Omnichannel is the ability to connect with and sell to customers across multiple channels in a consistent and unified way. And it can mean a lot of things but, for telecom retailers, it means staying competitive in the future of the industry. Now more than ever, omnichannel has become essential. And while customers expect it—48 percent of shoppers have ordered goods online and picked them up in-store according to a recent survey—the fundamental shift in retail also means omnichannel is a must. Due to COVID-19 policies and changing customer comfort levels with engaging in physical retail channels, the omnichannel experience enables retailers to adopt non-traditional retail methods so they can stay connected and selling.
So, what are some of the key seamless omnichannel solutions that are essential for telecom? And what does it really mean to implement them into retail strategies? We're defining the terms you need to know in this blog.
Here are 5 essential omnichannel technologies for telecom retail, defined:
BOPIS and ROPIS
BOPIS stands for buy online, pick up in-store. ROPIS stands for reserve online pick up in-store. These two processes allow a customer to either purchase or reserve on the corporate website then go to the nearest store to pick up the product. The selected store is notified of the sale or reserved item, picks and packs the device, and holds aside for the customer.
Quite simply, this is table stakes for any big telecom brand, to offer to their customer. Not only are the big telecom brands all offering—or in the process of implementing BOPIS and ROPIS—but there is more and more hesitation from consumers to go to the store. If they do, it’s likely they know what they’re looking for and are less inclined to spend time in-store shopping than they once were.
However, even post-COVID its physical store sales that still account for 63% of all sales, according to JD Power’s recent survey. A customer's appetite to end their customer journey in the physical store remains despite the changes in retail as a whole. Traffic to corporate websites is strong but the gap in customers turning from website visitors to website shoppers also remains. JD power comments that ““wireless carriers are doing a good job of getting customers to their websites, but struggle to convert those experiences into sales.” BOPIS and ROPIS, along with the required integrations to enable it, is the way to bridge this gap. But while it’s the connecting piece between digital channels and physical shopping, it is no longer a differentiator in telecom retail—it’s a requirement.
Curbside pickup allows customers to stay in their car and the store associate will bring their purchased or reserved item to them, which they would have bought or reserved online. This alternative method of retailing is specifically for those stores that have access to parking spots outside of their physical location. The customer still controls what store they pick up their item from, but avoid entering a store entirely which limits face-to-face interactions. Retailers who enable curbside pickup will ideally have a mobile device POS solution to enable payments to occur at the car through the tablet for those purchases reserved online.
Most telecom retailers implementing BOPIS will need to implement curbside pick up or a grab-and-go solution. This is so that when parking isn’t available time spent in-store is still limited. As customer comfort levels remain low with visiting physical stores, it’s important to remember that there may still be a desire to shop. The mix in telecom retail suggests that telecom customers still want to pick up their purchases in-store—no matter where their transaction happens. And, if nothing else, the number of outdoor signage for “curbside pickup” at every big box retail chain will mean that customers will assume this is now part of the new normal of retail. Telecom retailers will need to follow suit.
BORIS or Return Anywhere
BORIS, not to be confused with BOPIS, stands for buy online return in-store. This is easier said than done for telecom retailers, who often have a mix of retail channels that don’t always talk to each other (more on that in #3). According to a recent survey, 35% of shoppers have ordered online and returned purchases in-store. In telecom, where the physical store channel itself can be varied and disjointed, this can pose a problem for the customer even without them realizing it.
Imagine if a customer purchases a device in a branded carrier store. The customer should be able to return the device at any location where they see that same carrier brand. However, it’s not as simple as one would think—corporate stores are not always easily discernable from individually owned retailers when the branding is the same.
In an ideal world, a telecom customer can purchase a device either online or in any branded retail location and return it to any branded retail location. They should be able to do so whether purchased at a corporate-owned store or authorized retailer.
More and more telecom brands are looking to implement this since the need to unify the customer experience through all communication channels is key to optimizing the customer user experience with the telecom shopping brand.
Inventory management refers to the process of ordering, storing, distributing, monitoring, and using a company’s inventory.
Okay, so this isn’t an omnichannel solution in terms of ‘enabling customers to access a company’s brand and products through various channels.’ But it is foundational for all telecom retailers. Having inventory transparency in real time across all channels is a non-negotiable part of being a successful telecom retailer be it through corporate stores, authorized retailer stores, online shopping stores, national retail chains, multi-carrier retail chains, and more.
Often legacy inventory management solutions will see part of the picture, but not the business as a whole. For instance, corporate websites will see other corporate store inventory levels but not authorized retailer inventory levels. But for the customer, the authorized retailer location may be more convenient for them and they may want to pick up a device rather than travel to a corporate location.
Two roadblocks occur for retailers who don’t have effective inventory management systems:
If the retailer can’t see what inventory they have in all channels, the retailer can’t enable foundational omnichannel solutions like BOPIS or ROPIS.
If you can’t take in inventory and have it recognized across all channels, you can’t enable BORIS in all locations.
This results in an inconsistent and confusing customer experience that may reflect poorly on the brand. A customer should be able to get access to the same products, same fulfillment methods, same everything in all locations associated with that telecom brand. Inventory management that provides multi-channel visibility is the essential starting point to make this happen.
Contactless payments mean processing payments without exchanging any shared devices—no physical contact between the consumer’s payment device and the physical terminal. In post-COVID retail, there is a need to limit contact points in the physical store. And with 63% of retail sales still occurring in-store, managing expectations and providing security is a must for telecom.
But high cost of devices or products, a credit card tap isn’t always an option. This is because there is usually a low limit on what a payment terminal or customer card allows for tappable transactions.
This may not seem like an omnichannel technology at first blush, but what if customers could still pay through an online channel, even in the physical store?
A good contactless payment solution will allow customers to pay online but through their own devices, limiting physical touchpoints. It’s a great way to reduce the need for the store associate to pass the terminal to the customer, or for the customer to use a shared payment kiosk in the store.
COVID-19 precautions mean a lower in-store capacity. While this ensures safety for everyone involved in the retail experience, it can cause line-ups outside your physical store. This can not only affect a customer’s actual experience with your store but can also negatively impact their perception of your brand. Queue management is a means of controlling the queue of customers in a store, or the number of customers allowed into the store. It reduces the need for shoppers to stand in a physical line-up while ensuring their in-store needs are being met.
Whether to satisfy public health regulations, customer service comfort levels, or both, telecom stores are limiting their in-store capacities. Because of this, retailers need to find a way to control the flow of customer engagement even before they get inside the store. Much like contactless payments, using the customer’s mobile phone as a channel to facilitate a physical interaction through this high quality phone system.
A good queue management software (QMS) will allow customers to check-in online at the physical store once they get to the area. They will then immediately be connected to the store or an associate. Associates will be notified of the queue booking and can send a notification back to the customer once it’s their turn to in-store.
Want to learn more about how to leverage omnichannel technologies in the new normal of telecom retail? Download the “Omnichannel Playbook: Post-COVID success in telecom” for more research.