In recent years, we have witnessed a shift in the way retailers are tackling the market. It would seem that sticking to the typical brick and mortar store doesn’t cut it anymore.
Customers are expecting more and more to see an online manifestation of their favorite physical store. In fact, some studies indicate that a consumer is more likely to buy weekly from his favorite merchant if he engages with a larger number of channels, online or not.
If you are thinking of expanding your small business soon, these are two challenges that you will certainly encounter along the way. If you already have a multichannel setting, then you know what we’re talking about.
1. Having a Reliable Inventory Management System
Doing small business inventory management in a small physical store is much different than having to manage stocks across multiple mediums. If your inventory management system is old or outdated, you may find yourself giving your customers inconsistent or incorrect stock information.
For example, your inventory management software might indicate a product as out of stock for an online customer, when it could still be available in one of your warehouses or brick and mortar stores. If the inventory management system fails to recognize this and integrate all your channels in an efficient way, you may be losing potential customers and revenue.
So, what is the solution? Well, there are some great inventory management systems efficiently manage inventory levels, even in a multichannel setting. DataQlick is one example. This inventory management software easily integrates with some of the most popular online store platforms, such as Amazon, eBay, Shopify, and Magento.
DataQlick allows you to monitor sales and orders from a centralized platform, which can even be your smartphone. You can keep track of your stocks in real-time and replenish them as needed. Also, you may give your customers information about inventory levels. A case where this is helpful is when a product is unavailable at an online channel, but the purchaser realizes it is still in stock at a nearby physical store.
Another advantage of having an inventory management system like this is to have each product as a single item in your database, for easier management. However, that same product can be given different prices for each channel. This flexibility means you will have fewer headaches trying to keep track of all the different aspects of the business.
2. Managing Your Marketing Strategy across Channels
When managing a retail business spread across multiple channels, it is important to realize that each one has its own specificities and must be addressed in a specific way. This is a bit different from the “omnichannel” concept that you may have heard about already.
Omnichannel is a marketing strategy that tries to provide a seamless experience for the user across all different mediums. This may seem like a good idea in theory but does not work so well in practice.
While integrating every selling platform may look like a good strategy, we must see that a brick and mortar store is quite different from a web store. Therefore, while a customer may expect to recognize the company’s identity on both platforms, the experience itself will obviously be quite different.
A web store may point you to a detailed product description or video, while in a physical store you can have someone talk to you and give you personal advice.
Another error that business owners sometimes make is to focus too much on the online channels in detriment of brick and mortar stores. What often happens is that despite a business having a website that attracts a lot of visitors, the bulk of sales is still done in physical stores.
This is sometimes called a digitally influenced physical store. A good example is retailers that sell clothing items. Customers usually like to physically see and try on these types of products before they make the purchase.
Independently of naming conventions like “multichannel” or “omnichannel”, it is important that you don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the details if your business is spread across multiple platforms. As we’ve seen, a good piece of software can greatly help with this.
By automating processes, you can let your mind off of all the complications and focus on what is truly important, which is providing a great experience for your customers.