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A Very Omni-Channel Holiday Season

By most accounts, it was another successful holiday season for both physical and online retailers, as consumers spent 16 percent more on holiday purchases in 2016. While overall spending continued to rise, there was an interesting statistic showing up in the post-holiday season analysis that retailers of all sorts should pay attention to: “almost 70 percent of total holiday related expenditures occurred in stores with both a physical and an online presence.”

Yes, this was the holiday of the omni-channel. Despite being talked about for years, up until recently companies only had the most basic of omni-channel setups. A consumer could purchase something online and then pick it up in-store. Or they could search for a product online, find out what store it was in and then go pick up their “reserved copy” of the product. While on paper the process seemed to make sense – in reality, consumers would often reach a store and find their product was “just sold” or “suddenly out of stock.”

For the first time, it seems that retailers have learned from those mistakes and truly created integrated online and offline experiences for consumers. In fact, many retailers reported that they were better able to meet the needs of last-minute consumers because of omni-channel solutions.

Missed e-commerce shipping deadlines were no problem for companies that had integrated, real-time inventory in place, as it allowed for retailers to know for sure they could fulfill a customer purchase in time, even if it meant directing a customer to a different store or couriering products from one location to another.

Were you able to take advantage of the omni-channel trend this past holiday? Are you looking for advice on how to improve your omnichannel set up for holiday 2017? Here’s some key elements you’ll want to make sure you can provide consumers with the purchasing options they want:

  • Strong Inventory Management – for omni-channel to work, you need to know what products are on your shelves – and whether they’re at a retail outlet, a distribution center, or the factory. You need to be able to quickly and easily locate them in order to get them in the hands of consumers.
  • Real-Time Updates – your online and in-store purchasing system should be closely tied to your inventory management system, ensuring that consumers are always seeing an actual representation of how much product you have left. Nothing frustrates a consumer like buying something to only be told later that it’s out of stock.
  • Manager Training – if you’re offering in-store pick-up of goods, then you should have one manager per location be the point person for the omni-channel program. There should be someone that can receive the order, pull the goods aside and make sure you have a favorable experience when you come in to pick it up.
  • Marketing – showcase your omni-channel program as perfect for those that always shop last-minute and find themselves overpaying for next-day shipping. Make sure your consumer base know this is an option. Run some discounts from time-to-time before the holiday season so consumers can try the omnichannel process out and get a feel for it – which will make them more comfortable with it and more likely to use it come the holidays.

Interested in making sure your omni-channel process is ready for this year’s holidays? Drop us a line at any time and we’d be happy to see how we can help.

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