5 ways to successfully integrate your ecommerce and bricks-and-mortar store

Integrating your online and offline shops has never been more relevant. When covid-19 hit retailers flocked to selling online. Many retailers struggled with integrating online and offline stores. In this guide, we look at 5 ways to make managing online and offline shops easier.

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Mark Allen
7 min read

When COVID-19 struck, many retailers scrambled to launch a website so they could continue to generate revenue while in-store shopping was off the cards.

However, many did not do so in a considered way and have found themselves running two separate businesses. This has resulted in retailers struggling to find the balance of time, investment and effort required to successfully sell across both physical and digital stores.

It’s something we’ve seen happen all too often here at AirPOS and something we have been working hard behind the scenes to tackle.

It’s why we’ve invested over one million pounds in developing an integration between AirPOS and Shopify, the leading e-commerce platform for retailers. And it’s why we’re offering that integration free of charge to all of our Pro-level customers (instead of charging thousands of pounds like many retail EPOS providers!).

Sections

  1. Unite business systems and policies
  2. Use real-time inventory management
  3. Make both shops look and feel similar
  4. Cross-promote both experiences
  5. Build a community
Shopify on phone
Image source: Unsplash. Image owner:@charlesdeluvio

In the research and development of the integration, we learned a few things from businesses that were successfully running not just multichannel businesses but had integrated their sales channels into a wider omnichannel strategy. Confused? Read our article to understand the definition of omnichannel sales.

If you’re a retailer looking for advice on how to launch an e-commerce site, or if you’re an existing multichannel retailer wanting to know how to better integrate your online and offline stores - you’re in the right place. Here are five tactics to create a successful omnichannel retail business.

One system, one business

One of the biggest errors a retailer can make is to keep their online and offline businesses separate. The most successful retailers actively work to make the customer experience as similar as possible both online and offline.

Think of your business as one unit with two entrances and a large display window beside each. You wouldn’t promote a sale at one entrance and not the other, or use different branding, signage or completely different products at one entrance and not the other, would you?

Open Store
Image Source: Unsplash Image Owner: @mikepetrucci

As an omnichannel retailer, you must think of your physical store and your online store as one business. You have one physical store entrance and one virtual entrance but customers are still entering one shop, so they should expect to be treated the same way regardless of which door they enter by.

In its most basic form, this means ensuring pricing and promotions are in sync and that returns and gift cards integrate across both channels.  

The in-store experience is all about the customer relationship, your customer service and a broader brand experience and that is difficult to replicate online. Your online store is all about convenience and that can often be a challenge for a physical store.

But the multichannel retailers who are getting it right use the infrastructure of online and offline shops together to enhance and improve on both experiences.

Try offering click and collect options on your website or "try and buy" in-store with an added home delivery option for shoppers who are out for the day and don’t want to carry bags with them. Ensure that if you have customer accounts, that these customers can also purchase while logged into their account on your website.

Real-Time Inventory Management

One of the biggest challenges of selling online and in brick-and-mortar stores is inventory management.

Store Front
Image source: Unsplash Image owner: @theblowup

Many businesses "ring-fence" stock for their website or set artificial out of stock levels for their e-commerce system to avoid disappointing customers when items that appear as available online are sold on the shop floor (or vice versa).

Forgetting for a moment the likelihood of being left with unsold stock which could have been snapped up by online buyers, this sort of experience can be deadly for a new e-commerce retailer. A single bad online review can put off potential shoppers when a business is in its early stages and hasn’t had the chance to build up positive reviews online.

The solution is to get an EPOS system that deals with both online and offline sales in real-time. With AirPOS + Shopify, when an item is sold in either your physical store or online it is deducted from your centralised inventory instantaneously, making disappointed customers a thing of the past.

Think Brand, not Shop

Omnichannel’s true goal (besides improving your sales) is about uniting both channels to create one seamless experience - a brand experience.

This means you need to maintain consistency between your online and offline stores. Choose colours on your website which reflect the colour scheme in your store. Ensure that the fonts used on your website are mirrored on in-store signage and use a consistent tone of voice in your social media posts, your website copy and on your in-store merchandising.

Store front
Image source: Unsplash Image owner: @marcusloke

Going deeper, the best multichannel retailers align their visual merchandising with their e-commerce layouts. If your shop window features an incredible display of seasonal products, these same items should be featured prominently on your website. If you heavily feature a specific prop or stylistic flourish in your store displays, it should be a visual motif in some way on your site too.

Using an e-commerce system like Shopify makes this simple. You can add your logo, branding colours and fonts with ease.

Get social

Almost a quarter of UK shoppers say they use social media to research an upcoming purchase but a major psychological hurdle for online browsers is uncertainty and unfamiliarity.

Being a physical retailer gives you a major advantage over the e-commerce giants like Amazon. You can easily feature the reality of your shop floor, demonstrate the products you sell and showcase the personality of your people on your website and your social media channels.

Shop local
Image Source: Pexels Image Owner: @rodnae-prod

Ensuring your digital presence is consistent with and showcases your physical store helps potential customers feel like they know your business before they even set foot in it. This helps to overcome uncertainty, build trust and increases the likelihood of closing a sale, and importantly, creating a return customer.

Use your digital communication channels to promote the in-store experience and use the in-store experience to promote your business online.

Build a community everywhere

Having a physical location is a major advantage for retailers who take full advantage of loyalty programs to build a community around their business.

Your online store should be no different.

Shop in store
Image Source: Unsplash Image Owner: @blakewisz

Ensuring that customers who shop in-store can use their earned discounts on your online shop and vice versa is vitally important. You may wish to incentivise more in-store visits from these highly engaged customers as it gives you even more opportunity to upsell and develop relationships.

Or you may wish to reward physical store customers with early or exclusive access to online clearance events.

Making your loyalty scheme members feel like they are part of an exclusive club can be a smart commercial move as it builds loyalty and increases the likelihood of repeat purchases.

Building your loyalty program also allows you to communicate with customers regularly through email or SMS marketing. If your loyalty program tracks their purchase history you can cleverly target specific users with offers to help you a clear stock or give you a much-needed sales boost when you’re having a slow month.

If your privacy policy allows, you can even use the data you have gathered as part of your loyalty system to target these highly engaged customers with advertisements on social media to bring them back in-store or to your website.

Unlike most EPOS systems, AirPOS offers free, easy to use loyalty programme software as part of its subscription. Our loyalty system is one of our customers’ favourite features and has played a major role in our most successful customer’s stories. Stories such as The Comic Book Guys use loyalty to grow their retail business.

Final thoughts

Launching an online store doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated but ensuring both sides of your business work seamlessly together requires some strategic thought.

A fully integrated online and offline inventory system will help you achieve multichannel status but to be truly ‘omnichannel’ means fully integrating your store’s procedures, policies and appearance and continually cross-promoting both experiences.

Our free EPOS Shopify integration is the key to mastering omnichannel retail without the budget of a major High Street chain.

If you’re an existing bricks-and-mortar retailer at the start of your omnichannel journey, we offer a complete ‘done for you’ service to get you online and integrate your new website into your existing retail business.

The package includes your EPOS system, POS hardware, a professionally designed Shopify site and a professional inventory scanning system.

Created in partnership with Shopify experts Chorus E-commerce, this is the most competitive multichannel retail offer in the marketplace. Book a demo call with one of our multichannel experts today.