IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

  • 17 Aug 2015

Bricks and clicks: a healthy omnichannel relationship

An interesting signing-off comment in Retail Systems really caught our eye last week:

Retail IT Services

So, in this week’s blog, I’d like to take the opportunity to respond to Editor Scott Thompson’s very well-written observation: that the advent of omnichannel retailing gave the traditional retail store a new lease of life that no-one quite predicted.

It was perhaps an over-exaggeration that the high street was “dying”, but it has struggled in recent times. The number of retail premises left empty last year almost tripled, as 5,839 shops were closed in 2014. A study of 500 UK town centres recorded net closures of 987, up from 371 in 2013. In other words, things were crumbling in bricks-and-mortar land, whilst £104 billion was splashed out online in the same year, the first time annual spending has exceeded the £100billlion barrier in the UK.

However, clicks certainly haven’t “beaten” bricks, according to our own research. In a cross-generational survey we carried out earlier this year, the High St was still the favoured shopping channel for 40% of Generation Y and 48% of Generation X. Yet, when asked about shopping across channels, the majority of both groups shop in this way (92% of Gen Y and 80% of Gen X), suggesting that the general shopping experience is not exclusive to one channel alone.

Although originally posited as the High Street’s nemesis, the ecommerce boom might have been responsible for turning the situation around. For the first time, the strength of online competition made retailers sit up and take action in the omnichannel retail world: how could they make the traditional store a more appealing, functional, and profitable part of the retail business?

So why has ecommerce been the saving grace of the high street? Clicks and bricks (or ecommerce and bricks & mortar) work together to power omnichannel customer engagement in many ways, for a seamless brand experience.

  • Click and collect has been without a doubt the most popular delivery initiative in recent times, tying ecommerce and the store experience together in the name of greater customer convenience. More than a third (35%) of UK consumers used click and collect services in 2014, according to Mintel. Also, benefiting in-store sales, studies have shown that shoppers going in-store to collect items spend on average £27 more per trip. Click-and-collect is definitely here to stay.
  • Not strictly ecomm specific, but encompassing the omnichannel theme, Ship from Store practices allow retailers to fulfil orders via the most efficient channel, fulfilling the customer promise quicker. SFS unlocks the functionality of the store, enabling them to become virtual distribution hubs rather than stand-alone units detached from the omnichannel world.
  • Retailers are making headway with smarter inventory management, and with greater stock visibility available to retailers, consumers also want to know where they can buy. 71% of consumers expect to view in-store inventory online, so that even if they browse a product on the web, they want to know that they can pick it up in store. Our omnichannel supply chain solution, Merret, enables this complete, integrated view.

The next advance we’ll probably see is the 24-7-ication of the High St, or to be more accurate, the shake-up in Sunday trading laws that may see retailers opening later on a Sunday. If consumer demand is to shop anywhere, anytime, anyplace, using any channel, then why should trading laws deny them, when the Internet is open all hours?

What omnichannel has succeeded in, is giving the store the opportunity to differentiate itself from its online counterpart. It gave rise to improvements in customer experience by better trained staff, more impressive retail theatre in store, and the introduction of in-store technology as an enabler for greater business efficiency.

As Sainsbury’s former Chief Executive Justin King argued: “The in-store experience will be much more resilient for much longer than every forecast currently had it, [but] shouldn’t we all be focused on making the in-store experience so brilliant that there’s nothing to fear?”

If you’d like advice about integrating an omni approach, please click here and fill out our quick contact form, or call Head Office on 0115 8533910 where a member of our team will be happy to speak with you.


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