Omni-channel retailing is an evolution of multichannel retailing but is concentrated more on a seamless approach to the customer experience through all available shopping channels including bricks and mortar shops, online stores, internet enabled mobile devices, and catalogues.

For this to work well there needs to be one central database of products. The central database will ensure that the merchandise and promotions are not channel specific, but provide consistent messaging and offers across all retail channels. With omni-channel retailing, marketing is made more efficient with offers that are relevant to a specific consumer determined by a mixture of purchase patterns, social network affinities, website visits, loyalty programs, and other data mining techniques.

When looking at omni-channel retailing systems here are the Ten Top Points to consider.

- Head office-based central database that can hold stock history by week. SQL Server or similar that will allow scalability and updates. Ensure that a future-proof platform is selected that will not go out of date or incur replacement costs in the future.

- Live sales and stocks. One visible pool of company stock is ideal or stock held at multiple locations with live feeds.

- EPoS. This should have real-time links so that any stock movements or sales are sent immediately to the head office central database. Look out for the option to provide paperless receipts as this allows customer specific marketing.

- MPoS or mobile point of sale is a tablet-based offering. The advantages are cost savings against EPoS hardware and it can be used as a queue-busting solution during peak periods in store.

- E-fulfilment. This allows the company to respond quickly to large volumes of orders as it will react dynamically to the eCommerce customer, catalogue orders and send an instruction for picking from multiple sources ie. warehouse or branches.

- eCommerce.  Should be provided by the same company that provides the head office-based retail system. Full integration means that the customer database, loyalty programs and a large number of parameters allow better reporting and better data populating the website.

- mCommerce is a natural extension of eCommerce and is predicted to surpass desktop internet usage in 2014, so it is important to start making plans now, if you haven’t already started. A central design that responds to all devices irrespective of screen size is crucial.

- Central database will allow a multitude of reports. Data-mining cubes will allow retailers to customise and slice and dice the data to allow for better understanding of customer spending patterns.

- CRM. Customer loyalty solutions that track demographics and purchasing history can be used to run highly targeted marketing campaigns.  Research has shown that promotions that are targeted appropriately are far more successful, generate more sales and improve perceived brand value. Marketing campaigns can be run from the same system when using a fully integrated head office and eCommerce solution.

- EDI or FTP for interfaces to retailers who have concessions in department stores. These interfaces typically work overnight to download sales and stock data to the parent company, unless the concession has its own EPoS till and then has live sales and stock feeds.

The platform approach to omni-channel retailing ensures that every element of the system works perfectly with every other element. It also means that information held within the system is entered just once, ensuring integrity of data. In addition, pre-configured links to ERP systems including SAP, Movex, and Oracle, for example, also help to provide up to date information to every part of the business.

Good omni-channel solutions come with a variety of implementation options, so as well as choosing only the elements that are suitable for your business, you can also have a hosted/managed or cloud solution. As communications get faster and faster and organisations become more aware of environmental and cost issues, so more retailers are looking at managed or outsourced services. Retail systems are managed off-site or in the cloud on your behalf. This removes the need for heavy upfront investment in new hardware to run the system on, removes the overhead of managing the system, with any updates for the software installed automatically. 

A step-by-step approach will enable you to provide a great shopping experience for your customers at a manageable cost. It will improve sales, it will enable you to build on the system as your business expands, and a cloud or hosted solution reduces capital outlay and protects investment.  

I hope that you find this useful and for more information about omni-channel retail solutions offered by Eurostop please visit:  www.eurostop.co.uk or call Phillip Moylan on 020 8991 2700, phillipm@eurostop.co.uk