Bringing benefits of online, in-store

Dan Hartveld, 3rd May 2016

In his latest column for MyCustomer, CTO Dan Hartveld looks at quick and easy ways to give customers access to all the benefits of online shopping when they visit a physical store.

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This article originally appeared on MyCustomer.com.

Read the original article here: https://www.mycustomer.com/community/blogs/dan-hartveld/bringing-benefits-of-online-in-store

The contract between retailer and shopper is a simple one – for a price, the first party supplies what the second party demands. Until fairly recently, this contract often asked more of the shopper than the retailer – the onus was on them to visit the store, find the item and pay the price. eCommerce went a long way to redress the balance – customers could shop around without leaving their homes, which drove prices down and increased choice as well as convenience.

Omnichannel seemed to take it one step further, with the promise of a consistent experience across all channels, but so far the concept has failed to live up to its aims. Customers looking for the benefits of online shopping in store (stock checking, ordering, finding items in other stores, the ability to pay using stored card details etc) are still likely to be disappointed as retailers remain resolutely channel-bound, despite paying lip service to the idea of breaking down barriers.

The truth is that it’s really very simple to put this right. Offering customers the convenience of online services while in store can be achieved with limited integration work and IT impact (provided you have the right retail innovation platform) to allow data to flow freely between channels:

How an in-store roaming checkout works

  • It should be mobile device-based – a ‘roaming’ checkout won’t work if it isn’t easily portable and ready to use
  • It needs to be integrated with existing eCommerce or order management infrastructure for product information, gift card transactions, promotions and financial tracking
  • It must also integrate with the retailer’s preferred payment platform (WorldPay, PayPal, Apple Pay etc) to allow it to process Chip & PIN transactions wirelessly
  • Above all, it requires a commitment to opening up business channels to free the customer experience – there’s no excuse for this being a problem in today’s retail environment

Placing the power to access online services while in a physical store into the hands of the people who are actively involved in buying and selling is one of the most straightforward ways of enabling omnichannel commerce. In terms of technology it’s a small step, but in terms of service it can represent a giant leap:

  • Sales staff have the ability to not only offer the customer’s requested product – they can cross-sell, upsell and make recommendations relevant to their previous orders, wishlists etc as well as highlight cross-channel promotions and offers
  • Customers have the freedom to review and find stock online and in other stores, place an order and choose their preferred method of delivery – to their home or via click and collect, for example
  • At busy times of the year, staff equipped with the means to find stock, take orders and process payments while on the shop floor can help to reduce queues and maintain sales and service levels

The in-store roaming checkout is a low-risk method for testing the waters of omnichannel – it’s safe to say that every successful retailer with physical stores also has a website, and most will have a customer-facing app. It’s also prime example of small-scale innovation making a real difference.

The roaming checkout uses existing systems and resources so it doesn’t require a major investment and it doesn’t disrupt business as usual – it simply connects channels in a practical and useful way.