Omnichannel Optimization: Automate Store Operations

omnichannel store associate feature

More than one-third of Americans have made omnichannel shopping part of their regular routine since the pandemic, and nearly two-thirds of them plan to continue these behaviors. Prior to that, many retailers worked to improve the omnichannel experience, such as by offering a branded app or buy online pickup in store (BOPIS). However, when many retailers were forced to temporarily close physical stores, this expedited the need for a robust omnichannel strategy.

As the role of the store shifts to meet the needs of omnichannel shoppers, retailers must also evolve to ensure efficient and productive task execution. You can make the most out of your omnichannel strategy by automating store operations with digital management processes. This will help you both exceed customer expectations and improve communication and task execution.

Increase Associate Education

Nearly 50% of brands say unifying online and store operations and data is their biggest challenge in 2022. Omnichannel shoppers often conduct research online before shopping in the store, and as a result, expect store associates to have the same level of knowledge. For example, when a shopper comes in-store to make a big-ticket purchase like a furniture set, they will likely have additional questions such as assembly or the item’s material. And the associate better be ready to answer these types of questions. By digitizing store operations, the associate can quickly find the information with a handheld device.

With digital management processes, retailers can also ​establish unified communications. This allows associates to always have the most accurate information on hand. Associates can rapidly get up to speed on any store-wide or company-wide updates, instead of going to the back room to check on inventory or asking a manager for help. What’s more, employees at all locations and levels are adequately trained and held accountable for tasks, equipped with the information necessary to provide a quality shopping experience for customers.

Operate Dark Stores Efficiently

To meet customer needs, more retailers are beginning to operate dark stores, turning physical store locations into fulfillment centers. When a customer places an online order, retailers use dark stores to locate items in the area and make sure they’re delivered quickly. Dark stores help with this by keeping inventory in a number of additional locations, rather than just a few warehouses. For example, Walmart opened multiple dark stores when the pandemic began, amplifying its online presence and ensuring omnichannel customers were satisfied with speedy fulfillment times. It has since used autonomous vehicles to replenish its dark stores.

While associates in dark stores and warehouses don’t interact directly with customers, task execution and communication are still vital to guarantee smooth operations. Automating management processes and streamlining messaging and task execution between stores and distribution centers ensure that orders are fulfilled effectively and efficiently.

Easily Manage BOPIS and Curbside Orders

Curbside service is table stakes as customers have come to expect a variety of pickup options for ecommerce orders. As U.S. shoppers are expected to spend $95.87 billion via click and collect this year, it’s essential for you to provide associates with the tools to manage BOPIS and curbside orders quickly and correctly. Automating store processes makes it easier to scale in peak season, ensuring customers don’t have to wait too long when they pickup orders curbside.

You must ensure your curbside operations and fulfillment centers work in harmony to streamline omnichannel processes. With a unified place for task updates and messaging, store associates tasked with managing curbside orders can fulfill them on time and with little error. As the role of the store associate continues to evolve, making sure they have all the resources needed to manage curbside orders is a critical last step in an exceptional customer experience.

Customer Expectations Grow with Omnichannel Shopping

Improving the shopping experience for omnichannel customers should be top of mind for any retailer. With 54% of customers ready to leave a brand after one bad shopping experience, according to a Propel Software survey, delivering a consistently high-quality shopping experience is critical for finding success with omnichannel customers.

Besides streamlining tasks, the efficiencies gained by automating management processes also allows everyone from fulfillment workers to store associates to managers to be more knowledgeable and equipped to effectively and efficiently satisfy the needs of omnichannel customers.

Gary Stonell is SVP of sales and operations at Opterus