Omnichannel is no longer a strategy; it’s an expectation. Brands and retailers are selling their products through more channels than ever before and consumer expectations have never been higher.
With increasing pressure to keep sales up and customers satisfied, it’s no surprise that many retailers are struggling to survive—while many others are closing their doors completely. J.Crew’s sales are down 10 percent from 2016 and are already down another 8 percent in the first quarter of 2017; Sears Holdings reported $557 million in lost revenue from 2016.
With physical retail stores closing nationwide, online sales are unsurprisingly increasing: Internet sales contributed to 42 percent of the growth within the US market and represented 11.7 percent of total sales in 2016. And, eCommerce sales increased 15.6 year over year, totaling $394.86 billion in sales—representing over 40 percent of all retail growth.
While concentrating on online channels is important, an innate problem linked to this strategy is the accumulating pressure on margins. Without a way to link inventory availability across online and in-store channels, retailers will almost inevitably face stockouts and overstocks, which compromise customer happiness.
How to Survive in the New Era of Retail
Who is this new era of retail looking good for? Brands ready to complement their eCommerce presence with new sales channels—and who understand the necessity of connecting these channels. A good example of this diversified strategy may surprise you. The eCommerce leader, Amazon.com, made up 65.9 percent of the $53.1 billion growth in U.S. online retail last year, and 27.4 percent of the $127.6 billion increase in the total retail market.
But even Amazon knows they need to expand beyond just their eCommerce channel: their eCommerce business has barely broken even over the past three years, meaning the economics of strictly focusing on eCommerce sales don’t always look positive for retailers and are ultimately only increasing margins.
While most retailers are optimizing their sales strategies for both brick-and-mortar and eCommerce channels, many are underutilizing wholesale.
Many brands hesitate when considering wholesale expansion for fear of losing brand identity once their products are lumped together with those of competitors. This is a valid concern, and to ameliorate it, they need to be picky. Consider starting with one or two trading partners—you’ll learn a lot in the process and know what to look for with future partners. It’s important for brands to take the time and do the research to ensure their first wholesale partners are great fits, otherwise, they will not only miss out on the sales but the learning opportunities that will help them grow and make smart decisions in the future.
It can be more expensive to choose only those retailers which brands feel they can trust with their product, but if a brand’s focus is customer loyalty and selling a lifestyle, it’s well worth it. They might see smaller margins but can retain more control over how their product is positioned—both aesthetically and verbally by well-trained sales associates.
There are many strategic reasons behind a wholesale expansion, but in today’s retail landscape the number one reason is simple: to keep your customers happy. In today’s consumer choice economy, you need to reach both current and potential customers how they want to be reached. For many, that’s through a wholesale outlet.
Connecting Your Solutions for a Seamless Experience
When a brand is trying to be everywhere their customers are, it’s nearly impossible to manually track inventory, data, and sales operations among all channels. Fortunately, retailers have access to technology that enables businesses to have all their forecast data in a centralized hub.
Stitch Labs partners with Lightspeed, a platform that enables retailers to have the flexibility to sync their sales within various channels. With Lightspeed, retailers can now have the ability to sell their products on multiple eCommerce channels while consolidating multiple point of sale systems.
Take Young & Reckless, a Los Angeles-based streetwear brand that has seen a 35 percent decrease of margin of error of inventory tracking. “By expanding into new channels and opportunities with Stitch, our sales numbers have increased while errors have decreased, providing us with a scalable way to react and grow rapidly,” said Anjulei Aurelio, Business Operations Manager. With Stitch, you can literally click a button to integrate a new sales channel, and just as easily take that channel away—enabling your brand to test new channels and see where your sales are performing best.
Source: Young & Reckless
Earlier this year, Stitch Labs introduced a new integration with SPS Commerce, which allows brands to automatically sync wholesale orders from the wide range of SPS Commerce trading partners into Stitch Labs to reconcile inventory and automate order workflows while selling on multiple channels. The workflow automation enabled by the integration allows brands and retailers to manage their wholesale and direct to consumer channels simultaneously without the fear of excess inventory or overselling.
“Visibility is central to achieving multichannel order orchestration success,” said Peter Zaballos, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, SPS Commerce. “Our joint solutions give customers real-time insight into their inventory across all channels, which enables them to provide their customers a seamless customer experience while boosting productivity.”
The Future of Retail Sales
By investing in omnichannel capabilities and technology, retailers have the ability to survive in this complicated, on-demand era. Having the right tools in place enables your team to measure the full value of all channels while preventing costly out of stocks or overstocks.
To learn more about how to streamline the omnichannel shopping experience for your customers, download our new guide, How to Grow Your Business in a Consumer Choice Economy.