By Wayne Scalf, president, Retail and Consumer Products Industry Verticals, Xerox

It’s no secret. Retailing is difficult and always has been, even before “Everywhere Retailing” came into vogue. Knowing what consumers buy, when and how is not easy as more customers extend their shopping experience beyond the walls of a store. Leveraging the information gleaned from shopper preferences—and building loyalty—is an added challenge.

We know that retailing is a complex ecosystem of service delivery and supply chains. It’s an interdependent web of interactions, people and processes, even seasonal trends—that seem to have an inherent nature to repel and resist retail success. That’s why the industry—and retailers—feel the buzz of omni-channel retailing, or what we call  “Everywhere Retailing.” It’s a matter of getting your merchandise in the hands of your tech-engrossed consumer. As long as customers have fingers (for now anyways), retail touch points must be as simple, quick and easy as clicking a text message or sliding a finger across a screen. Five Directives for Omni-Channel Retailing: What It Really Means

It’s about ubiquity, mobility and opportunity.

Five Directives for Everywhere Retailing

Don’t take the bait. The awe of possibilities to revolutionize your world and to sizzle up sales via smartphones stirs the heart of every store manager and corporate executive. Slap some cold water on your face and dissect the promises. Remember, “If it’s too good to be true … “

Apply a no-fail financial model. Omni-channel retailing is a delivery model, not a money drain. It requires investment, but it should also deliver tangible return. A technology partner must be vested in your retailing success far beyond contractual terms, service-level agreements and IT upgrades. Demand this relationship.

Channel up. Maybe. Shhh. Here’s a secret. Not all retailers require 100 percent omni-channel integration in order to compete for today’s consumers. Assess your audience, be strategic and know your products and services. Your customers may be different by channel so your approach must align with their motivations to purchase goods. Your success requires finding a provider who can honestly recommend a precise channel approach, or acknowledge that there’s no need for it, even when transactions and sales commissions are at stake. Find partners who are in it for the long term.

Find a blacksmith. Bad horseshoes can cripple a horse. A bad IT provider—or one who just doesn’t fit your organization—can cripple a retailer. You need an established, reliable and experienced provider, especially when it comes to customer-facing technologies and services, i.e., point-of-sale (POS), kiosks, online transactions, customer care services, or phone apps that exceed their promise for browsing and buying. Get a blacksmith offering precision and excellence—a trusted provider with a proven track record of delighting shoppers and retail clients.

Stick with that old-time tune. Customers come first. That’s the song that must drive every decision. The shopping experience requires friendliness, responsiveness and overall consistency. How that’s provided—and when—is critical. Without these, your competitors win. You lose.

In the end, these directives converge into one simple truth: how to best deliver interactions and transactions that exceed the expectations of others. That’s your job as a retailer, and ours as a service provider.

 

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Retail Matters. Just Ask Wal-Mart. And Xerox.