Ten nuggets of omnichannel knowhow from Will Aubuchon

The fourth-generation hardware store owner took the stage in Las Vegas and encouraged retailers to take some scary risks.

Aubuchon Hardware has stood the test of time.

Las Vegas -- Will Aubuchon didn't hold back with the morbid metaphors during his stage session at the National Hardware Show.

"Death and demise have always been part of the retail tradition," he said, before inviting viewers to a retrospective of the "retail cemetery" of extant brands and "intensive care unit" of the struggling stores on the brink of extinction.

"The entire sky is not falling, but there are unidentified objects falling more and more from the sky, and they do have the ability to kill you," he said before outlining the multifaceted threat of Amazon. Did you know that 63% of American households are members of Amazon prime? Exactly.

The fourth-generation owner of Aubuchon Hardware -- founded in 1908 and now a major proponent of futuristic retail via its Aubuchon Go initiative -- acknowledged that committing to omnichannel was a hard and scary thing to do. However, commitment is all or nothing, "and in a sick kind of way, it's kind of fun too."

Here are 10 of his best tips for navigating the leap.

1. It's all about making things as seamless for the customer as possible. Amazon arguably leads the way with 1-click ordering, its subscribe & save feature, and Amazon Echo (for hands-free shopping).

2. If you don't have a buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) program, you might not survive the contemporary retail revolution. For example Walmart has been rolling out pickup lockers, apps, store redesigns, a pickup discount, and new store formats to allow pickup in tandem with getting groceries and gas. Some more accessible goals for the independent retailer? Look to Aubuchon's example. Customers can order from any device, have Aubuchon assemble the order in minutes, and then notify them when it's ready.

3. To sweeten the deal for your loyalty program, consider including customer-specific discounts and saved payment methods.

4. Don't just think about the front-end experience: consider how it's going to work behind the scenes at your store. At Aubuchon, employees know there's a new digital order when there's an audible sound at the store. Plus, a ticket is printed, there's a visual indicator at the POS, and they're currently working on the ability to send a message to the earpiece.

5. The pickup experience at the store should not be an afterthought either. Make sure it's right up front, and make it a visually appealing part of your store.

6. Customer experience goals are crucial when rolling out an omnichannel initiative. For instance: make it easy to reorder items, or offer precise delivery estimates.

7. When it comes to software as a service, "there's no white knight," he said. Getting multiple services to work together is complicated and hard, so be wary of providers who overpromise on their flexibility, and consider investing in your IT staff instead.

8. There's no need to reinvent the wheel. Rather, force yourself to become a frequent omnichannel shopper at Home Depot.

9. Your ultimate goal is realtime inventory, so it never hurts to begin improving accuracy today.

10. If you choose to skip omnichannel for now, the one thing you absolutely should have? Mobile-friendly emails.

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