Customers nowadays demand effortless and convenient shopping experiences. They no longer bother to go from shop to shop looking for a pair of pants (or anything for that matter). In fact, the consumers are actually willing to pay more for the convenience the eCommerce platform offers them. After the pandemic hit, eCommerce is perhaps the only sector that actually managed to strive while others struggle to survive.
Retailers are in destitute because of the COVID-19 situation. They have nowhere to turn to as the shops are forced to close down. However, the retailers who had an online presence were saved by their eCommerce store. Even before the pandemic, buyers spend most of their time in the digital world. They continuously switch from one device to another – explore, search, and choose an item on desktop and then buy it from a brick and mortar outlet.
By creating digital storefronts, retailers can support their venture both online and offline. When this is done in a unified fashion it becomes the omnichannel way. They’d be able to give consumers a personalized, low-cost, and reliable solution on all touchpoints. It’s high time that you step away from single-channel Commerce.
eCommerce unlocks a new revenue stream for your business. It lets you sell and ship to the other side of the world if you want to. You can further make your business more accessible by launching mobile apps for your store. The best thing, however, is that you can centralize your business and control all of them from a single place.
Challenges Faced by Retail Store Owners
Now, more than ever, the retail store owners find it hard to compete and survive. The pandemic has proved beyond all doubt that the future is the hands of eCommerce. The legacy solutions in place have restricted their growth and capped the conversions to a great extent. They are finding it hard to build a competitive advantage, deliver a level of service that enhances brand reputation.
They are unable to offer compelling-unique experiences that improve customer satisfaction. Retail store owners today run the risk of being ejected from the race. They are going up against a much more advanced form of business which is eCommerce and its omnichannel alternatives.
Further from the above – retailers face the following critical challenges in their industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected all us: neither man nor business was spared from it. We saw an unprecedented reduction in footfall, labor shortages, and fulfillment issues. The traditional business was destabilized, and those who didn’t have a backup like an eCommerce store suffered the worst.
Operating on a Single Channel
There is only so much growth potential for a single-channel retailer, and most store owners fail even to reach that. Following a single-channel system implies that there is little to no room for growth. eCommerce, on the other hand, has practically unlimited growth potential.
No Real-time Inventory Visibility
A business with multiple retail stores cannot access the available stock. Rely on CSV’s and spreadsheets to coordinate, tally, and track all the available units. Some depend on guesswork and estimation – leading to a high margin of error.
The response time to the customers is miserable when it comes to physical stores (especially post-purchase). Stores find it hard to interact with their buyers and answer queries during peak time. Post-purchase service is even worse when it comes to conventional stores. Customer grievances and feedback are rarely addressed in a conventional store. Additionally, the inability of the workforce and tools to operate 24/7 left only a small and ineffective window for communication.
Lack of Analytics or Insight to Assess Business Performance
When it comes to conventional stores, it is almost impossible to get valuable insights. This includes conversions, consumer habits, industry trends, friction areas, abandonment reasons, what appeals to the masses, and so on. Factoring in these can affect the customer journey and they can never be accurately found for a conventional store.
Difficulty in Hiring and Retaining Employees
Your employees are always looking to learn the best and latest practices in the industry to keep themselves updated and relevant. A conventional brick and mortar store may fail to live up to the expectation of your employees.
How Can Retailers Stay on Top of Their Game?
The above list of challenges may seem daunting at first – but believe it or not, it is quite simple to mitigate the same to gain absolute dominance in your industry. So, what is this magic solution to all your problems, you ask? The answer is eCommerce; however, getting your business online simply wouldn’t do.
You need to build a functionally superior, easy to use eCommerce store that can connect to your customers. And for doing that, you need a well experienced and tech-savvy eCommerce partner like Virtina. Now, let’s take a look at what an eCommerce store can contribute to your business.
- A full-fledged no-nonsense eCommerce store is the answer to not losing sales during an unpredictable crisis. Having a robust eCommerce store fulfills many things. But, most importantly, it keeps your business up and running during any unprecedented events like a pandemic.
With an eCommerce store, while most businesses can’t even open for business, yours will be able to fulfill orders. You can make use of features like no-contact home delivery, curbside pickup, lockers, pick-up from the nearest store, and so on. The point is – eCommerce stays immune and grants conventional retail stores the power to sell as the buyers can still access your digital storefront.
- Adopt an omnichannel model for your business. This lets retailers diversify and have a presence on multiple platforms. The omnichannel approach removes the boundaries between different sales and marketing channels. As a result, eCommerce unifies and integrates the whole operation.
It also means that your store is open for business in your physical store, on the internet, and even on social media. A multi-spoke approach that can capture engagement and conversions from any channel. You can even improve your brand’s visibility and awareness by displaying your inventory on multiple channels.
- Automating could be the ultimate upgrade you can get from shifting your business to the eCommerce platform. You can easily control, audit, and manage your business with the help of automation.
Also, automating frees you from many manual chores. Your staff can focus on collecting leads and building new marketing strategies. Tedious and time-consuming chores that are prone to errors will be left to the software. Use a good ERP, CRM, and inventory management solution to improve the business practices.
- The use of AI and AI-assisted programs are being employed in businesses of all types. To make the most out of AI, you need a digital presence for your presence. AI can be seen even in chatbots, comment sections for feedback, forums, social media, and other tools help to enhance customer relationships. With an AI, it is easier to keep in touch with your consumers, and they feel more appreciated for the quick response. On top of that, the business has created a fluid-seamless communication line to interact with its target audience.
- The lack of analytics or insights means the owners do not really know in which direction their business is heading. Whereas having detailed insights about the various elements of your business helps to steer the company in the right direction.
Access to key info, like orders, demographics, and so on helps to create personalized offers and improve cross or up-selling as well. Use tools like Google Analytics, Tableau, HotJar, and more to generate more data about your company. You may even incorporate this assessment into your marketing strategy for more impactful results.
- In the IoT (Internet of Things) age, relying on medieval practices will hurt your chances to hire candidates. The first thing anyone does before considering to work for a company is to check the companies credibility online, they check for their website, their reviews, and even LinkedIn. Even a lack of social media presence can cause displeasure & create delays in hiring.
More Capabilities for Retailers
If you are still not convinced about taking your business online, consider this: eCommerce lets you improve operations, reduce costs, scale better, make it easier to acquire customers and expand to other territories. Let’s take a look at the factors that enable eCommerce to achieve this.
Point of Sale
At some point, every retailer must need robust POS software to help take their business online. Most such omnipresent brands need software that will import stock from your physical store to your digital shop.
Beyond this, it updates the order status to a customer. POS helps with analytics to give businesses a handy overview of their data points so they can make more well-informed decisions. The analytics also helps to forecast inventory levels so you don't end up overstocking or understocking.
It also centralizes purchasing and enables you to view buyer habits with detailed customer profiles. You can track stock levels, manage reward programs, and finally simplify the multi-location ordering process. You can even use LightSpeed, QuickBooks, CounterPoint, Shopkeep,and more to manage sales accounts.
Retailers are often restricted by the number of payment solutions they have access to. In the age of digital wallets & lightning-fast transactions, the idea of cash & Check payments are slowly disappearing.
eCommerce offers merchants the ability to accept payments in multiple ways. This enables a faster & more secure way to pay online. It also enables you to offer instant discounts & cashback that tempt more B2C buyers to opt for online shopping over offline.
PayPal, Stripe, Square, Amazon, and more facilitate transactions and deliver a smart, safe and simplified gateway to conduct the same. You can also introduce recurring billing via memberships which helps to improve the residual revenue of the company.
Post-sales support is weak when it comes to conventional stores, which is the principal reason why retailers are unable to foster customer relationships and improve loyalty. During and after the sale, retailers fail to give adequate support for the sold goods.
Retailers need to collaborate with customers more proactively through the entire customer journey. However, even with the best performance, conventional stores fail to give the desired level of service to the customers. For such reasons, you’d need chat bots, direct messaging, feedback forms, forums, testimonials, ratings, and more. An eCommerce store and social media presence enables just that.
As an ordinary retailer, offline marketing, and some in-store product launches is all you’d rely on to improve the visibility of your store. But, eCommerce offers you a plethora of options that can help you get noticed by your targeted audience. Apart from the age-old practice of digital marketing, you can also employ the latest and best practices in the industry.
The power of Content commerce is often underestimated – content fueled with accurate SEO will elevate your presence more holistically. It’ll also make sure that your website has a higher ranking, which means that you’ll be among the first to be listed by search engines like google.
Higher ranking; means more awareness around your brand; thus, more people would discover you faster with less effort. You may even throw in visual contents (images and videos) to enrich the way you showcase your products. Add VR/AR to the mix, and you’d offer a more elaborate and bedazzling way to view your SKU’s. Catalogs, posters, brochures, flyers are a thing of the past. eCommerce lists every product, certification, manual you hold in an easy to access & readable format virtually.
Point of Sale: The Importance, Challenges, and Capabilities
POS or Point of Sales refers to the time at which a transaction is made from the customer to the store owner or merchant. The POS system has been around since the beginning of business transactions, and it was nothing more than written receipts. But, times have changed, and so has the way we conduct business. Now, we have electronic POS solutions, and almost all retailers prefer this over the conventional ink and paper system.
POS solutions not only make the work easier and accurate for the businesses but also allows the retailer to collect precious sales data. The most basic POS system that is used by a physical retail store could consist of a cash register and software that collects the sales data. Its capability can be boosted by adding additional hardware, such as barcode scanners, card readers, etc. to the system.
Retailers make a plethora of mistakes and face some severe challenges in selecting the right POS Solution for their business. Let’s run through all the POS challenges for retailers.
Lack of Understanding
Not knowing which POS is the best fit for their business size proves costly in the long run. Such businesses often opt for a POS that is in demand or comes recommended by a specialist. Having a vague understanding of the POS, they pick the one that doesn’t align with their business requirements.
Putting budget over necessity is also risky when sorting the right POS for your company. Businesses trade value for cost-effective POS solutions. This results in them buying the cheapest POS around – economical it may be, but it is certainly not going to fulfill the POS tasks.
Companies can’t afford to lose the on-the-road aspect of monitoring your business. Mobile compatibility makes it easier for you to access your business. If your POS supports mobile monitoring of every aspect of your business, then you’re all set to work on the go.
A breach can severely compromise your business. The only way to avoid this is to pick a POS solution that offers the highest-grade security of your confidential data. The customer information and other sensitive payment details cannot be compromised.
Advanced reporting helps to gather intuitive and informative insights about your business performance. It tells the owners about how well the business is faring. Use this data to make informed decisions about your company. Once you understand customer habits and create personalized offers it is easier to target them.
POS systems integrated with your eCommerce store and retail locations need to be error-free 24/7. Anything that triggers an issue can create lapses in order values and inventory between 2 touchpoints. The overall POS quality should sync everything as cleanly as possible.
However, the POS system can reach its full potential only when it is used for an eCommerce store. The POS system makes your business almost perfect when used in combination with eCommerce. The reason for it is that a lot more functionalities or capabilities can be added to it. Some of them are listed below.
Track and Analyze
The ability to track the inventory levels along with the sales. They also help you figure out the gross revenues, profit margins, sales pattern, and the list of data that just keeps going.
Evaluate the Store
The accumulated data from the POS can be used to analyze your eCommerce store and increase its profitability. It can also help you figure out the shortcomings in your sales and inventory process.
Sync and Track
It has everything you need to sync and track your inventory. It enables you to be on top of your game regardless of whether you are running your business online, in-person, or both.
It is perhaps the biggest advantage of POS. They can accept all major credit and debit payments. This lets your customer choose which mode of payment that suits him or her, ensuring a smooth shopping experience.
It is a primary concern to many consumers and maintaining the privacy of your consumers is a primary concern for a business. POS lets you have this peace of mind by ensuring the safety of sensitive info of you and your customers.
It is the number one way to earn brownie points from your customers. The POS system gives you valuable insight into how much your customers spend and lets you offer a reward that’s best suited for the customer.
The fact is that the retail market can no longer afford to depend solely on the conventional brick and mortar store. The threat from the unprecedented COVID-19 situation made this very clear to the retail store owners. all your competition has already entered the digital landscape.
The cost of refusing to turn to online trading can more than just hurt the retail business. The key to the success & growth of your business lies in embracing eCommerce.
Of course, when running an omnichannel model, the physical interactions will run parallel – only that now it will be complemented with an online presence. Selling online will mitigate a small business owner’s exposure to risky changes in the market.
Setting a storefront on the internet may have seemed overwhelming in the past, but today, it only takes a matter of days to get online. Talk to one of the eCommerce experts in Virtina, and we’ll guide you all the way.