Omnichannel Retail: what functionality do you need to make the move?

Industry Insight

If it hasn’t become apparent already, eCommerce is the way of the future for retailers. If sellers are not incorporating online channels into their broader omnichannel retail efforts, it is time to consider doing so. After all, according to comScore, eCommerce is generating as much as $56.1 billion per quarter and showing no signs of slowing down.

eCommerce is generating as much as $56.1 billion per quarter.

So if you are a retailer that has not quite embraced online yet, what do you need to do to get there? For many merchants, selling online is a daunting prospect, and it may not seem like it is worth the effort. However, by deploying the appropriate eCommerce solutions, retailers can actually make this task much more manageable, allowing them to serve a broader audience without negatively affecting operations.

Here are some considerations that new brick-and-mortar sellers should make as they move towards an omnichannel retail organization:

Improve inventory visibility

Inventory visibility is important not only for the merchant, but the customer as well. Retailers want to be able to quickly see how much stock they have across all their locations, which will help them fulfill online orders quickly and efficiently without jeopardizing brick-and-mortar customers. This means, sellers must have rules in place to ensure enough inventory remains to satisfy the in-store customer.

At the same time, inventory visibility is also crucial for online shoppers. Knowing that merchants are out-of-stock in-store or are running low on inventory online can influence purchase decisions. No one likes driving to a local store, only to find out items are out of stock or, vice versa, creating an online account to  buy an item only to be unable to do so.

Prepare for picking, packing and shipping

Major eCommerce giants have perfected the art of picking, packing and shipping items as orders come in down to a science. Warehouse workers are like well-oiled machines and they are armed with the tools and software they need to turn products around as quickly as possible, ensuring customers get their purchases without much delay.

Deploying the right tools for the job can also help the picking process significantly.

For a brick-and-mortar seller just turning to online customers, the picking and packing process can actually be a highly time-consuming task, even after new software has been deployed, mostly because store associates lack the experience and training needed to fulfill orders quickly. Errors can occur when checking items out, they may be packaged incorrectly or store associates may just not know how to do the job efficiently.

The first step retailers should take is devoting specific employees to pick, packing and shipping tasks, so they become proficient at the operation. However, for small sellers, deploying the right tools for the job (software, scanners) can also help the picking process significantly. For example, an alert system that notifies employees when a new order comes in can be a real asset for helping pickers turn purchases around more quickly.

Automating the process to deliver omnichannel retail

Retailers should also be looking to automate the process of fulfilling online orders. For smaller merchants, automating eCommerce operations can help them make the most out of their limited manpower. For example, tying the point-of-sale system back to inventory management allows retailers to automatically check items out of inventory, which can help avoid bookkeeping confusion and other human errors.

Integration of software systems and automation of various processes is ideal for any retailer moving online, as it will help them adjust to selling online and serving Web-based customers without forcing them to spend more time on these tasks.

More people are shopping online and expect to order and receive their items how they choose, and retailers need to accommodate their needs if they want to be successful. While getting involved with eCommerce may seem like a daunting task, the use of the right solutions