While many retail experts cite e-commerce as the future of retail, bricks-and-mortar stores still have an important and constant role in what is to come for retail businesses – which should not be overlooked.

Yet, as online shopping grows in popularity the pressure mounts for physical businesses – especially small and medium size retailers  – to keep up with shifting trends, and meet the expectations and demands of consumers, who are used to an omnichannel offering. As a result 2016 will witness many alterations to physical retail businesses as we know them today; here are three key changes small businesses will want to consider as part of their omnichannel strategies for the year ahead:

A single view of the truth

Much hype has been generated over the future appearances and layouts of physical businesses but it is now time for retailers to consider their structural and operational logistics to support growth and ensure they can deliver in a multichannel environment.

To best provide consumers with optimum experiences, especially when operating across more multiple store locations, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) need access to single view of stock availability and consumer demand. This single stock pool needs to be accessible for all sales staff across the store estate in order to ensure availability can meet demand.

Head office in the cloud

This year we’ll see an increasing number of businesses adopt cloud-based technology, which enables businesses with multiple stores to better access and effectively manage stock and storerooms in a more efficient way.

By implementing cloud technology, stock can be moved from back-of-shop to a remote warehouse, potentially freeing up space in store for more inventory to be displayed and sold. Centralised best practices and key decisions can be shared instantly, benefiting the whole business by keeping implementation and messaging streamlined and consistent across physical stores.

Covering all touch-points

Consumers no longer differentiate between channels and this year will see more SMEs and retail businesses follow suit by offering more opportunities for consumers to combine online and physical shopping in store. To achieve this successfully SMEs must ensure that brand consistency is maintained across all channels to provide customers with a fully-integrated brand experience.

Today’s digitally enabled shoppers no longer have the patience for disjointed shopping, so by centralising the view of stock, using cloud technology to instill insight and best practice and bridging the on- and off-line divide, businesses can deliver the seamless customer experience consumers have come to expect.

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