omnichannel strategies

7 Habits of Highly Effective Omnichannel Retailers

by Divesh Dutta |

In the ever-evolving realm of eCommerce, the pursuit of being among the best omnichannel retailers transcends mere strategy—it stands as an imperative. Inspired by Stephen R. Covey's timeless principles outlined in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," we embark on a journey to craft a set of guiding principles tailored for becoming one of the best omnichannel retailers and navigate the intricate landscape of omnichannel retailing.

In Covey's world, habits such as being proactive, focusing on goals and results, prioritization, pursuing win/win solutions, understanding others, seeking synergy, and sharpening one's saw are the keys to personal effectiveness. Drawing from this philosophy, we present the "7 Habits of Highly Effective Omnichannel Retailers".

Taking inspiration from the best omnichannel retailers, this comprehensive guide unfolds as a blueprint for success, seamlessly blending technology, customer-centric approaches, and forward-thinking strategies. Join us as we delve into each habit, unraveling valuable insights and strategies that will empower retailers to not just adapt but thrive like the best omnichannel retailers in this intricate and dynamic landscape.

1. Be Proactive for Achieving Higher Inventory Accuracy

Achieving high inventory accuracy is the linchpin for successful retail operations. While warehouses often employ sophisticated systems, the same cannot always be said for in-store inventory management. Proactive inventory management practices are essential for retailers aiming to achieve accuracy rates above 95%.

In the pursuit of higher inventory accuracy, retailers must instill proactive practices within their stores. This includes implementing systematic processes for receiving purchase orders (POs) and processing returns in the system promptly. Periodic cycle counting is crucial, allowing retailers to regularly audit their inventory and record any variances. Embracing technologies like RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) can further enhance accuracy by providing real-time tracking and visibility into the movement of products.

The significance of achieving high inventory accuracy aligns with Covey's proactive approach. It emphasizes the importance of taking initiative for long-term success. By proactively managing inventory, retailers can prevent overpromising and under-promising scenarios, ensuring that customer expectations align with actual product availability. This habit forms the foundation of becoming one of the best omnichannel retailers out there.

2. Be Transparent by Communicating Estimated Delivery Date

Customers appreciate honesty and clarity when it comes to their purchases, and one effective way to achieve this is by communicating the Estimated Delivery Date (EDD) prominently on Product Display Pages (PDP). This practice goes beyond just providing a delivery date; it sets the stage for accurate customer expectations.

By displaying the EDD, retailers empower customers with essential information about when they can anticipate their order's arrival. This aligns seamlessly with Stephen R. Covey's principle of transparency, emphasizing the significance of clear and genuine communication. Just as Covey encourages individuals to be transparent in their interactions for positive relationships, retailers can foster a positive customer experience by being open about delivery timelines.

3. Prioritize Delivery Speed

In today’s era, where immediacy is valued more than ever, prioritizing delivery speed has become a crucial aspect of ensuring customer satisfaction and driving overall sales growth. While the concept of fast delivery is well understood, the challenge lies in achieving this speed without incurring exorbitant costs, especially when dealing with online orders.

Air shipping is a quick but expensive solution that can significantly eat into profit margins. Here's where the strategic use of physical stores as fulfillment centers comes into play. By leveraging the inventory and proximity of nearby stores, retailers can strategically ship online orders, reducing both delivery time and costs.

This habit aligns with Covey's principle of prioritization, emphasizing the importance of focusing on what truly matters for success. For best omnichannel retailers, what matters most is meeting customer expectations for speedy delivery without compromising on financial sustainability.

By strategically utilizing stores for fulfillment, retailers can tap into the existing network of physical locations, ensuring that customers receive their orders promptly. This not only addresses the need for quick deliveries but also enables cost-effective fulfillment, contributing to healthier profit margins.

4. Think Win/Win by Offering Same-Day BOPIS

Thinking win/win is at the core of creating mutually beneficial solutions, for best omnichannel retailers, one such solution is offering Same-Day Buy Online Pick-Up In Store (BOPIS). This practice not only provides shoppers with instant access to their orders but also brings about cost savings and operational efficiencies for retailers.

The concept revolves around creating a scenario where both the customer and the retailer gain value from the transaction. For the customer, it means the convenience of placing an order online and picking it up the same day from a nearby store. This immediacy aligns with the modern shopper's desire for quick access to their purchases.

From the retailer's perspective, offering same-day BOPIS helps them save shipping costs, as the customer takes on the responsibility of picking up the order. This cost-effective solution contributes to a more sustainable and profitable fulfillment process.

5. Seek First to Understand and Then to Be Understood by Offering BORIS

Returns are a significant challenge for retailers, even for the best omnichannel retailers, particularly in industries like apparel where return rates can range from 20-30%. To navigate this challenge effectively, retailers can adopt a Buy Online and Return In-Store (BORIS) strategy. This not only streamlines the return process but also opens up opportunities for understanding customer preferences and enhancing overall satisfaction.

The principle behind BORIS aligns with Stephen R. Covey's advice to "Seek First to Understand and Then to Be Understood." Instead of viewing returns solely as a cost center, BORIS transforms them into a valuable touchpoint for communication and relationship-building. When customers opt to return items in-store, it not only saves on return shipping costs but also provides an opportunity for retailers to understand the reasons behind the return.

By seeking first to understand the customer's perspective, retailers can uncover insights into factors such as sizing issues, product expectations, or preferences. This information is invaluable for making data-driven decisions, optimizing product offerings, and enhancing the overall customer experience.

Furthermore, BORIS opens the door for offering alternatives to customers. Instead of simply processing a return, retailers can engage with the customer, understand their needs, and potentially offer exchanges or alternatives. This proactive approach not only saves the sale but also contributes to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

6. Synergies with Suppliers and Offer Pre-Orders

Unlike traditional retail models, pre-orders involve taking customer orders for products that are not currently in stock but are anticipated to arrive in the future. The key advantage of pre-orders lies in their ability to drive early sales at full price. In a typical retail scenario, end-of-season discounts are not uncommon, impacting profit margins. However, by leveraging pre-orders, retailers can aim to sell the majority, if not all, of their products at full price during the season. This strategic shift not only enhances revenue but also eliminates the need for discounted pricing at the end of the season.

To successfully implement a pre-order strategy, retailers must establish effective collaboration with their suppliers. Synchronization with suppliers is crucial, involving obtaining Advanced Shipping Notices (ASNs) to determine when shipments will be received and inventory will be on hand. Armed with this information, retailers can confidently open pre-orders, promising accurate Estimated Delivery Dates (EDDs) to their customers.

For best omnichannel retailers, incorporating pre-orders into their omnichannel strategy not only enhances sales and profitability but also fosters a proactive and collaborative approach within the retail ecosystem.

7. Driving Ongoing Success with Continuous Improvement

In the dynamic landscape of omnichannel retail, the journey to success doesn't conclude—it evolves. Embracing continuous improvement is the key to staying ahead in the ever-evolving retail landscape. This habit urges retailers to implement advanced systems and processes, invest in cutting-edge Order Management Systems (OMS), leverage data for informed decisions, integrate automation, collect customer feedback, and maintain an agile supply chain.

Continuous improvement is not merely about adopting technologies; it's a mindset that should permeate the entire organization. Retailers are encouraged to foster a culture of innovation where the team embraces ongoing learning and adapts to industry changes. This commitment to continuous improvement ensures resilience and relevance, critical factors for success in the ever-evolving retail environment.

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In conclusion, these seven habits form the foundation of being among the best omnichannel retailers. Embracing proactive inventory management in stores, transparent communication, prioritized delivery speed, win/win solutions, empathetic returns, synergies with suppliers, and continuous improvement positions retailers for long-term success in the ever-evolving landscape of retail.

For growth in retail, brands must adopt an omnichannel retail strategy and develop these habits, just as for personal growth, Covey recommends the adoption of his seven habits. As retailers navigate the challenges and opportunities of the retail landscape, these habits serve as a guide for enduring success.

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