Succeeding at Omnichannel: Q&A with Chris Tanner, Co-Author of ‘The Omnichannel Survival Guide’

Q&A with Chris Tanner, Co-Author of 'The Omnichannel Survival Guide’

In the ever more competitive world of retail, customers today have the opportunity to make purchases and buying decisions at their every twist, turn and click. As a result, merchants need to be prepared to make buying from them as easy, enjoyable and seamless as possible, across all of their sales channels.

This is the new world of omnichannel retail.

But despite 87% of retailers agreeing that omnichannel is critical to their business success, just 8% feel they’ve truly mastered it.

This is where the newest addition to your library comes into play. Chris Tanner, Founder of Brightpearl, and Derek O’Carroll, CEO have created ‘The Omnichannel Survival Guide: For the New Retail Reality’, which provides expert advice to enable merchants to traverse the new world of omnichannel retail and not only survive – but thrive and prosper.

Download the book for free now.

To find out more about the book and the motivations behind why it was written, we spoke with Co-Author, and Brightpearl Founder, Chris. Here’s what we found out…

1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

In 2000 I started a skateboard manufacturing business, which over the following few years grew quickly. In an effort to keep operations lean, I was keen to use software and automation wherever possible. Trying to link separate software systems together was frustrating, time consuming and unreliable, so I decided to write my own platform that dealt with the different components in a single system. Customers, orders, inventory, purchasing and accounting were all in the same place. This then led on to a separate company focused on just the software – Brightpearl – which I founded in 2006.

A few years later, hosted ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce and Shopify became commonplace, and marketplaces like Amazon and eBay opened up for merchants. They introduced new systems challenges. To have ‘everything in one place’ for efficiency and automation, orders, customers and inventory needed to be synchronized across all channels. Brightpearl launched connectors to the leading sales channels, and is now one of the leading mid-market retail and wholesale management solutions. 

2. What inspired you to write ‘The Omnichannel Survival Guide’?

One of the reasons I started Brightpearl was to help people run their retail businesses in a different way. By using better software and better processes, they would become more efficient and more profitable. Technology could free up their time to do other things, and gain more insight into their businesses. Seeing other companies transform themselves has been very satisfying.

Over the last ten years or so with Brightpearl, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to hundreds of retailers of all sizes. I’ve seen them tackle the same problems I had when I was running a similar business, and more recently, the problems of multiple sales channels and multiple communication channels. This book is a way to share some of the knowledge I’ve picked up over the course of conversations, support tickets and consultation meetings.

3. What is the book about? And what can readers expect to learn from it?

The book talks about the world of modern retail, where consumers are always online, moving between locations, devices and channels. They expect a seamless and personalized experience whether they use your website or your store, whether they send an email or call you on the phone. It’s about the challenges that retailers face when trying to serve these customers; all the way from marketing through order processing to after-sales care. The book also looks at how a sustainable and ethical approach to business can pay dividends, with examples from some of the biggest brands out there.

Hopefully the book will get your mind thinking about some of the solutions to the challenges of retail today.

4. Who are you hoping to help with this book?

This book will be valuable for retailers who are growing quickly and struggling to keep up with operations, customer service and management reporting. There should be some ideas for how to join up the dots and have a more efficient business.

This book will also be valuable for retailers who are not sure how to expand into more channels. It explains what a successful multichannel or omnichannel business looks like, with examples and suggested software packages to make it all work. 

Are you curious as to whether you’ve achieved omnichannel excellence or not? Take our quiz!

5. Why should retailers download and read it?

Any retailer wanting to expand successfully across channels should put some time aside to have a look through this book. No business I’ve come across yet can claim to provide their customers with a seamless, consistent and personalized experience across all sales and communication channels, coupled with detailed reporting that shows exactly what’s working and what’s not. Even if you have most of your business under control, no doubt there will be some ideas that can help you move forwards faster.

6. In your opinion, what is the current state of omnichannel? Why are so many retailers failing to develop a successful omnichannel strategy?

The last few years we have seen a huge leap forwards in front-office software systems; those that help retailers sell more stuff, such as Amazon, eBay, Shopify, BigCommerce, Google Adwords and those that help retailers serve their customers better, e.g. Zendesk, Front, MailChimp … this generates a huge amount of data, and a massively varied set of customers and ways to purchase.

It’s hard for retailers to be consistent across all these systems; think about prices, inventory levels, discounts, offers, returns and so on. Keeping on top of multiple sales channels is a lot of manual work. Why haven’t most retailers automated these processes? Linking up multiple front-office systems in a retail business which might have tens of thousands of SKUs is complex, and each of the systems is a moving target. It’s not feasible for most retailers to do this in-house, so unless the retailer moves to a central business management solution like Brightpearl, many operations stay manual and time consuming.

The fact that a customer can communicate with a business in so many ways is also a new challenge which many retailers haven’t yet mastered. Email, phone, Twitter, Facebook Messenger, Amazon, eBay … however they get in touch with you, they are the same customer. They want you to know who they are, where their order is or how they can return something.

Combine these multiple communication methods with multiple sales channels and you have a lot of moving parts. It’s not easy – though platforms like Zendesk and Front are working towards providing a way to work with customers in all places. To fit seamlessly into a retail business, the communication front-end needs to be tightly linked to back-office data such as sales orders and inventory levels. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.

Dealing with the customer is just the start – successful retailers will need to measure, monitor and then improve every process to stay ahead. Data needs to be collected, collated and prepared for reports so that retailers can use it to make decisions. Handling the complexities of modern retail is tricky, time consuming and expensive. Unless retailers really commit to making it work (perhaps with dedicated operations staff) then they are likely to get left behind.

7. If you could describe your book in one sentence, what would you say?

The essential survival guide for businesses struggling to come to grips with the modern retail landscape. 

8. How can retailers get a copy of the book? How much does it cost? And when will it be available?

The ebook is available to download from this website, for free, right now. A new chapter will be released every week, and you can enter your email on the site to get the new chapters sent directly to you each time they’re uploaded. But if you just can’t wait to read the full book, it’s also available to purchase from Amazon as an ebook as well. 

That’s all from Chris for now, but we’ll be back with more blogs and omnichannel insights shortly!