"The future definitely lies in the intelligent link of channels"
Interview with René van der Horst, Area Sales Manager (CE), Pricer AB
Online and offline channels need to merge to fulfill the needs of mobile and informed customers. In this EuroCIS interview, René van der Horst, Area Sales Manager (CE) for Pricer AB, talks about the problems online and offline retailers encounter while developing new channels. He explains how a comprehensive omnichannel strategy helps in facing those challenges.
Mr. van der Horst, what role does the linking of the different distributing channels play for a retailer today?
René van der Horst: The future definitely lies in the intelligent link of channels. A modern retailer needs to follow this trend, because the modern customer is used to getting as much information as possible about a specific product at anytime and anywhere.
Of course, this is a challenge for retailers. Many are still working with relatively old-fashioned back-office systems. Even though they are trying to make the best of the situation and present themselves in a modern way towards the customer, if they don’t have the respective data available and are not linked, they are not able to send information and sales offers very easily to the customers. Many retailers work hard to quickly modernize their systems. However, customers are already a step ahead and expect the respective information and services from every retailer, because they have been spoiled by the services of industry trailblazers.
When a customer calls up a retailer’s webpage with his/her Smartphone, he/she finds everything he/she needs there: information, pricing and oftentimes recommendations about similar products that many customers appreciate a lot. The customer is also able to contact his/her friends via social media at any time and easily ask them their opinion on certain products. Many people are increasingly guided in their buying decision by such references than by information provided by the retailer.
Do online and offline retailers benefit equally from implementing an omnichannel strategy?
van der Horst: Of course, this first depends on which industry sector a retailer is in and also on his/her positioning in the channel mix. It is often harder for previously pure offline retailers to take the step towards omnichannel. Online retailers on the other hand are already experienced with the mechanisms of this channel. They know how to supply their customers with information and services and get their product to the customer. In the offline sector, these retailers try to offer customers the same shopping experience in the store.
Of course, you can also say that both win new customers and therefore develop new sources of revenues by expanding their range of services and products with new channels.
Which demands do customers pose on retailer services in today’s omnichannel world?
van der Horst: Today’s customer is flexible and virtually always online with his/her various mobile devices – whether that’s at home, at work or while traveling. Customers are used to access information and retail services anytime and anywhere. Today’s customers also expect the exact same service from brick-and-mortal businesses. A retailer, who doesn’t make this happen, will eventually lose these mobile and informed people as customers in his/her stores.
Media-Saturn AG in the Netherlands has made the right step in this area. Media-Saturn wants to strengthen the linking of channels with a new strategy and is quite successful so far. Pricer is also participating in this project and has installed its electronic shelf labels in the stores. First results make us confident that online revenues as well as sales in the stores will continue to show positive development. Prior to this, Media-Saturn had a rather tough time in the online markets especially in the Netherlands and tackles this market more deliberately than before with the new strategy.
The reason why Media-Saturn is so successful in this area is due to the new transparency in pricing in particular. When the customer can very clearly see that he pays the same great prices online as in the store, he will also like to return to the brick-and-mortar business. After all, this is where he can see, touch and try the products. For many customers, this is still an integral part of their shopping experience today. A pure online retailer is simply not able to provide this.
What’s critical in any case is that the customer is able to retrieve his/her information on the internet at any time. If he/she frequents the store to take another close look at a product, the retailer can close the sale with a skilled consultation. This way, the retailer is offering the best possible connection of advantages between online and offline shopping.
How can ESL use support the retailer’s omnichannel strategy?
van der Horst: I want to once again mention Media-Saturn as an example. It is one of those companies that entered online retailing comparatively late. It became clear to company management that the online channel needs to be an equal sales channel next to the store. It became obvious that you need to expand information and service choices and develop online business, if you want to lure more customers into the stores again.
The ESLs by Pricer are an important part of this strategy. They are extremely fast and can be easily managed by the head office. With their help, the retailer is able to ensure that customers receive correct and transparent pricing at every touchpoint, online or offline. When the customer regains trust in price transparency again, it also prevents showrooming.
After all, this is the fear of many retailers: for customers to come into the stores, try out the products and then buy them afterwards online from another retailer. A well-thought-out omnichannel strategy helps the retailer to boost the customer’s trust in the retailer’s own range of products. It is therefore definitely the right way to meet the current challenges.
Interview: Daniel Stöter; EuroShop First publication at iXtenso.com