Retail today is a combination of business administration and psychology. Traditional distribution is yesterday’s model. Customers know what they want, when they want it, where they want it, and they pay for it however it suits them. For commerce start-ups, the model to adopt from the beginning is omnichannel.
The pandemic notwithstanding, customers want access to a complete range of products offline and online. This means implementing channel-specific optimised IT systems and logistics processes into one consistent unit.
Customers want choice. One day they shop in physical stores, the next they order from their living room, a couple of days later they purchase on their smartphone. If an item needs returning, the retailer is expected to make this easy and manage it in one quick transaction.
Retail IT systems now resemble virtual warehouses in which goods are stocked for distribution to any channel, anywhere, ordered by anyone. To get ahead, start-ups, particularly in the clothing retail sector, should adopt integrated omnichannel merchandise management systems that enable seasonal product ranges to be planned, offer opportunities to improve service, increase customer loyalty, optimise warehousing, improve sales and increase margins. The underlying technology can incorporate enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management, accounting and payment.
And when it comes to pay, customers have never had so much choice – click and collect, click and reserve, click and deliver, instore order, instore return, card payment and of course, cash payment.
Consolidating payment mechanisms has an important role to play in the adoption of omnichannel. Payment methods offered in physical shops differ to those online so if start-up retailers use different payment service providers (PSPs) for in-store transactions than for goods purchased online they are storing up problems for themselves.
To best manage this, locate payment and data with a service provider who supports eCommerce, m-commerce and POS from a single source anywhere in the world using common technology. This guarantees true omnichannel reporting with consolidated evaluation of all sales and transactions, wherever they occur.
The other important element is that at the point of payment customer and card data must be protected. In store retailers should use terminals at the POS that support the P2PE security standard of major credit cards, ensuring that data is encrypted. Online, start-up retailers will be aware that they need to implement 3D-Secure 2.0 for card payments to support issuer exemptions, which will allow authentication by customers to be avoided, so saving time and effort.
Starting up successfully in retail today is about adopting omnichannel as a way to reach customers where they are, to ensure goods are available across all channels and to deliver an experience that is equally valuable whether it’s on the high street, on a smartphone or sitting on a sofa.