple countries? Operating in multiple countries results in the need for additional functionality, from multi-country shipping to currency support… international payments can be complicated.
Is product data siloed? The goal of Omnichannel is to centralize everything, enabling simple management of arrays of resources and attributes. Product attributes can be centralized to prevent silo issues.
Customers need to be able to use the same promotions and access the same shipping choices across channels . With distributed order management, retailers can enable an additional layer of flexibility for their consumers while also increasing visibility around performance and cost efficiency.
Cross-Channel Inventory Visibility
Evolving the customer experience centers on clear visibility around current data visibility across customer behavior and inefficiency in the operating process. This functionality enables simplified workforce allocation, inventory management and enhancing customer loyalty through the removal of friction.
Data security is a critical facet for any business that intends to sell products online, end-to-end authentication, encryption and real time transaction risks. Control around security will help to reduce the key risks that arise in the purchase process.
Fulfillment & Logistics
Inventory is a challenge for retailers, stores need to hold the right amount of stock that is required to fulfill current & short term orders. An adaptable backend system, that supports dynamic fulfillment, enables a flexible operating system that can be leveraged across purchase channels.
“eCommerce solutions are closely related and easily integrated with the in-store POS solution. This provides a common experience for customers no matter what channel they come through.”
Integrations and software/hardware partnerships can significantly expand the functionality and value of an Omnichannel approach, allowing retailers to build a complete approach designed around key retail needs. Integration points should be seamless, focused on measurable results & leveraging manageable solutions, this combination allows retailers to spend less time fighting technology and more time growing.
Partnerships enable functionality, adding additional features, tools and abilities at the point of sale and within the backend. An extensive partner ecosystem enables a flexible retail solution, consistently improving, constantly evolving and driving business growth. The retail landscape is constantly changing, in the past few months retailers have started to discover the value of flexibility and evolution, as the customer base changes.
Integrations add another layer to the retail experience - retailers can gain systems that support their operations and enable a greater level of control, flexibility and automation in the sales process.
The Customer Experience
“A modern integrated POS system captures customer data and interfaces with existing customer relationship systems. Whether in store or online, an integrated point of sale enables clear visibility of customers across channels.”
Customer experience is a tenuous component of the retail process. For retailers the entire go to market approach centers on enabling a cohesive, engaging and sustainable customer experience. Brand’s have to create an experience that directs the user towards the desired outcomes, ensuring that customers can access support, locate assistance and find the products they need.
Designing an eCommerce user experience that hits the mark centers on a few key questions:
- What is the platform that is currently being used?
- Will the client want to migrate their data?
- Which integrations are currently in use, or would ideally be included in the launch version?
- Where are products sold?
- What are the pain points in the current retail experience?
- Are third party integrations (POS, WMS or ERP) required?
Creating a solidified Omnichannel approach centers on comprehension of long term goals & prospective evolution. Retailers need to understand and identify long term operational goals and assess desired evolution of the brand. Full visibility of the long-term enables development of a solution that has long term viability.
Customer experience is the driver of sales and performance across channels, creating a seamless & consistent experience will help to give customers comfort and encourage loyalty across channels.
Teamwork Commerce + Imagination Media: Catbird Case Study
“Ecommerce is a vital part of your retail operation. With Teamwork, you can fully integrate your website with all of your locations. This allows sharing a centralized rich catalog, channel-agnostic real time-availability, and customer database.”
Teamwork Commerce & Imagination Media partnered to assist Catbird NYC in developing a complete Omnichannel approach to the market. New York based Jewelry retailer Catbird gained traction after being featured in Marie Clare and Vogue, receiving accolades from influencers across the globe. Catbird decided on the Teamwork Commerce solution for their in store operations, using the iPad point of sale and contactless enabled payment tools.
But, the Catbird boutique was not enough to meet all of the demand, driven by global brand awareness, so Imagination Media was brought in to develop an integrated eCommerce platform that enables the same unique customer experience, on a large scale. Catbird now has the ability to provide customized stock messaging, targeted email marketing, and Instagram integration to provide a real life vision of their products.
“Imagination Media’s solutions allow us to easily integrate with exciting software partners like PayPal, Nosto, HiConversion, Bluecore, Klaviyo and Afterpay to drive our products and brand globally. The result is a 20% increase in operational efficiency, giving us more time to focus on the customer.”
The Ongoing Relationship
Continued communication is essential in the omnichannel development process, while the word Teamwork is often overused. It is definitely relevant in this instance! A clear line of communication, combined with transparency, honesty, and mutual goals is essential to a thriving relationship between all parties included in building an Omnichannel solution. While results are important, an overall understanding and a willingness to learn and improve hold equal weight, all are imperative to long term success.
Imagination Media is a Teamwork Commerce strategic partner, providing a streamlined and custom-configured solution designed to make your entire business faster, leaner and easier to manage. https://www.imaginationmedia.com/