In the digital era where consumers are just as likely to purchase online as in a brick-and-mortar location, delivering a seamless channel experience has become the new competitive imperative. Retailers are ramping up their investments in omnichannel and multichannel strategies to deliver exceptional experiences, wherever and whenever today’s consumers choose to interact with brands.
What is omni-channel retail?
Omnichannel is an approach to marketing and retail that utilizes multiple communication channels to reach customers. The key is that all platforms need to be aware of the other to facilitate a seamless experience. The customer is the focus, and they need to be able to switch between channels quickly and efficiently, getting the same information and experience wherever they go. Unlike multi-channel marketing approaches, each channel in an omni-channel strategy intuitively knows how a customer interacted with another channel, which is used to help guide and continue the customer experience.
As new technologies emerge and more consumers demand it, it is becoming increasingly important for retailers to extend the brick-and-mortar experience to their online channels. Having a presence online and offline has practically become a requirement for some shoppers to even consider buying or using your product. In fact, Forrester Research projects that online retail sales are expected to outpace brick-and-mortar sales by 2017, reaching an estimated $370 billion annually.
More consumers are demanding an omnichannel shopping experience, from buying a product to returning it. Forbes reports that 98% of people believe that purchase, delivery and returns should be easily available across multiple channels. This new shift towards omni-channel shopping is not only in-demand though — it’s increasing profits and retaining customers for the retailers that embrace it. According to a report by IDC Retail Insights, retailers utilizing multiple channels in their marketing and retail saw between a 15 and 35 percent increase in average transaction size, along with a 5 to 10 percent increase in loyalty customers’ profitability.
Here are some additional statistics to consider on the advantage of omnichannel retail:
Companies with omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement. (Aberdeen Group
According to a recent survey by Periscope, a unit of McKinsey Solutions, retailers are struggling to move at the speed their consumers want and need. Periscope’s survey found 78% admit there is no one brand experience across their channels but acknowledge that “a well defined cross or multi-channel strategy” is the top innovation that would drive digital growth (64%).
The report went on to state the reasons behind the omnichannel struggle as follows:
39% stated that their digital channel alone was suffering from “a lack of internal coordination”, but looking at the broader omnichannel strategy, when asked about their top three challenges the following responses were given:
Lack of customer analytics across channels (67%)
Siloed organization (48%)
Poor data quality (45%)
Inability to identity customers across shopping trips (45%)
How retailers can improve omnichannel strategies
Integrate your channels
Retailers must build a brand presence across both online and offline channels. Omnichannel strategies are dependent on the premise that beyond having a presence, multiple channels are integrated with consumer data being available across multiple touchpoints.
Retailers should think about how one channel or message will affect another, and make sure to keep the experience the same across the different channels. If you include email marketing in your campaign, with which other channels will that message interact? For example, a clothing store is throwing a spring sale and launches a giveaway or sweepstakes on social media to promote it.
Through that campaign, they can gather email addresses of potential or current customers when they enter the giveaway. Then, they can send an email message to select recipients’ right before the sale ends to reinforce the social media campaign, driving them either in the door of a brick-and-mortar store, or to make a purchase online.
In addition to internal 1st party data sets, 3rd party data appending services should be utilized to build rich consumer profiles and develop richer insights into a consumer’s behaviors and channel preferences. Data appending services can take one piece of contact information and use it to identify other contact information needed to drive messaging and campaigns. Data can also be appended in real-time to drive optimal contact at key moments along the purchase journey.
Track, analyze and improve
An essential part of any marketing campaign is tracking the performance and measuring results to help you improve its effectiveness. There are more tools and data at retailers’ disposal in order to track their campaigns. However, it is still necessary to analyze data points to identify what worked well and what did not. Using these insights, retailers can analyze which channels are most effective, which offer the best customer experience, which channels could be improved, and, how they influence another and adjust their omnichannel campaigns accordingly.
Retail businesses can’t afford to not embrace omnichannel approaches. As mobile and other technologies continue to change the shopping landscape, retailers need to adjust their efforts. Omnichannel retail can help deliver a seamless, intuitive shopping experience, which can increase customer satisfaction, profitability and loyalty.