5 Things You Need to Launch an Omni-Channel Strategy

If you’re ready, here are 5 things you’ll need in place for your omni-channel plan.

1. Pick your channels

Now’s the time to make some smart decisions about which channels you’d like to use. Every business is different and will require its own blend of channels for the most effective strategy. Maybe you have a bricks-and-mortar location and really just want an eCommerce solution in place. Start there! You can always add new channels, like mobile, later. Keep in mind that since you want each channel to be seamlessly integrated with all of the rest, it might be wise to start small, perfect the experience and build from there.

2. Cloud-based hosting

For a smooth omni-channel experience, rely on the cloud. Cloud-based hosting is flexible, so you can expand or cut back as needed. Cloud systems allow you to work from a single network, eliminating the disparateness that destroys strong omni-channel positions. It’s a lot more reliable than most in-house options, with significantly less downtime, and it eliminates the hassle of maintaining your own network.

3. Appropriate hardware, technologies and geeks

If you’ve got your channels selected and your cloud system rocking, line up the hardware and technologies you’ll need. If you’re about to launch an exciting mobile commerce option, it’s time to look at tablets, phones, and other mobile devices. eCommerce ventures will require smooth websites with intelligent features that melt into your other channels and swift, reliable payment processes. A physical store needs point of sale technologies, as well as everything else that goes with the space: utilities, décor, music, and other retail environment must-haves. Be sure you get smart, dedicated people to help you set up and get started. The best providers will also make themselves available indefinitely to help troubleshoot and maintain.

4. A single source payment solution

You can’t launch an omni-channel plan without considering payments. It’s the end point of every retail experience, and one that requires power, security, and strategy. For every channel, you need a method of payment. Choose a single source solution to optimize the seamlessness of an omni-channel experience. Smart plans offer more than just basic credit card processing or only mobile payments. Find one that can take care of all of it: mobile, credit card, ACH/eCheck, the physical POS, a checkout solution and eCommerce, over the phone payments, and the payment gateway. Bet you didn’t know you needed all of this, did you? It’s a lot, but it helps to have it all coming from one provider, so that you don’t need to mess with multiple providers: a gateway from over here, your iPhone swiper from this guy, online checkout from somebody else, check readers from another. Keep it simple. A single source solution means everything works together naturally and integrates seamlessly. It can also provide you with cloud-based and real-time reporting, so you can manage transactions from all of your channels from a single hub the moment they happen.

5. Smart marketing

You don’t want to launch an awesome and exciting new thing like an omni-channel plan with just a whimper, do you? Nope. Get together some smart marketing ideas to announce your exciting new change. Blast it across social media, do a press release, don’t stop talking about it. And offer some big incentives for people to try out your new channels with sales and specials. Part of the brilliance of omni-channel is a consistent brand message, one of fluidity and flexibility, ranging across all channels. Each channel may be a different voice, but they all tell the same story. Consider your story. And share it well.

For more about omni-channel, check out our blog posts: Why would I want an omni-channel strategy? And What is omni-channel? Explain it to me.

Photo credit: Geoffrey Dudgeon

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Forte CEO Jeff Thorness talks omni-channel and retail with PYMNTS.com.

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