Omni-channel is the way forward for smaller resellers

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Faced with tough economic times, smaller resellers need to look at changing the way they do business.

Among retailers the buzzwords have become ‘omni channel’ or ‘multi-channel’ shopping and communication.

The phrases, which more or less mean the same thing, are part of a trend where retailers set up combined online and bricks-and-mortar type operations.

While the bigger retailers have seen the writing on the wall for some years, the economic crisis is forcing smaller resellers to adopt similar operations.

But it is more than just simply having a website to sell products, it means resellers have to be available to customers through all shopping channels including mobile, PC, bricks-and-mortar, television and catalogues. They have to see their bricks-and-mortar as just another front for a bigger online operation.

Tesco’s Philip Clarke  has been warning for a while now that the days of the old retail ‘space race’ were over and smaller cheaper stores backed by a decent distribution operation were the way forward.

He said that retail will not be about buying large swathes of new real estate but how they relate to customers, their communities and the countries in which they operate.

Ironically, to become omni-channel, smaller computer resellers need to lean more on technology and the Internet to create environments where they can compete. But there are considerable advantages in doing so. Online there is little prejudice between a smaller reseller and a large one. The customer only sees a web page and not a small store in a rougher part of town.

It is still a business model that needs to evolve, but it seems that the traditional store will be just a place where customers see and experience goods that they will later buy online.

This will take an iron nerve from the smaller resellers who are used to selling directly from their stores. They will not only have to spruce up their displays, but make sure that when the customer comes to buy, they do so through their online operation.

But it also brings out things which are a little less obvious. There are resellers who do not feel the need to have a delivery operation, which effectively cuts their own throats. Others will not sell into other countries.

But also the web presence of smaller resellers needs to be spruced up dramatically. The days of having a site done on the cheap are no longer acceptable. A site has to be a good experience for the customer.

The rise in social media, means that customer standards are a lot higher, and a bad experience can have major repercussions. If a reseller handles a transaction badly, chances are that it will be reported to many different people and tarnish a company’s image badly.