11 Omnichannel Rules for Small and Mid-sized Retailers

When establishing a 360° retail business, omnichannel is the growth tool on everyone’s agenda. Medium-sized businesses face the need to develop or risk being overtaken by the competition.

Here are eleven feasible steps for retailers to find their path in the jungle of online business.

1 – Prepare With Courage, Time and Budget!

Any retailer who still insists on refusing emerging solutions in communication and distribution may stop reading here. Yesterday’s truths are irrelevant today. Make use of the new opportunities for your business and focus only on goals that you can develop and influence directly.

Of course, the path to exploring omnichannel options requires courage, strength and capital. For the first two, research success stories of like-minded enterprises and read up on courageous entrepreneurial stories in business and trade magazines (or in this blog). That’s where you also learn how to assess the capital requirements and get a feeling for the time required to organize them into projects.

2 – Think in Projects!

As diverse as a professional omnichannel appearance can be, as structured its development needs to be. There is no universal solution; it’s your personal strategy that counts. Break down your ideas and goals into individual projects and prioritize them according to personal affinity and feasibility with regard to spatial and personnel resources as well as cost. While not everything will be possible at the same time, every single thing you create is one more than you had before. Effective project management also helps you explore the jungle of possibilities without taking the second steps before the first. Accounts in all social networks, plus webshop, plus logistics, plus customer loyalty programs? Impossible to handle for your organization and also not particularly trustworthy to your customers.

3 – Become Unique!

“Fashionstore Milan” or “Jewellery Smith” offer no identification for customers in the virtual space. Your crystal clear brand statement is a decisive factor for your future omnichannel success beyond the mass business. Make your business unique! If your brand name is long-standing and cannot be changed, you can create a distinctive claim, which also describes you online, as a specialist in your product niche and will be easily found by search engines. And please don’t even consider clichés like ‘trends and more …’.

4 – Sell Only What You Sell!

Focus on a product offer of interest to your customers specifically, to your defined target audience. The more exclusive and surprising the better. Do you still think of a ‘full product range’ for your industry? Do you keep this and that in your assortment, because someone may one day ask for it, or because your manufacturers expect it from you? You may have lost those customers already to the big web shops and physical shopping centers, and they block up valuable resources. Loyalty from customers arises in your defined niche, not by trying to play great. This is your chance to offer value the big names aren’t able to create.

5 – Trade Locally!

Do you really want to be able to serve the whole world? Amazon, Alibaba & Co. are already there. Your strength is local, especially where buzzwords such as ‘buy local’ are increasingly on your customers’ minds. What is your estimated market share within a radius of 100 km? 50 km? 5  km? If most of these customers find you here – offline or online – you already have a market that you need to serve. In doing so, you create the opportunity for your enthusiastic online customer to proactively find the way to your store. Wouldn’t it be great if your online customer gets their order delivered by bike or local delivery service within a couple of hours, with a smile and a personal greeting from his local dealer?

6 – Ask Your Customers!

Your ambitions to become an omnichannel dealer are honorable. As a consequence, involve your customers in your plans and ask them about their wishes. Which social networks are most relevant to your customers? What are the most popular products in your assortment? Once you have developed your strategies behind closed doors, start a new phase and draw on the ubiquitous feedback culture that surrounds you. Your customers become curious, your competitors nervous, both of which help with your new positioning.

7 – Online Is a Must – but You Define Where and How!

The jungle of social networks is growing increasingly dense. You decide which one or two platforms would suit your business and your customers best. There is nothing worse than an online presence that is not cultivated (= loved). It is important to focus on dialogue and exchange with your followers. No one needs yet another website that broadcasts one-dimensional advertising messages into the world. Think of your online presence as a communication tool, not as a brochure. But promising interaction only makes sense if you actually deliver on that promise. And if you want to run an online shop, keep it exciting and surprising as a whole; database management is not your calling.

8 – Learn to Pack Packages!

The better you know your customers, the more credible you will become. ‘Curated Shopping’ refers to customized packages for your customers. In contrast to the huge webshops, you don’t need complex CRM tools and ERP systems to keep your customers in view. You can create individual and creative offers for your customers with local and seasonal references. A complete outfit, a decoration package, a private sale event with offers valid ‘only here and now’. Your signature as a local dealer makes the packaging even more attractive to local customers.

9 – Focus on Your Strengths!

Your strength is the daily handling of real-life customers. You don’t serve a virtual market, so don’t pretend you are. Chat with your customers, joke with them, surprise them. Invest in exciting, local advertising only. The best marketing is your shop window, which you already redesign at least once a week, right? Have it clearly point to your online activities. The window can be city talk in ways banner advertising never will be. Your strengths are offline and you are transporting them into a new dimension.

10 – Use the New Logistics Resources!

The general expansion of online business has also led to an upswing in the logistics capacities that you can benefit from. There are small and large logistics providers, central warehouses, as well as local and global delivery services, which have advanced their systems and look for further utilization. Here it is usually not necessary to move masses, but all about integrating into your existing processes. You can easily store the stocks of your bestselling products externally, and at the same time delegate the processing of your shipping orders,  which is often economically smarter than doing it on your own.

11 – Have Fun!

Conclusion: omnichannel is not an indispensable task for medium-sized merchants, but a huge opportunity for further economic growth if you are taking it step by step. Where you previously depended solely on the frequency in your store location, your business can now be present to your customers 24/7. Your commitment will transfer to your customers; the more individually you shape your omnichannel appearance, the more present you remain in their minds. Have fun and brave the jungle!


About the author:
Alexander believes in the fruitful power of local businesses, even in today’s jungle of online opportunities. He founded the Slowretail Blog back in 2007 and is regularly booked as a speaker in the brand retail industry. You can best reach him via LinkedIn or personal mail.

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