Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Overlooking omnichannel strategy can block Black Friday retailers’ returns 

By Sarah Friswell, CEO at Red Ant

Despite some predictions that the current economic challenges may affect retailers’ Black Friday / Cyber Week 2022 returns, this year’s average UK consumer spend for Black Friday weekend is predicted to increase 25% on last year’s £9.42 billion. It’s a high-risk strategy to be unprepared for the biggest opportunity in the retail calendar. 

Many retailers are somewhere on their journey to being truly omnichannel, as Red Ant’s 2022 survey revealed it’s the main priority for 40% of retailers. However, not fully grasping how omnichannel works can lead to brands not realising true value from their tech investments, and can even be a threat to their performance and reputation. 

Being truly omnichannel 

An omnichannel retail approach means harnessing the entire retail estate – all channels including online and in-store – to offer seamless, consistent engagement with customers. Most importantly, a PoS system that actively supports other omnichannel initiatives such as clienteling and assisted sales will reinforce every aspect of the customer experience. This must integrate all the management systems to sell to customers anywhere at any time, with the ability to streamline and integrate processes for sales and payments across all on- and offline channels, including stock, cash, and payment management, with built-in mobile and remote functionality.  

It’s crucial to be able to manage online and in-store stock, rapidly making accurate reorders and between-location transfers using cross-channel tracking and performance reports. Gathering customer data on habits and preferences when they check out can provide intelligent business insight and allow for truly personalised engagement. 

Retailers must have fully-integrated digital technology to offer customers multiple opportunities to buy at every point in their retail journey – whether it’s installing WiFi within stores or empowering store assistants with in-store tablets – these are the technologies that contribute to an immersive and personalised shopping experience that boosts sales.

Omnichannel oversights and opportunities 

As part of retailers’ ‘omnichannel’ endeavours, some common oversights and opportunities overlooked in retail data management and integration strategies include: 

  • Not investing in the right tech – Some retailers delay tech investments, awaiting the perfect, future-proof solution, rather than taking steps to stay relevant and connect up customer channels as soon as possible. Others are siloing their data, conflating multichannel with omnichannel – they invest in a great piece of tech but it doesn’t provide a seamless experience to the customer or the store associates as it doesn’t talk to anything else in the ecosystem. 
  • Underestimating the issue of stock management – It’s essential retailers know where stock is located all year round, to be agile with restocking and moving stock, and have the warehouse sufficiently resourced to deliver the standard of service they’re known for. Overstocking and understocking can have a serious impact on the bottom line, therefore the ability to scan, assess and accurately manage stock and inventory consistently across all channels will avoid disappointment and retain customers. 
  • Not offering a shared online and offline cart – According to Retail Consulting Partners, 56% of consumers opt for brands that allow shoppers to use a shared cart across different channels. Customers should never find themselves in a situation where they have to terminate a transaction or enter additional details to complete their purchase using different channels – mixed baskets should be a fundamental part of the service to avoid another major challenge – cart abandonment. 
  • Lack of a flexible PoS platform – With customers demanding ever-increasing personalisation, it’s vital to offer flexible payment options in tandem with intelligently informed interaction and advice. This means enabling shoppers to buy there and then, wherever they choose to shop or to complete their purchase later at home or remotely via an email link. If a retailer’s PoS platform isn’t flexible enough to handle these requirements, it will be less likely to build customer loyalty, and make sales. 

Ways to start getting the retail estate in shape for BFCM 

It’s not enough just to be concerned about the website crashing on Black Friday. Brands should be aware of the key foundations for a robust retail estate for success, both for Cyber Week and the future. As PWC discovered, around 86% of customers will pay more if their experience is seamless from browsing and choosing a product right through to having multiple payment options. 

This means integrating all channels, ensuring there are enough viable ways for customers to reach you. In embracing clienteling and using their customer and product data, store associates, supported by technology, can guide customers through a purchase.  Brands can make customers aware of deals and ways of saving money as well as share information for the eco-conscious consumer. 

Retailers must take a ‘quality not quantity’ approach that’s about taking customers on a journey with them, rather than customers simply filling their baskets at midnight. Retailers need to break the habit of thinking it’s normal to get 75% returns without digging deeper into what’s actually going on under the surface. With more personalised, considered experiences, basket sizes will gradually increase and returns will be lower. 

Retailers that are truly omnichannel-focused and connect all channels and ecommerce points will boost sales and improve customer loyalty for this Cyber Week and beyond.