Since the lockdown this year at the latest, it has been clear that retailers who only sell stationary are at a disadvantage. Customers want a seamless transition between channels. So traders shouldn’t be between Online trade vs. stationary trade differentiate, but clearly on one Channel-less commerce put.
Online trade vs. stationary trade
Customers don’t worry about where to shop. As a matter of course they switch back and forth between the channels while shopping. If these are not designed to be seamless, this is noticeable negatively: For example, if the exchange of something purchased online in the store does not work or the shopping cart compiled in the online shop is not synchronized with the customer account in the app. The customer is annoyed. In the worst case scenario, the dealer has lost a buyer.
However, positive, cross-platform shopping experiences only work if there is no distinction between stationary retail and the online sales channel. Rather, both act equally and seamlessly – even when spontaneously switching between channels. This is the only way the customer can experience a purchase that is memorable.
Networked systems as the basis
Due to the contact restrictions in recent months, the focus is on the quality of digital services. For example, the use of mobile payment and Click & Collect has risen sharply. Unfortunately, such services are often only viewed in isolation and made available quickly. The result: The actual integration into the systems is missing. This is particularly noticeable when the customer cannot pay for the goods reserved online in the store. Because the online shop system is not connected to the stationary checkout. And the next trends are already popping up: shopping with the help of augmented reality, social shopping, product presentation and sale via live streaming, data-driven customer experience and personalized offers with predictive approaches.
Integration as the basis for reaction speed
An integrated IT platform is the basis for reacting quickly to new trends and unexpected developments. An example: A retail company that is supported by the management consultancy KPS in the digital transformation was able to keep its employees busy in the branches during the Corona peak thanks to an already implemented ship-from-store concept. The branches expanded the central warehouse, so to speak, and the employees took over picking and dispatch from the branches. Customers received their deliveries as quickly as usual.
Another customer, a catering specialist and catering supplier, expanded its business model to include the B2C area in record time during Corona. The company began delivering its products direct to consumers, starting from a number of its depots with click and collect options. The new registration, location, payment and customer service processes were designed, tested, implemented and the new B2C shop was launched within just nine days. The catering specialist now reaches up to 6.8 million households – the delivery area continues to grow.
The way to a channel-less strategy
With a seamless and cross-channel strategy, the focus is always on the customer. He expects a seamless shopping experience and would like to be able to spontaneously choose the touchpoint that is most suitable for him.
The first step towards a channel-less strategy is a touchpoint analysis: Which touchpoints are used in customer contact? This includes stationary, online shops, social media, apps, marketplaces, call centers, packing stations, voice assistants and many more that we don’t all know today.
Away from online trading vs. stationary trade
Permeability and stringency must be created between all these channels:
● Availability of goods: create transparency about stocks and store stocks, use stock levels in the stores flexibly.
● Cross-channel basket: enable customer-specific, constantly updated shopping basket across all channels. Example: The customer picks up several products reserved online at the branch, the employee recommends a better alternative for a product that the customer exchanges in the store. With the promotional code for the purchase, he then concludes an extended guarantee via the app.
● Exchange: Easily enable returns at any time, for example, have them picked up in the branches, return via parcel services.
● Customer service: Employees in the branches, telephone centers, in service via app, chat and mail should be live on the same status. Channel-less only works if the employees live it.
● Marketing and campaigning: display personalized (loyalty) offers based on the insights across all channels.
Matching the channels = matching the technologies
For a cross-channel uniform customer experience, the underlying data must also be channel-less. Too often, however, data silos, outdated systems and shared responsibilities hinder a holistic data strategy. The technological challenge is to overcome these hurdles, consistently merge data and exchange it. This requires the ability to handle large amounts of data and to derive concrete added value for the customer from it. In addition, compliance regulations such as the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) must be reliably observed.
A Digital Experience Platform (DXP) can offer a solution here. It creates the necessary connection between the silos and links all data in favor of a consistent customer experience. The platform forms a holistic ecosystem that combines content, commerce and community with tools for automation and personalization.
The networking of all touchpoints and channels is complex, because it goes far beyond the interaction of the online shop and stationary trade: It starts with logistics and ends with after-sales. Only a uniform IT system can structure this complex process and enable retailers to adapt to changing market situations. It doesn’t even need a pandemic.