Kingston, Jamaica – As the world celebrates Customer Service Week, Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) are being urged to tap into and combine traditional and non-traditional retailing strategies to create a seamless shopping experience for their customers. This was the message at the Jamaica Business Development Corporation’s (JBDC’s) recent Virtual Biz Zone Webinar where Janine Fletcher-Taylor, Manager of the Marketing Services Unit at the JBDC spoke on the topic, Omnichannel Retailing.
The marketing expert explains, “A channel is an avenue through which a customer meets your company and its products and services. The common ones are brick-and-mortar, e-commerce, online selling versus social media selling. Hence why we have Omnichannel. Simply because the customer is now in charge.”
“Prior to this era, you would have a brick-and-mortar store at a particular location and in order for a customer to get a product or service, they would have to go to this location. We then moved into the digital age transforming this experience,” she added.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, customers are now looking for more than convenience when shopping, “Its really about what the customers want – not just convenience. They want seamless, they want information, immediacy, speed, time, quality…all the standard retailing experience, plus,” Fletcher-Taylor explained.
Omnichannel retailing strategy fills this gap.
Statistics from the Harvard Business Review says that 95% of retail sales belong to brick-and-mortar retailers. However, Fletcher – Taylor explains, “What they are saying is that this retailer has multiple channels, but because they have a brick-and-mortar store majority of the sales are going to them.”
Unlike single channel retail, where a business has just one retail option or multi-channel, where the business has several parallel retail options, omnichannel retailing combines all the traditional and emerging channels in a seamless operation without diminishing the original experience of retail shopping for the customer.
Fletcher-Taylor explains that before the omnichannel business model can be achieved, several business processes would have to be streamlined, “This approach will invariably affect other business processes such as sales channels, inventory management and marketing strategies.”
The Marketing Services Manager emphasises the importance of seamless standard processes in achieving omnichannel retailing, “I am using this [Webinar] as a plug to preach to entrepreneurs to stop running away from the big word, ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ because these actions are the foundation actions that help you to transition into this level of business”.
“The most important thing about omnichannel retailing is the data management system that allows you to interact with the potential customer on any device, channel or information source,” Fletcher – Taylor explains.
A successful omnichannel retail strategy is an ongoing journey that is regularly curated to maximise connections between various data points from customer-facing technologies, back-of-house operational systems, and supporting technology infrastructure to deliver a seamless customer experience.
“I could walk into a brick-and-mortar store and I could say I like that dress and I want it in size 10, pink. But that particular store doesn’t have the item. I want that dress to be at my home by the end of the day. Your system should be able to give you enough data to tell the customer if you have the product, when it will be delivered and the customer can pay for the item in-store or online. That is what we call seamless”, she said.
Continuing, she said “That means that whatever systems you have in place when the when the customer engages with your first ‘touchpoint’ you should be able to track and monitor the movement of the that customer moving through the system.”
“Omnichannel retailing is a customer-centric business model,” the retailing expert asserted.
She continued, “And therefore when you look on how omni-channel retailing works, it means that I have significant information about my customers’ buying behaviour to determine which channels I need to have, what I need to invest in and how I am going to move goods and services around and move the experience around so that the customer has the ideal experience that we are looking for.”
A customer-centric business model takes into consideration customers’ feedback to facilitate continuous improvement.
Janine forecasts that retailers in the MSME space may be at risk if they do not adopt a more customer focused business model, “A lot of times they are making decisions simply based on numbers – how much revenue they can make; how much money they invested; how much profit they can make. If we continue to operate in that way without focusing on what the customer is demanding, then eventually we will become irrelevant in this era.”
“Retailers need to start thinking like they are customers,” she added.
Entrepreneurs may join the Virtual Biz Zone Webinar every other Tuesday at 10am on the Zoom platform. Visit www.jbdc.net to register. Persons can also rewatch sessions on YouTube at JBDCjamaica. The Biz Zone is geared towards facilitating success of the MSME sector through knowledge sharing.
JBDC is an agency of the Ministry of Industry, Investment & Commerce (MIIC).