Australia’s retail industry has seen a big change with the rise and rise of eCommerce. Widespread internet access through mass smartphone adoption has made it incredibly convenient and secure to shop online. As a result, retailers ranging from department stores to specialty stores, from low-end to high-end, have added online selling to complement their pre-existing retail channels.

Despite the growing popularity of eCommerce, we won’t completely do away with bricks and mortar stores. Many online start-ups like Shoes of Prey and Warby Parker have jumped into brick-and-mortar retailing in the past few years, and made the crossover to omnichannel retailing quite successfully.

In order to maximise growth, retailers should consider offering an integrated service both online and offline. Bricks-and-mortar locations can result in increased exposure, and when strategic about the geographic location, retailers can use their store to create buzz and deliver experiences they couldn’t achieve online alone.

The reality is that most consumers are not entirely devoted to one channel. They appreciate the experience of being in a store and the convenience of having purchases delivered to their door with just a few clicks. Here’s how retailers can create a winning omni-channel strategy:

360 degree customer experience

It’s not just product quality that’s important. Today’s shoppers have come to expect more from retailers. How your website looks or how your store is laid out, product packaging, shipping options and customer service, can all affect the quality of a consumer’s experience.

Categorise products so searches can be performed based on department, brand, or lifestyle. Your online store should reflect how your products are organised in-store. Online merchandising is all about focusing on the detail to ensure that your customers find what they are looking for. If you’re embarking on an online merchandising journey, you need to know all about your products and where they sit within the overall range. A report on product sales should be checked daily. This will allow you to identify trends quickly and will ultimately allow you to boost your product knowledge.

Attention to the importance of logistics is crucial to winning and retaining a loyal customer base. Conduct regular assessments of the shopping experience whether it’s in-store or online, by asking for real and fair feedback from shoppers. This can really help in improving the overall experience.

Behind the scenes, retailers can improve end-to-end experiences by having strict standards for partners such as couriers and payment platforms. It’s important to know exactly how these partners engage with your customers and be satisfied with the experience.

Treat online customers the same as you would your in-store customers

A very common mistake retailers make when implementing an omnichannel strategy is not integrating online and offline inventory. Customers should have access to the same items in your inventory whether they choose to shop in-store or buy online. There’s nothing worse than selling a product in-store and not being able to fulfil an online order because the inventory wasn’t linked to reflect sales made in-store. A good omnichannel strategy involves an integrated shopping cart, inventory and payments platform. This means if you sell 4 items in your bricks and mortar store, your online store automatically updates to reflect the sold stock.

It’s also essential to make sure online shoppers are provided all the same benefits they would receive if making a purchase at a bricks-and-mortar location. Returns of online purchases should be just as easy as those of items bought in person.

Finally, cater to those customers who want the convenience of online shopping but still enjoy a trip to the store from time to time, by providing the capability to make a purchase online and picking up the item up on the same day, without the wait or shipping costs. An integrated marketing strategy that encompasses offers, sale items and coupons is a good way to target both online and offline customers. Retailers can collect email addresses in-store that can then be used to retarget customers online and through social media and eDM campaigns.

By applying traditional selling strengths on to the digital presence, every retailer has the ability to provide consumers with what they want most out of their bricks, as well as their clicks — the key differentiator of a winning strategy.

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