During the current global lockdown, the online retail industry has undoubtedly offered retailers and consumers a welcome lifeline in terms of surviving lockdown restrictions.
However, as the world slowly begins its recovery process, it’s time for retailers both on and offline to take stock of what’s happened and plan their strategies for the future.
Despite significant spikes in ecommerce growth figures over the past few months that indicate how consumer behaviour has adapted to utilise online shopping more than ever, we wanted to take a look at why there’s still very much a place for having both an online and offline retail presence – offering shoppers a holistic omnichannel retail experience in the post-pandemic world.
What is omnichannel retail?
Before we dive into the benefits of adopting an omnichannel retail strategy, we thought it would be best to clarify what it is to any newcomers.
Omnichannel retail is designed to unify and streamline online and offline shopping platforms to create a fully-integrated shopping experience for consumers.
The idea is that customers can interact with your brand across multiple channels, choosing to browse, buy, deliver, collect and return products in a variety of ways that suits them – all while delivering a consistent experience.
Now let’s get into the reasons why this model is so important for the future of your retail enterprise.
#1. You can give customers a seamless shopping experience
For brands looking to successfully integrate an omnichannel retail approach, you need to ensure your brand presence is everywhere (or, omnipresent).
From your physical stores to your ecommerce site, smartphone apps and social media, having a wide-reaching presence both on and offline will ensure you’re able to reach your customers at every touch-point in the sales funnel.
Why does this matter? Well, a holistic approach to retail can all go towards bolstering your consumers’ shopping experience, as they can shop with you how, when and where they like.
This is particularly important when modern, tech-savvy shoppers use the internet to search and research products before making a purchase – meaning you can benefit from being visible online during their initial searches all the way through to them making a purchase.
Whether it’s browsing items on social media which they then buy online to collect in store or searching products via a smartphone app to buy in store and return via an online courier, the key here is to offer seamless interactions, making sure their details are saved across different shopping channels.
#2. You can give shoppers added convenience
If bolstering your customers’ shopping experience with you isn’t compelling enough on its own, then perhaps the idea of giving your customers added convenience to suit their lifestyles might just tip the balance.
As the on-demand economy continues to dictate buyers’ needs for instant gratification, adapting your business model to meet this demand could be just what your company needs to stand out in a post-COVID-19 world.
For brick-and-mortar stores this could take the form of reassessing the physical layout and customer journey in store to adhere to social distancing practices – curating a space that offers a convenient way for them to see products at a glance from a safe distance.
From installing state-of-the-art retail shelving systems that clearly display items to cleverly grouping complementary products together, every detail of your in-store layout should enhance the customers’ journey.
In the name of convenience, this should also include allowing customers to quickly scan in-store items and check if they can order a different size or colour online to be delivered to their home or even pick up at another location.
While this may seem counterintuitive from a short-term sales perspective, this added convenience for the shopper comes with long-term benefits as customers aren’t restricted to only purchasing items in store, or online for that matter.
When it comes to convenience for ecommerce stores, offering a physical means of interacting with you doesn’t have to be as grand as an actual store, but could take the form of Click & Collect lockers in popular geographical locations instead.
You can also offer added convenience for online ordering by streamlining your shipping process, offering consumers quick and efficient delivery of goods ordered online to be delivered at a time that suits their schedule.
#3. You can create a security net for the future
While the impacts of COVID-19 outbreak have been unprecedented, this doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons to be learned for the future.
In the case of retailers, ecommerce has provided many brands who may ordinarily rely on store sales with an essential revenue stream during uncertain times.
This demonstrates the benefit of having more than one revenue stream within a business model, as diversifying your revenue generating capabilities beyond one main source can provide an essential safety net.
This means that when one area of the business is struggling to generate revenue such as physical stores being forced to close, other areas like online can continue to operate successfully and help alleviate the potential deficit.
While the future of the post-pandemic world is still full of uncertainties, having a plan B in place should a second wave hit, could be a sensible way to secure the future of your business during the good and bad times.
If you’re looking to start planning your recovery, then incorporating a business model that benefits from both on and offline strategies could be the smart move you need to see your business through.
Not only will it be beneficial to your business, but it will also make sure your brand’s meeting the changing demands of consumers for seamless and streamlined shopping experiences that fit their lifestyles.
Tom Brialey is the Founder and Director of Action Storage, which adopts his philosophy that, in addition to the highest quality products, you must also provide the highest standard of service to your customers in order to succeed. That’s why it’s Tom’s mission to provide expert support 100% of the way.