“I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything… at least not at the same time. So think of your priorities not in terms of what activities you do, but when you do them. Timing is everything.”

– Dan Millman

As sure as night follows day we know that retailers have finite budgets. And while we acknowledge that an omnichannel offer requires construction both in branded offer, business information systems, logistics, resource and strategy deployment, it typically must be constructed in stages.

So, where to invest first? What guides our decision matrix? What should be our priorities?

Firstly, we know that the physical shop attracts the large majority of a shoppers’ attention. So is it really the most critical opening priority when we’re seeing large retail investment in online and digital?

For example, do we see our department stores really criticised if their online range is not complete? Or are we more likely to see them condemned for failing to create instore range, exclusivity and shopping experience, Heaven forbid if they don’t deliver a consistently good customer service experience (perhaps the main criticisms over the years).

By way of a further example, where is the business case that puts digital investment ahead of great customer instore and service levels? Which makes more sense given the actual traffic numbers and consumer priorities?

As we watch retailers implement their digital strategies, it is predominately in the context of an omnichannel delivery. And ultimately, if we follow the priority of cash flow, it always appears that getting the physical environment to be brilliant in retailing is the first step.

Perhaps this wonderful quote from UK retailer John Lewis makes the point more succinctly, “We’re not interested in shiny technology just for the sake of it. At the core of our decisions is our relationship with customers, whether that’s improving service, boosting choice or making shopping more inspiring.”.

So step one in investing in omnichannel is to build a legendary instore experience. After all, that is where the vast majority of your customers will be.

Brian Walker is founder and CEO of Retail Doctor Group. Brian can be contacted on (02) 9460 2882 or brian@retaildoctor.com.au.

First published on Inside Retail 8/7/15