Omnichannel is the ability to connect with and sell to customers across multiple purchasing channels in a consistent and unified way. The phrase “omnichannel strategy” can mean a lot of things but, for telecom retailers, it means staying competitive in a rapidly evolving industry. Now more than ever, particularly with the COVID-19 pandemic changing customer behavior, implementing omnichannel solutions has become essential and customers will continue to expect it.
In pandemic times, there are so many scenarios to adapt to—whether the customer wants to buy online and pick up in-store, use curbside pickup when they get there, avoid waiting in line in a busy space, or pay without touching a point-of-sale terminal.
The customer has grown to expect this elevated level of seamless experience, but offering it is not a simple process. Retail is complicated, and telecom retail is especially complicated. This is particularly the case as many major telecom brands use a complex network of authorized retailers to operate the majority of their physical storefronts. A true omnichannel retail experience requires highly sophisticated software integrations to bridge the gaps between a brand’s corporate e-commerce websites, corporate-operated stores, and authorized-retailer-operated stores.
Here are the five key strategies telecom retailers must implement today to stay ahead of the competition.
1. BOPIS/ROPIS/BORIS (Buy Online, Pick up In-Store/Reserve Online, Pick up In-Store/Buy Online, Return In-Store)
Customers expect to be able to purchase or reserve on the e-commerce website, then go to their nearest store to pick up the product. The selected store is notified of the sale or reserved item, picks and packs the device, and puts it aside for the customer. Further to this, a buy online, return in-store policy is the next step in creating a barrier-free customer experience. A recent survey found 35% of shoppers have ordered online and returned purchases in store. Offering these services is now a must-have for telecom retailers.
2. Curbside Pickup
This solution, integrated with BOPIS/ROPIS, has exploded in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic. Curbside pickup allows customers to stay in their car and the store associate will bring their item to them, which they would have bought or reserved online. Retailers offering this service are putting their customers’ convenience and safety first.
3. Inventory Management
A foundational aspect of omnichannel strategy for telecom retailers, this refers to the process of ordering, storing, distributing, monitoring, and using retail inventory. Having inventory transparency in real time across all channels—retail stores (whether corporate or authorized retailer-operated), e-commerce websites, warehouses, distribution centres, and more—is crucial to the effective management of omnichannel purchasing flows.
4. Contactless Payments
This means processing payments without exchanging any shared devices—zero touchpoints between the consumer’s payment device and the physical point-of-sale terminal. In pandemic times and going forward, there is an urgent need to limit contact points. And with 63% of retail sales still occurring in store, managing expectations and providing security is a must. This may not seem like an omnichannel strategy at first blush, but it essentially amounts to customers paying through an online channel, even while in or near the physical store. A good contactless payment solution will allow the customer to complete the purchase transaction on their own mobile device.
5. Queue Management
COVID-19 precautions mean a lower in-store capacity. While this ensures safety for everyone involved, it can cause line-ups outside the store. Long wait times can not only affect a customer’s experience with a store but can also negatively impact their perception of the overall brand. A good queue management and appointments solution will allow customers to check in online at the store once they get to the area.
Associates are notified of the queue booking and can send a notification back to the customer once it’s their turn, enabling the customer to remain in the virtual line while shopping nearby or going for a coffee. Alternatively, they can simply go online and book the most convenient time to visit the store.
Omnichannel Retail is the Future
There’s no doubt that implementing these tools is now essential for today’s telecom retailer, along with countless other retail sectors. Prompted by changing consumer behaviour due to the pandemic, iQmetrix has seen a 400% increase in sales of its BOPIS solution year-over-year. And this is a trend that will continue, even post-COVID. Today, customers are using this functionality out of necessity—but in the future, they will continue to use it out of habit and convenience.
Stacy Hamer is the Vice President of Client Experiences at iQmetrix.