Endless Aisle

“In many instances, retailers developed their eCommerce and brick-and-mortar stores as two separate channels, which means they don't share inventory or data points,”

This siloed retailing prevents seamless purchasing, customers will be forced to endure long waits for their desired products and retailers will be forced to manually collaborate with other locations, warehouses and staff members to effectively coordinate fulfillment of the items.

“Suppose a customer finds a shirt she likes while shopping at a store, but it’s not available in her size. The retailer should be able to scan the barcode on the shirt and quickly see the closest store or warehouse that has the correct size”

It is not really omnichannel if the customer has to complete their purchases in different transactions, at different times or in different locations. Retailers are instantly losing out on potential businesses due to a lack of synchronization. They may even have the exact product the customer wants, but, since they don’t know the location, the customer is left exasperated and searching elsewhere for their desired purchase.

Gift Cards

A gift card is not really a good gift, if the customer is forced to use that in only one specific location.

“With many big brands, you still can’t buy a gift card in the store and use the card to purchase an item on the retailer’s website. And you can’t buy a gift card from a retailer online and use it at one of their brick-and-mortar stores.”

For many large retailers, there is a complete lack of flexibility in the gift card acquisition and purchase process. Shoppers are not tolerant of this, as such around $3 Billion in gift cards goes unclaimed every year (CBS News.) Which is bad considering 72% of gift card users spend more than their gift card value in each purchase. (Revel Systems) Retailers are literally leaving money on the table by making gift-cards inflexible and causing customers to lose loyalty… a particularly critical facet in the current environment.

Flexible Return Policies

“I recently visited on of the largest apparel retailers in the world and bought a blazer I thought I would need for a New Year’s party, after realizing I didn’t need it, I tried returning it a couple of days later, but, I lost my receipt. The retailer couldn’t do a credit card lookup to confirm my order and they wouldn’t give me a refund.”

Jonathan’s experience is relatable to all of us, whether it is a new t-shirt or a new laptop customers need to feel confident in their purchase decisions. Returns are a fall-back in case customers get buyers remorse, the retailer may keep the money you have already spent. But, they will lose out on any future purchases from customers they fail to assist.

“The problem is on the back end, many retailers have disparate ordering systems, for instance if a customer buys a product online and wants to return the item at a store, the associate has to record the transaction in the store inventory management system and make a separate entry in the OMS.”

Consumers simply won’t accept this fractured system, when so many retailers are able to accommodate flexible returns. Big box stores like Walmart, Lowe’s and Kohl’s have generous return policies, leveraging credit card purchases and even accepting returns from amazon. Retailers have to embrace eCommerce to succeed in omnichannel and this includes flexibility around returns. Kohl’s saw a 9% increase in sales after implementing the Amazon return initiative, a simple and affordable change has allowed them to outperform their industry by 8%.

Omnichannel is about closing the gaps in the retail ecosystem, a unified view of customers, purchases and analytics is the only way to make effective unified commerce a reality.