Retailers of All Sizes Can Deliver a Seamless Shopping Experience Many companies are providing consumers a multiplicity of options for how to shop. Here's how to maximize them all.

By Harry Whitehouse

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Living in the digital age means that consumers have virtually unlimited access to information, products and services literally in the palms of their hands.

So, here comes the big question: What's the best way for retailers to reach customers in this digital era?

The simple answer is to go omnichannel.

Omnichannel is much more than a buzzword. It represents a distinct shift in the way consumers interact with a company. From a retail perspective, omnichannel retailing gives consumers several options for how to shop -- online, via a mobile device or in a physical store -- and these channels are not mutually exclusive. For instance, in-store purchases can pull from online inventory and mobile devices can serve as digital wallets.

Related: Finding a 'Theory of Everything' for Retail

The goal of omnichannel retailing is to provide consumers with a seamless experience so that they can shop any way they choose, via their smartphone, tablet, desktop or in a store and feel that their experience is consistent throughout all channels. And customers are increasingly expecting this integrated shopping capability.

So how can businesses who are not household brand names keep up with omnichannel demands?

Small to midsize retailers can provide a cohesive omnichannel shopping experience. It's just a matter of having the right tools.

Here are a few tips to help retailers put together a fluid, integrated omnichannel program:

Related: Why the Future of Retail Will Blow Your Mind

1. Select the right technology.

Having a seamless fulfillment process in place is central to creating an omnichannel experience for customers. This means providing those who make online purchases the same level of instant gratification that's found when buying a product in a store. For retailers inside stores, offering ship-from-store services can bridge the gap between the brick-and-mortar presence and the ecommerce site.

Because customers expect this omnichannel experience, businesses need an ecommerce delivery partner that can offer a platform with an array of services, technologies and integrations and that lets them optimize the shipping operation without sacrificing efficiency. As retail becomes increasingly competitive across a growing number of channels, entrepreneurs must balance customer demands with internal priorities. Having the right shipping technology platform in place will enable businesses to manage this balance, while avoiding disruption.

Related: When Marketing Personalization Fails

2. Use mobile means to close the gap.

According to IBM, consumers want to be able to use their mobile devices to pay for goods at checkout, find coupons and promotions, search for lower prices, locate products in a store and receive personalized promotions.

Even if a small or midsize business does not have its own mobile app, managers can still find ways for customers to engage with the company through smartphones and tablets.

For instance, make sure the mobile site has a responsive web design. This means that the layout looks consistent on a variety of devices. The end goal is to make it easy for customers to purchase directly through their devices without enlarging their screens or pressing on the wrong button.

Take the mobile experience a step further by creating digital coupons that can be scanned inside a store. Customers will appreciate not having to print the coupons and this is a courtesy to the environment as well.

3. Get visual!

Developing compelling visual content is an absolute must if the goal is to help consumers better understand the company's brand identity. Be sure that the visuals (colors and logos) remain consistent across all channels to creating an omnichannel experience for customers.

Invest in a professional photographer to capture products in a visually appealing manner. Give customers the option of a 360 degree view of products on the website or a magnified look, so they can see all the details up close.

There's no denying that people are shopping in an omnichannel world. The sooner retailers recognize and embrace this, the greater their chances of improving the consumer experience and growing their businesses.

Related: Fashioning a Memorable Retail Experience That People Will Share

Wavy Line
Harry Whitehouse

Co-Founder and CTO, Endicia

Harry Whitehouse is chief technology officer and co-founder of Endicia, a company offering shipping technologies and services to small and large e-commerce businesses across the United States. A former Stanford associate professor with more than 35 years of industry and management experience, Whitehouse has led Endicia since its inception in 1982.

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