Though Amazon’s dominance of ecommerce may bring about feelings of doom or gloom, many retailers do not realize the influence they have to capture buyers before they default to Amazon. In fact, IHL research found that 24% of Amazon’s retail sales can be attributed to customers who first tried to shop in stores, but found the product was out of stock.
According to another study conducted by IHL Group, the total value of lost sales for retail businesses worldwide due to stock-out issues was $984 billion in 2018. But where does this money go? To Amazon. In response, shoppers often turn to Amazon where the options seem endless. Both online and in stores, out-of-stock items hinder retailers and their ability to compete.
As retailers seek to stand their ground against their common rival, they should keep in mind that the key to achieving success is through providing the omnichannel options that Amazon can’t match.
More Options, Happier Customers
With more options to fulfill a consumer’s request, retailers can quickly diminish out-of-stock items by leveraging inventory across the enterprise. As the line between online and in-store blurs, retailers can take advantage of consumers’ willingness to shop via both methods.
Buying or reserving an item online prior to picking it up from the store or shipping a product from the store or warehouse to a customer’s home (or from one store to another) are some distinct options retailers can offer. Rather than displaying an out-of stock notification on the web or having an empty shelf in the store, forcing customers to search elsewhere, retailers can optimize omnichannel options to meet the need more quickly. In turn, customers will almost always get what they want, growing the customer base and increasing sales.
Synchronized Workforce, Advanced Tech Drive Sales
Bringing digital and physical together isn’t achieved overnight. Let’s face it, you need a smart technology play to make it happen well. The right core systems let you orchestrate the processes required to create omnichannel experiences. It also means using your channels, suppliers and internal departments well, and keeping them all in sync. When you tie all this together well, consumers are less likely to come across an out-of-stock item. That’s because the right product is in the right place at the right time.
For example, buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) involves a collaborative supply chain backing the fulfillment method. Providing up-to-date product information and real-time inventory availability online is the first step to gaining customer loyalty. Remember, a customer’s first view of your retail store is probably online. Now, once the customer purchases or reserves a product, retailers need to be able to deliver on those expectations. At the store is where the seamless buying experience kicks in. Order errors, a delay in locating a product or poor customer service are a few surefire ways to frustrate customers, driving them right to Amazon’s online front door.
Speed and Efficiency Motivate Shoppers to Stay
To customers, the logistics and behind-the-scenes operations of omnichannel are invisible, and rightly so. They should enjoy a seamless shopping experience without friction, interruptions or even knowing they crossed channels. From a shopper’s perspective, it’s all retail.
Across all touchpoints of an omnichannel experience, including the online purchase, notification time and pickup process, speed and efficiency are key. When purchasing online, consumers should be able to find items easily. They expect to see in-stock indication and levels. They also need to be clear about how to complete a pickup, and all of their options (in-store, locker, curbside, pickup point).
Fast notification times are also essential. Shoppers notified within four hours are most likely to use the service again and recommend it to others. The faster the order is ready, the better the customer stockoutexperience. The in-store pickup experience leaves the last impression on customers using that option. They expect an adequately staffed pickup counter with attentive associates.
For retailers looking to capitalize on speed and efficiency, internal workflows and well-trained store associates help meet shoppers’ expectations. For instance, if an item is not available, associates should quickly be able to check the stock in another location and arrange for home shipping. Omnichannel lets a customer know the item will be in stock and ready for them. At the very least, it lets them know the order can be fulfilled quickly. This way the purchase stays with the retailer.
While Amazon may seem to have the upper hand online, it is absolutely achievable for stores to win and retail customers. Don’t let customers turn to Amazon when an item is out-of-stock. Give them alternatives. With the right technology – both online and in stores – retailers have an chance to keep more sales in house. Embrace what you have and win over customers with your own omnichannel advantage.
Charles Dimov is VP of Marketing for OrderDynamics