Omnichannel has been a buzzword for years in the retail industry and has been vaguely synonymous with digital transformation. But now there’s more urgency, as traditional merchants large and small are having to place more emphasis on technology, e-commerce and integrated online and offline experiences (e.g., BOPIS) during the pandemic.
Shopify and Yelp make parallel moves. Two developments in the small business segment illustrate this omnichannel acceleration clearly. Shopify has launched an updated point-of-sale (POS) system for the post-COVID retail landscape. And Yelp has introduced or enhanced a number of features to better help local business owners compete in a new, more virtual economy.
Among the long list of Yelp updates discussed in its blog post were:
- Virtual Service Offerings: an icon that appears in search results to help businesses providing online services such as classes, tutorials, consultations to be more easily identified. There’s also a filter
- Surfacing takeout, curbside pickup: Yelp is prompting users on the homepage to discover restaurants that offer takeout and now has additional filters for restaurant takeout and delivery options. It will soon be doing the same for curbside pickup.
- Yelp Collections will offer lists of open, relevant businesses (curated by Yelp’s community team).
- Yelp Connect is available as a free tool to communicate updates to customers of individual businesses
- Better COVID banners (available for free and in any category) for business pages to communicate critical information
- New Business Highlights with COVID-friendly categories such as curbside pickup, giftcards, remote services. These are icons that appear on the business profile.
- Yelp for Business improved: The company also introduced a new version of Yelp for Business, with a better UI and more data for business owners.
Shopify integrating online and offline sales. Just as Yelp is trying to enable restaurants and service businesses to more effectively move into omnichannel fulfillment, Shopify is doing something similar for SMB retailers who desperately need the help right now.
The company introduced an updated point-of-sale (POS) system that integrates offline and online sales capabilities, orders and payments into “one unified customer experience.” The new POS seems full of useful features, designed to enable merchants to serve online, in-store or curbside customers in a flexible way.
Among them, are app integration, more “actionable insights on store performance and reporting” and mobile checkout for in-store or curbside usage.
Shopify said that “merchants who connected their online and in-store sales with Shopify POS saw revenue increase by 30% year over year.” It added that the company has recently seen a “10-fold increase in retail stores on Shopify adapting to social-distance selling by offering local delivery or buy-online-pickup-in-store.”
Why we care. Local businesses face a crisis far worse than 2008. The vast majority of SMBs have only a few months of cash, if that. In this context, being able to deliver services online or improve visibility to potential customers can mean the difference between survival and failure.
What we’re seeing in these announcements is part of a larger structural shift or acceleration taking place the market, spurred by the coronavirus. Offline sales or fulfillment aren’t going away — they’re going to get really weird over the next few months — but the capacity to sell and fulfill online and better integrate online and offline operations (e.g. BOPIS) will separate the winners from those that fail to adapt.