RightOmnichannelSolutionOmnichannel trade is developing just as rapidly as service solutions: click & collect, click & reserve or ship-from-store are springing up like mushrooms and giving retailers hope for great sales success. But what sounds good at first often harbors unpleasant surprises.

According to Ralf Haberich, an expert in digital business and CEO of the Shopgate Group, choosing the right omnichannel solution is not that difficult if you ask the right questions and have a little patience. Above all, aspects such as flexible integration, scalability and user-friendliness play a decisive role. With the right questions at hand, retailers will find a solution that does not cause any nasty surprises, but above all ensures one thing, namely a holistic omnichannel experience that inspires customers and retailers alike.

Before answering the following system selection questions, ask yourself if the omnichannel system can grow with you and if it will meet your current and future technical needs:

  • Can the omnichannel solution be integrated? Does the solution have interfaces to shop systems such as Magento, Shopware, Salesforce, etc., so that it can be seamlessly connected to existing tools and no manual programming is required? On the one hand, the omnichannel solution must close the gap between the online shop and stationary trade and, on the other hand, it must not cause any additional work. Because omnichannel trade not only means more convenience for the customer, but ideally also for the retailer.

  • Can the omnichannel system go live quickly? Now this depends on various factors, such as whether ready-made interfaces are available, the software solutions are modular and how high the individual programming effort is. Retailers should therefore definitely clarify in advance how the omnichannel solution will be implemented. The best way to do this is to ask the providers for documentation in which the process of such an implementation is recorded. The best solution allows you to jump right in, try out features, tweak them as needed, and compare the immediate impact.

  • What resources does an omnichannel solution require? Dealers should clarify all resource requirements as part of the selection process. It doesn't help if you have reserved all resources for the first steps of system integration, but then have to resort to other – unplanned – resources and risk delays, according to Ralf Haberich, and recommends recording who is responsible for the project, who and what is necessary during the project, which services the supplier provides, etc. It is also necessary to check whether your own expertise is sufficient regarding the implementation and integration of the solution. If in doubt, it is advisable to commission the provider to do this.

  • How does the omnichannel system manage inventory? If an omnichannel solution promises inventory support, retailers should take a close look, as this is the fundamental cornerstone for efficiently functioning omnichannel services such as click & collect, click & reserve and ship-from-store. The more branches a retailer has, the more inventory can be managed cleanly and in real time and mapped in the online shop. It is all the more important that retailers check whether the system has functions such as inventory management and a real-time display of stock levels. The stocks should also be reduced automatically after the order has been placed and items should be listed online as out of stock – in other words, everything that is indispensable for the planned services.

  • What fulfillment options does the omnichannel solution support? Retailers should also take a close look at the concrete implementation of omnichannel services. Many providers advertise that they can implement these services quickly and easily, but then only offer a limited range of functions. For this reason, it is advisable for traders to clarify the extent to which they can use the services. To do this, they should ask specific questions, such as whether the employee will be automatically notified when a Click & Collect order has arrived and can manage the order accordingly, whether stock levels are automatically adjusted, and whether customers receive real-time updates via email, SMS, etc. A good omnichannel system is characterized by seamless experiences for customers and retailers alike.

  • Does the omnichannel system make branch selection flexible when placing orders? Although many omnichannel solutions offer Click & Collect, they are not flexible enough when it comes to branch selection. It may happen that customers cannot pick up the items they have ordered from the branch of their choice. Retailers with multiple stores should therefore look for a system that can map stock levels by location and allow customers to place an order for multiple locations. For a flexible branch selection, it is necessary to evaluate, among other things, whether the omnichannel solution allows combined shopping carts (online shipping and on-site collection), in what form it displays the stock levels per location and whether it offers real time updates for customers.

  • Does the omnichannel solution work with a mobile application? A holistic omnichannel experience includes not only the online shop and brick-and-mortar stores, but also shopping apps. Retailers should therefore ensure that the omnichannel solution also supports mobile applications in the end-to-end fulfillment process. On the one hand, this means being able to process payments on the go. On the other hand, inventories can be synchronized across tools and order updates can be sent automatically. If it is not possible to seamlessly integrate an app into the system landscape via the omnichannel solution, retailers should consider whether they can implement such a real omnichannel strategy.

  • Is it easy and intuitive to learn how to use the omnichannel system? To ensure that employees use the new solution, retailers should already consider their daily work processes when making the selection. You have to understand that system selection isn't just about smooth integration, a big name, or the best price, but that the omnichannel system is easy to use. To do this, it should be able to map processes intuitively, such as sending automatic employee notifications for orders and cancellations or sending customer notifications for orders that are ready for pickup. The right solution works for employees regardless of age and technology affinity, which does not mean that employee training is superfluous per se.

  • What design and branding options does the omnichannel solution offer? Each retailer has its individual design and branding, which should also be taken into account in the omnichannel system. After all, the recognition value and thus the direct sales success are related to your own branding. When choosing a system, retailers should therefore ensure that they can put their own stamp on the design of the omnichannel solution. It must be possible to create end-to-end styling for a seamless experience, customize the order of products, and fully control the product information customers see.

By Daniela La Marca