The rate of change has never been greater — or faster — for the footwear industry, with new challenges popping up every day in nearly all corners of the business, from navigating cash crunches and supply chain issues to understanding the latest technological advances. In its new “Ask An Expert” series, FN will ask industry leaders — all solutions-based providers — to take on some of the most timely topics.
Omnichannel has been a buzzword in retail for years, but many small brick-and-mortar businesses have only just decided to launch or grow their e-commerce offering. The temporary closure of stores allowed those retailers to concentrate on building one sales channel at a time. Now, the recent reopenings mean that a cohesive, multichannel strategy will be necessary once more.
JP Chauvet, president of commerce solution Lightspeed, shared with FN how small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can achieve omnichannel success and why their existing POS technology might be able to play the hero.
FN: Many retailers have been focusing on building successful initiatives for e-commerce. As stores reopen, what role does brick-and-mortar play?
JP Chauvet: I believe consumers are still going to want some aspect of the brick-and-mortar purchasing experience, so reopening provides merchants with a unique opportunity to transform how they will conduct their business. Consumers will often browse online, but then head to the store to try on and purchase. A seamless omnichannel experience will take what that consumer was browsing on a retailer’s e-commerce platform and re-create that same experience in-store. Omnichannel software was a want-to-have for a lot of retailers, but now it is a must-have.
FN: Foot traffic numbers will be difficult to predict during the reopening period. How can retailers use technology to manage their inventory efficiently during this time?
JC: We’ve seen strong interest from small and medium-sized businesses in transitioning their brick-and-mortar business to an omnichannel cloud-based platform. With this kind of solution, retailers can better deploy their footwear inventory across channels; importing stock from a physical store to the e-commerce shop can be done in one click.
We also recommend exploring tools that boost website SEO and generate discount codes, which can help sell more inventory overall. Many cloud platforms offer such tools. By expanding their online presence, retailers can drive traffic to their e-commerce site and reach new demographics while in-person foot traffic remains unpredictable.
FN: How can companies leverage their existing POS data to help them stay nimble and reactive?
JC: It’s important during this time for employees to have the right technology for quick and easy in-store checkout, that allows them to manage multiple systems and consumer data in one place. POS terminals that provide access to an individual shopper’s footwear preferences and sizes can help associates create a personalized experience.
Retailers with cloud-supported POS systems can also share their sales data directly with an analytics program, which can then produce margin and category performance reports. Cloud-based analytics programs are particularly important during this time, as they enable merchants to track ongoing data, whenever and wherever they are. This lets retailers stay up to date on end-of-day totals and purchasing trends, so that they can make calculated changes to optimize profits.
FN: Consumers will need to be reassured of the safety of the in-store experience. What are some tools that retailers may already have access to that could be beneficial now?
JC: One way to provide a safe customer experience – and therefore continue to grow the business – is by taking advantage of mobile technology. In particular, retailers should consider using an iPad POS system. This gives associates the ability to maximize their sales mobility and process transactions from anywhere, meeting the customer where they are and allowing them to keep a safe social distance.
Additionally, retailers that provide fast and secure payment transactions can keep checkout processes and customer lineups to a minimum. This allows customers to purchase items quickly and feel safe shopping in-store, while freeing up employees to focus on maintaining a welcoming and safe customer experience.
FN: This is an opportunity for many footwear companies to reinvent their brand experience. What are some inexpensive, creative ways that businesses can entice customers to return?
JC: One solution is to offer a points-based loyalty program, that provides customers with exclusive in-store offers and rewards for repeat business. From the back-end, a loyalty program lets the retailer view customer profiles, track consumer spending and see what styles of footwear they’ve purchased in the past. This can then be transitioned into personalized communications, keeping customers informed on new products and relevant footwear promotions. Moving forward, personalized in-store experiences through loyalty rewards will be key to bringing customers back to brick-and-mortar stores.