The past two years have had a significant impact on economic development and people's behavior. Social distancing and mandated business closures during lockdowns have forced retailers to break new ground and to make up for the losses with new models – with mixed success.
Focusing more on omnichannel in stationary and online business is probably one of the best solutions to fulfill customer wishes, improve the consumer journey in the long term and make it more transparent.
With customer shopping behavior shifting increasingly towards online, customers embrace the option that they can have almost anything conveniently and easily delivered to their home. But this is often not particularly sustainable. Since the products are only known from pictures, many people order their goods in different versions, and for this reason, the number of returns has increased in parallel with larger order quantities.
So-called flagship stores could be a way towards omnichannel after the pandemic and the principle is simple: the dealers have a small local warehouse of their goods in the shop where customers can examine, try on and select the offers. Once the choice has been made, the retailer orders the goods from the warehouse and has them sent to the customer's home. If the goods still do not meet the requirements, they can be returned both in the shop and online. This creates more comfort for both sides. The customer can take a close look at the color, the fit and the model on site and decide on a specific version. As a result, the number of returns is already sustainably reduced, and retailers no longer have to hoard large stocks on site but can leave them in the warehouse. In this way, retail space and costs can be saved.
"Click & Collect" in times of a pandemic
Although the combination of ordering online and picking it up in a store is a step towards omnichannel, it is not yet fully developed. Especially with the “Click & Collect” model, customers often complain about the lack of communication and the associated lack of transparency. The solution would be a hybrid approach, in which the customer has the choice of how to buy goods, how to receive them and how to return them if necessary. However, this requires system updates at the cash registers on the retail side, as it must be ensured that the flow of goods can be booked both locally and online. But that would already be the biggest step, because the training effort of the staff would be minimal. After all, the employees would continue to work with the same checkout system and could control all processes along the consumer journey. A hybrid returns management system used in this context also leaves more leeway here.
On the one hand, the consumer experience is positively influenced by better communication and increased transparency, which in turn ensures greater customer satisfaction and loyalty. On the other hand, the dealers have more opportunities to use their staff efficiently and to generate more sales through higher customer satisfaction.
Full transparency is no longer an optional approach
When it comes to customer satisfaction, transparency is becoming increasingly important: at best, end customers demand real-time transparency of the logistics chain in the consumer experience – both in the delivery and in the returns process. However, to be able to guarantee this, modern IT platforms must be implemented through which these processes can be digitally mapped and managed. Conversely, digital returns management leads to better communication with the customer, since they receive all the information they need for a possible return right from the start.
In addition, retailers can better inquire about the wishes of their end consumers, and thus understand whether a return can possibly be averted under changed parameters, such as a discount granted on the goods. Transparency and automation, also in communication, reduce customer service costs and contribute to a lower return rate, and thus to sustainability.
The combination of stationary and online retail in omnichannel can therefore have a lasting positive influence on the consumer journey. This increases sales and customer loyalty. Part of this omnichannel can be a digital returns platform, which can also reduce sales losses that retailers who remain dependent on insert returns can only dream of.