The peak holiday shopping season is upon us and the difference between a season that puts a company in the black and one that fails to live up to expectations requires monitoring and managing customers across all channels..

Retailers pushing to satisfy increasingly connected and empowered customers across multiple shopping channels are the ones that tend to see their holiday dreams come true. Yet, that doesn’t require the IT infrastructure of big box stores to succeed. An integrated commerce solution that links physical stores and the web storefront with back-end order management, marketing and inventory puts omnichannel success within reach of all retailers provided they follow these five steps.

1) Optimize your customer touchpoints.
iPhones and other smartphones have become powerful shopping research tools for checking pricing, availability and reviews on the fly, while iPads and other tablets are increasingly being used to research and purchase products. Look to responsive web design to ensure that your web storefront can adjust dynamically to deliver content optimized for each digital customer touchpoint.

2) Make real-time inventory data available. Showing web shoppers what’s available in stores and what’s online is fast becoming a mandate, but it doesn’t stop there — in-store employees need access too. A mobile point of sale (POS) device can “save the sale” on the store floor by helping an associate quickly determine that an out-of-stock product is available at a store 10 miles away or can easily be shipped to the shopper.

3) Make the experience fast and convenient. Suppose the customer doesn’t want to wait until an item is shipped, or doesn’t want to drive 10 miles to the next store for an out-of-stock item? With an integrated back-end system, you have real-time visibility into the inventory in each store, accurate stock information and the flexibility to speed orders and fulfillment. For example, you can ship the item from your nearby store to the customer’s home, cutting days off delivery from a warehouse. Letting customers order online and pick up at their local store allows shoppers to get their products quicker and save on delivery costs. Additionally, retailers can boost customer loyalty, store traffic and incremental revenue by allowing online purchases to be returned to physical stores, ultimately resulting in great customer satisfaction.

4)Provide superior customer service with a holistic view of the customer. Customers don’t appreciate it when an issue raised at a store isn’t communicated to a call center or reflected in an online profile. A single view of each customer—for example, what that customer has ordered and when that order has been shipped—will enable you to deliver the attention and support customers expect by providing visibility into all online, in-store and call center transactions and interactions.

5) Leverage customer data to cross-sell and upsell. Increase the likelihood of future purchases by leveraging customer knowledge from all channels to promote the right products, to the right shoppers, through their preferred channel. A single view of a customer’s lifetime purchase and interaction history positions your organization to deliver targeted cross-sell and upsell promotions and encourages deeper customer engagement. 

As retailers work their way through these steps, they will realize that the drive to differentiate will ultimately require the flexibility to continuously enhance the customer experience. An omnichannel strategy quickly renders old bulk “spray and pray” approaches to online marketing as obsolete. Retailers will need to innovate with new marketing strategies, tactics and technologies. That means developing new ways to enhance your customers’ experiences through email, mobile, online, social, call center and in-store touchpoints that engage and inform.

Choosing the right commerce platform—one capable of supporting the creativity the marketplace demands—will make the prospect of this innovation more an opportunity than a challenge.

Happy selling this holiday season!

-Andy Lloyd - GM of Commerce Products