Shoppers today have a lot of choices as there are more ways than ever to find and explore products. In reality a lot of us use a mixture of online and offline activities as we shop and the line between them is starting to disappear.
For retailers offering a seamless multi-channel experience can be a challenge. Managing and growing a multi-channel retail business is exciting, but it can also be complex and time-consuming. There are several moving parts to multi-channel retailing, it’s a case of figuring out the optimal channel mix, then choosing how to manage those channels.
Retailers can struggle managing multiple e-commerce stores, marketplaces and reconciling inventory across a range of sales channels. Ensuring orders go out on time, chasing down suppliers and sourcing new products as well as making sure a seamless and personal shopping experience is hard work. Let alone figuring out which areas of the business are profitable.
With the introduction of new technologies and the growth of new sales channels comes the need for retailers to re-think their business approach. Historically, it’s thought that larger well established retailers are better equipped to integrate a mixture of high-end software systems. Where as, smaller retailers tend to rely on manual processes to bridge the gap between disparate legacy software and new e-commerce stores and marketplaces. This is not necessarily the case though, small retailers are more than capable of achieving a well integrated set of sales channels as much as the larger ones. However, they tend suffer from a lack of knowledge about the software solutions available to them.
The shift in consumer buying habits means that retailers are looking to bring the functionality of their legacy offline software together with their growing online sales channels, as well as, CRM and real-time inventory control and accounting. Most companies will have invested in software and hardware which supports separate online and offline channels. The demand for a seamless online/offline customer experience means that having disparate systems is not as effective or efficient as having one complete integrated piece of software. Most smaller retailers think that centralizing the management of multiple areas of their business is for enterprise level companies due mainly to the impression that having one integrated system is very costly.
This is where turning to solution providers and value added resellers (VAR's) can make the difference to a small to mid-size retailers. Retailers can leverage the wealth of knowledge of VAR’s and solution providers in an area where they tend to lack the time and expertise to evaluate and integrate a complete and comprehensive retail management system. VAR’s have an opportunity here to offer retailers independent advice into bridging the gap between manual processes and harnessing a complete software solution.
There are big changes appearing over the horizon that are changing the way we buy and interact with retail businesses. Retailers who rely on a single sales channel or disparate systems are finding it harder to compete with other retailers who are more nimble and savvy. By adopting a comprehensive software which integrates; sales channels, customers, inventory, suppliers, logistics and marketing these retailers are accelerating their growth and profits. A more dynamic, responsive and personalized experience will win out, and those retailers best placed to take advantage of this will build a long term sustainable advantage.