Three High Street Retailers That Mastered the Online Transition

The UK has a number of successful high street businesses whose multi-channel retail success can be replicated by your own business to create happier customers and increased profits.

Ongoing global financial problems have forced businesses to work harder to create maximum value from their sales opportunities. Many retailers are now moving from multi-channel retail to an ‘omni-channel’ approach, creating a consistent experience for customers across each sales channel and improving revenue as a result.

Here are three companies which have succeeded in the omni-channel revolution. Find out what you can learn from their experiences…

John Lewis

Thought by many to be at the forefront of the omni-channel revolution in the UK, the John Lewis Partnership has been striving towards blending on and offline channels for years. According to experts at the business, customers shop a brand — not a channel.

Yet it’s crucial to note that even though John Lewis is respected for its leading omni-channel strategies, it is not a genuinely omni-channel retailer yet. Even the most successful British retailers are still reaching for the holy grail of omni-channel retail.

The John Lewis strategy includes:

  • An increase in the number of physical stores — up to 60 by 2018
  • Opening a number of smaller ‘digital’ stores in regional locations
  • Increasing sales from £1 billion to £3 billion by 2020.

The digital stores use technology to direct customers quickly and efficiently by:

  • Using interactive information screens which ask customers a series of questions to help find the best product to match their needs
  • Digital store guides have also been introduced to ensure customers can navigate the shop easily
  • Providing large screens fitted on walls to provide information on products available not only in the shop but from the entire John Lewis range online.

These new stores serve a dual purpose in the omni-channel plan:

“We need new shops, we don’t have enough. We’re not in the places we need to be because when we open a shop we create a whole online market we never had.”
Peter Ruis — Buying and Brand Director at John Lewis.

Key lessons

  • Rather than using online channels to replace their physical stores, John Lewis uses stores as a shop front for their online retail activities
  • Smaller retail outlets showcase products which can be ordered online and for collection in-store or delivered to the customer’s house
  • Customers can return any item via any channel
  • The IT system which underpins these activities is flexible enough to support this location-agnostic approach to retail.

Burberry

Fashion retailer Burberry was recently awarded the enviable title of “best omni-channel retailer” on the UK high street. Their approach to omni-channel retail places particular emphasis on the importance of customer experience, using sophisticated multi-channel software to assist.

Most notably, stock has been scaled back in-store so that there is only ever a single example of each item on display. Why?

  • Interaction between staff and customers becomes essential, creating a personal touch which is lacking in online shopping
  • Staff can check in-store stock levels from their iPad terminals or order any item from other stores and warehouses from the backend multi-channel software for delivery to the client’s house
  • Staff have an additional opportunity to cross-sell or up-sell which would be unavailable in other settings.
“We designed it [the physical store] like that because when you’re shopping at home online, you are on the sofa with your credit card. You don’t stand up and queue.”
Christopher Bailey — Chief Creative Officer — Burberry

Key lessons

  • Injecting social interaction into the omni-channel retail process is essential to raise customer satisfaction
  • The personal approach provides additional opportunities to make sales
  • Low stock levels can be worked to your advantage.

Oasis

Named earlier this year as one of the top five omni-channel fashion retailers globally, Oasis has been working hard to engage customers across multiple platforms. Innovations include:

  • Reserve online, collect in-store functionality
  • Use of iPads as Point of Sale terminals allowing out-of-stock items to be sourced from remote warehouses via the in-house multi-channel software for delivery direct to the customer.
“The iPads enable store staff to access the Oasis website, check product availability across the portfolio and place orders online where stock is not immediately available. It shortens queue times and makes the payment process mobile, simpler and more engaging.”
Ish Patel — Omni-Channel Director — Aurora Fashions

Key lessons

  • Successful omni-channel retail often involves simple options like reserving items online for collection in-store
  • Multi-channel software technology can be leveraged to provide a superior customer experience in-store
  • Omni-channel retail provides the opportunity for shopping to be more ‘fun’ for customers.
“In an omni-channel world, customers now demand more from physical stores: more excitement, outstanding service and a more personalised experience driven by new technology.”
Liz Evans — Managing Director — Oasis

Omni-channel retail does not spell the end of the high street, nor does it have to be hugely complex. The experiences of John Lewis, Burberry and Oasis show that small steps coupled with ambitious targets and a flexible multi-channel software platform can create a positive experience for shoppers and create significant ROI for retailers.

Find out more about multi-channel retail strategy by reading: ‘How to choose the right multi-channel system for business growth

This article first appeared on the Sanderson blog.

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