How to Overcome Hiccups in Your Omnichannel Retail Operations

interior of a retail location
As the prevalence of omnichannel retail rises, consumers are taking advantage of both online and in-person retail offerings. As a result, the role of brick-and-mortar retail is changing as new in-person services are added to better assist customers.

A recent survey by JDA Software found that as retail managers work to adjust their store operations, they’re encountering challenges related to these changes, primarily in the categories of inventory and staffing.

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Companies have begun offering fulfillment services that coordinate with — and add value to — the online shopping experience. These options, like BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) and BORIS (buy online, return in store), are becoming increasingly popular amongst shoppers — 50 percent of respondents in a recent survey by JDA Software said they’d used a BOPIS service in the past 12 months.

Accordingly, stores are working to make these options even more appealing. The survey found that 36 percent of store managers said their stores offer a discount to customers who use BOPIS, while another 14 percent are testing or researching options.

However, BOPIS and BORIS are creating challenges for customers and retail managers alike. Twenty-three percent of customers said it took store employees a long time to retrieve their order or staff was unable to find it in the store system, and 16 percent said there was no dedicated staff for BOPIS orders. Retail managers reported that they struggle with issues like inaccurate data, limited stock, and slow refills.

Retail managers (and business owners) obviously don’t want statistics like these, especially considering that an omnichannel approach to shopping can lead to higher in-store spending, according to a study in Harvard Business review.

Here’s how to reap the benefits of a strong retail omnichannel strategy and properly implement BOPIS/BORIS in your own store.

Get specialized

Ensure that you’ve allocated a dedicated staff and, preferably, a dedicated area for online pickups and returns. This ensures no confusion, allowing staff to easily identify online orders and customers to quickly pick up or return purchases.

Properly train staff

Whether you set aside staff for BOPIS/BORIS or not, ensure that anyone who might come into contact with customers is knowledgeable about your policies. This includes in-store procedures and who to direct omnichannel customers to with questions.

This also goes for seasonal workers. The survey found that 24 percent of respondents plan to hire more seasonal workers this year (with more than 40 percent of hires being used for fulfillment). But even if their work is temporary, ensure that you train new staff properly.

Implement inventory software

When it comes to challenges with store inventory, survey respondents find that inaccurate data, limited stock, and slow replenishment are the biggest challenges. Yet only 64 percent of store managers use technology to check available stock.

A strong inventory management system is crucial to effectively managing inventory and being prepared for online and in-person purchases, especially during seasonal rushes.

Good inventory management software should track inventory in real time, alert you when stock is low, and help you forecast demand across multiple locations. For a robust retail-specific inventory management system, check out Square for Retail. Learn more about effective inventory management.

Utilize your data

Use analytics from your POS and inventory management software to determine future inventory and staffing needs. Pay special attention to how any of your policies (omnichannel or otherwise) affect month-over-month and year-over-year growth. This will better prepare your managers to staff correctly and update policies.

An educated staff with a well-stocked inventory behind them and proper training will ensure successful omnichannel purchases and happy customers.

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