Omnichannel shopping is more widely adopted than ever before, accelerated by the pandemic. Shopify reports that 54 percent of consumers now say they’re likely to browse products online and purchase them in a store, and 53 percent say they look at products in a store, then purchase online. Additionally, after a more than 100 percent increase in buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) sales in 2020, they’re still on the rise. eMarketer predicts they’ll grow from $73.16 billion to more than $154 billion in 2025.
Although these new opportunities to engage customers – and capture revenues on new channels – are good news for merchants, they also present challenges. Merchants need to optimize new processes to enhance customer experiences, which have become the primary factors influencing how consumers decide where to shop. A 2021 Sitel Group study found that 94 percent of consumers recognize the impact of experience on purchasing decisions, and more than 33 percent of consumers considered ending their relationships with businesses due to poor experiences.
“There’s no tolerance for consumers not finding what they want in a store and a sales associate telling them to come back later. They’ll order online from a competitor. Consumers demand speed and convenience,” says John Choi, Product Manager for Epson America.
Businesses building an IT system that supports an omnichannel operation – or taking their first steps to expand beyond brick and mortar – are looking for solutions that give them the functionality they need to meet customers’ expectations on new channels and manage new processes.
“Even though some have implemented new solutions, they’re still trying to figure it out,” says Choi. “Some that adopted online ordering and an e-commerce storefront are looking into how to manage curbside pickup or self-ordering. They’re asking, ‘What works with what I have today?’”
It’s a difficult question for merchants to answer, given a wide range of options. But independent software vendors (ISVs) can help their clients settle the matter by providing a fully integrated suite of solutions for omnichannel merchants.
Evolve and Adapt to the New Consumer Norm
Successful ISVs have carved a niche in their markets, focusing on their areas of industry and development expertise. However, if you’re like most ISVs in the point of sale (POS) space, you’re getting inquiries from your clients asking what new technology is available to grow their business. Restaurants may want to improve their online ordering experience and profitability, and retailers might look for self-service solutions that integrate with their POS system. Or merchants may be searching for a way to manage BOPIS with an integrated system of mobile devices, kiosks, online ordering, and an in-store POS system.
Although the scale of the current demand is greater than in the past, the challenge isn’t a new one. Choi explains, “ISVs need to decide if they want to continue to focus on what they’re great at doing or expand and branch out to address new needs.”
He also points out that just maintaining the status quo isn’t an option. “Businesses that don’t address these needs will lose their competitiveness. ISVs must be willing to change and adapt to new market trends.”
Keys to Developing Valuable New Hardware Vendor Partnerships
When you decide to branch out into interactive signage, mobile ordering systems, or self-service solutions that integrate with the stationary POS or other software you offer, you’ll likely need to form partnerships with new hardware vendors.
Choi also advises looking for breadth and depth of innovation. “Vendors who provide a broad range of solutions that can meet the constantly changing IT environment are a better choice today than working with a hardware vendor who may be able to provide only one solution you need.”
This approach will also provide better experiences for your clients. “Merchants want more streamlined tech stacks,” Choi says. “They want solutions that integrate and can scale together, and it’s easier for merchants to work with one hardware vendor than with 10. Merchants want it to be easy.”
Choi adds that it’s smart to talk to partners about their integration capabilities. For example, Epson is integrated with all major platforms, from POS and kiosks to labeling solutions. “Working with vendors that already integrate with other platforms you want to integrate with is faster and adds more value to your business,” he comments.
The Path Forward
However you decide to meet your clients’ needs, Choi recommends, “Go broad.”
“Invest in adding adjacent solutions you aren’t currently providing today, knowing they will be necessary in the future. The consequence is not addressing the evolving needs of your customers and losing them,” he says. “Developing solutions that enhance convenience and speed will pay dividends for developers.”