What Vend are really in the business of doing

Vaughan Rowsell on the omnichannel retail experience

Vaughan Rowsell knows a thing or two when it comes to the business of retailing. At first glance the company he founded six years ago  — Vend — looks like it sells point of sale systems for retailers. Dig a little deeper, however, and it becomes clear that Rowsell and Vend aren’t in the business of selling fancy cash registers, no, they’ve embarked on a mission to transform the entire point of sale business and the company is now at the forefront of the omnichannel retail experience.

What is omnichannel?

If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘omnichannel’, it’s simply the catchall phrase for talking about the various — often disparate — threads that make up the modern retail ecosystem. This includes things such as physical stores, e-commerce websites, social media and payment systems. Getting them all working as one is the trick, and Vaughan Rowsell and Vend are the experts at making it happen.

“We’re only at the start of the omnichannel wave” says Rowsell. “What’s been holding it back so far has been technology — it simply wasn’t prolific enough. But it’s all coming together now thanks to mobile and the cloud and we’re starting to see interesting things happen in terms of engaging with customers through social media, opening online stores and mobile payments.

“The thing with omnichannel is, it’s really about retailers providing a consistent experience across all these channels and making it easier for customers to discover and buy their products.”

Where to start?

So how can a retailer keep up with the massive and fundamental, technology-fuelled changes that are happening all around them? When you don’t have bundles of cash lying around to pay for new systems, where do you even begin? Thankfully, this is something he’s put a lot of thought into.

“The scariest thing about this whole new digital world is the technology — it’s all online” says Rowsell. For a retailer looking to embrace omnichannel, the first step needn’t be the biggest when it comes to weaving your systems together with payments and customer expectations.

“A retailer can do it in bite-sized chunks” he says. “So day one might be replacing the cash register and the crusty old point of sale that runs on a computer in the back room. A new laptop or an iPad adds portability into the mix, but they could even use the same old computer if they want. For example, all Vend’s software runs in the cloud, so you just need a browser and an internet connection. It’s literally just a few clicks to get up and running on a brand new point of sale.”

Bringing it all together is the key.

Rowsell’s enthusiasm for the benefits a modern, omnichannel approach can bring to a retailer is infectious and he’s soon going into great detail about how simple it is for a retailer to stitch together their product data with their customer data in order to open up new, targeted ways of engaging the customer directly.

“There’s an opportunity to be really specific with it. Instead of, say, a blanket 10% discount for someone in the local area, take it to the next level by using technology like Vend, which provides a way for you know your customer because they’ve got a history with you. They might be into jeans or sportswear, so give them offers based around those interests.”

Omnichannel retailing means being versatile enough to be able take a number of approaches to selling your products, which is something technology enables.

“A retailer might decide that they want to engage better with customers by doing, say, a loyalty programme or selling gift cards, perhaps an electronic newsletter or offers tailored to customers” says Rowsell. “They can do all that with just the click of a few buttons. Retailers can try these things out within a few minutes, it’s very low risk and has very low overheads to get it up and running. It’s also simple to measure the difference it makes for their business”, says Rowsell.

Make it easy for customers to pay you.

Another important part of the omnichannel equation is payments — which is also being transformed by the widespread use of mobile technology.

“It’s about making it easier for the customer to pay you. So whether that means people paying through their mobile phone, Apple Pay, online, or with a card in store, that experience should be as frictionless as possible for the customer.

“Maybe in five years’ time the idea of carrying a card around in your wallet to pay for things might seem crazy as we all gravitate to paying for stuff with our smartwatches or our smartphones. Who knows, maybe you being present in the store will be enough to authorise a payment via your bank to that retailer” says Rowsell.

“There’s no loser by doing this stuff better”, says Rowsell of the omnichannel retail experience. “The easier it is for customers to buy your stuff, the better. They get the thing that they’re after sooner, the retailer benefits because they’re selling more products and the payments partner benefits through increased transaction volumes.”

If you’ve been trying to figure out how to get your retail business growing, embracing an omnichannel approach could be just the ticket.