At the root of its definition, omnichannel means always connected. Retailers that deliver a true omni experience have access to data and insights about customers, inventory and orders in real-time. It’s this ability to maintain an accurate 360-degree view of data then act on it that allows retailers to drive the seamless shopping experiences consumers expect.
Let’s dig into the expectations for a connected shopping experience, the benefits of being connected, and what you need to do to realize your vision for the store of the future.
Customers Expect In-store Mobility
The ubiquity of smartphones has opened up access to information unlike ever before. A report from BRP found 63% of consumers rely on mobile phones while shopping in-store. They use their devices to compare online and in-store prices, search for coupons and offers to get the best deals and check product availability, among other things.
This has changed retail as we know it. Consumers who are more connected and more informed are also more demanding. For example, if shoppers can order online with one tap, or get a product delivered in a day, why would they come in your store? They already have all this data at their fingertips, so what value does a store associate bring?
With a mobile point of sale (POS) system, a whole lot. From product discovery to order to receipt, customers can experience the same level of customer service in-store as they receive around-the-clock online.
The Benefits of A Connected Associate
The case for the connected store has never been stronger for customers and associates. Customers carry their devices everywhere and they expect sales associates to do the same. According to BRP’s report, 83% of shoppers said they expect retailers to provide stores associates with devices to do things like look up inventory.
Being connected is no longer a nicety. It’s a requirement of modern customer service and is core to associate productivity and brand profitability. Think of all the things a mobile-powered associate is:
- A POS for checkout and returns anywhere in-store.
- The ultimate personal shopping assistant with a 360-degree view of customers.
- A living website with a total view of inventory and the ability to digitize every touchpoint.
- Instant onsite customer support who can help in every retail scenario.
When store associates become mobilized, they can freely move about the entire store’s square footage. With access to accurate, consistent and timely data, associates can clientele from every corner, creating personal relationships that often result in greater lifetime customer value. They can also sell more product at full price and ensure fewer markdowns – this endless aisle capability can raise some same-store sales by 15 to 30%.
Connected mobile apps also increase associate productivity during those moments they’re not interacting with customers. This increased productivity is especially realized with tasks like inventory receiving and cycle counting – two traditionally labor-intensive duties that are made more accurate and efficient with mobile.
Architecting In-store Connectivity
We’ve talked about connectivity in the sense of connecting consumers, store associates, inventory information and stores to each other. However, network connectivity is also an essential lifeline for brands building stores of the future. With such high expectations for mobility, it’s critical that connectivity in-store is not only stable but on 100% of the time. Why? Because it can be costly for a retailer to be offline even if just for a minute. Industry analysts calculate that for each minute a POS system is down, it costs the retailer $4,700.00.
If you want to deliver a superior customer experience that’s always-on, you can’t rely on a landline-based network. You need a failover solution that kicks in immediately when problems arise – LTE is an answer when Wi-Fi is down.
Even more, you need to separate the networks used by associates for retail operations and by customers for browsing. Think about the number of people downloading videos in-store and using Wi-Fi for personal tasks. The end result is latency and drag, which can get in the way of associates accessing the information they need to do their job and do it well.
A solution that might work for your brand is a Network-as-a-Service. Like having all of your data connected and visible, you can have a single source of truth for all your network services – from POS to digital signage to Wi-Fi. If your IT team runs lean or is looking for efficiencies, this may be an option to consider.
Always Connected, Always Omnichannel
Every use case for true omnichannel depends on mobile connectivity. Reach out to our team to learn how to build a connected store.