To be wherever your customers are; answering their questions and presenting yourself as the preferred retailer or information provider- isn’t that the dream?

Well, you can achieve this by creating a seamless omnichannel retail experience for your customers. Yes, creating a complete shopping experience covering your physical store to digital channels like mobile and social media is possible

No matter where your customers look or how they interact with your brand, you can provide them the same exemplary brand experience unique to your brand.

What is omnichannel retail?

Omnichannel retail isn’t new.

It dates back to 2003 when US retailer Best Buy realized they couldn’t beat Wal-Mart on price and decided to focus on customer experience instead.

However, creating an omnichannel retail strategy isn’t just about having a presence on various channels or giving your customers the option to shop in multiple channels.

Instead, it’s about using the unique strengths of each channel to contribute to a unified customer journey. Customers can move between each channel seamlessly during their interactions with your store.

Customer service agents should be equally, if not more mobile, following your customers through each channel used to progress through the customer journey and adding value at every opportunity.

Your customers expect and deserve an omnichannel experience.

In 2019, your customers expect unified retail experiences across multiple channels without minimal disruptions. Moreover, wouldn’t you agree – they deserve it.

Shoppers around the world live in the age of constant connectivity. They use both online and offline channels to research, order, pay for, collect and return purchases.

Also, customers reward retailers who take the time and money to invest in omnichannel infrastructure. According to a new study from Boston Retail Partners, 56% of consumers indicated they are willing to shop at a retailer who allows them to have a shared cart across desktop, smartphone and brick-and-mortar channels versus retailers who don’t

Omnichannel retail and a shared cart is a tremendous opportunity and gap for retailers, as only 7% of retailers offer such a shared cart concept. Furthermore, only a small segment of retailers feel they have mastered the omnichannel retail approach:

Source: The State Of Omnichannel Retail, 2018

Additionally, the Boston Retail Partners study offers some valuable insights on customer’s expectations on omnichannel retail and behavior.

Other reasons why focusing on omnichannel retail is the way to go:

It’s how your customers buy: 82% of consumers have shopped and reviewed a product online, then purchased it in store. Conversely, 56% have shopped in a store and purchased online. Even more interesting, 45% refer to catalogs to make their final purchase after shopping in-store.

It boosts sales: 66% of customers are more likely to choose a store if they offer visibility across channels. Likewise, shoppers who engage on multiple channels make purchases more often.

It improves customer retention: Companies with comprehensive omnichannel retail strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers from channel to channel.

Why are omnichannel retail experiences so valuable?

In a sea of marketing and customer service efforts focused on acquiring customers, the omnichannel approach focuses on strengthening existing customer relationships by:

  1. Being present on the channels their target customers might need or want their products
  2. Collecting and referring to customer data strategically to deliver a relevant, personalized customer experience to build brand loyalty.
  3. Creating the most comfortable and convenient possible shopping experience for customers

So, what can you do next to create an immersive omnichannel retail strategy? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with the following three steps.

Step 1. Identify and assess the channels your prospective customers use to discover and engage with your brand

Start with an analysis of all your customer engagement channels while implementing a comprehensive omnichannel retail strategy.

Prospective customers have multiple avenues to interact with you. A study by the Harvard Business Review found only 7% of participants shopped solely online, and only 20% shopped exclusively in store. The rest (an astounding 73%!) used both mediums throughout the customer journey en-route to purchase.

Hence, you need to know when your customers make the first contact with your brand and when they finally convert. Did they come from that retargeting Facebook ad you used? Alternatively, did they browse your inventory in-store before making a purchase online? Recognizing the customer journey between your online-offline channels while identifying your top performing channels becomes vital.

Don’t forget about other engagement channels after checkout either! Keeping your customers proactively in the loop after checkout with timely post-purchase emails can enhance your customer engagement drastically. For example, a study found 61% of people were more satisfied with a purchase if they received a simple thank you email after checkout. A thank you email ranked above ‘more complex’ efforts like personalized recommendations, information to use the product better or examples of how other customers were using the product.

Step 2. Create a consistent brand image across all channels

With omnichannel retail, creating a consistent brand image is critical for visitors and prospective customers to get familiar with your brand naturally.

Some areas to check for consistency:

  • Tell the same company story on all your channels:
  • Use consistent hashtags and brand colors across all social media channels
  • Actively manage your content on your active channels. Remember, consumers actively go to specific services like Google, Siri, Facebook, Apple Maps and other business directories to find information about your business. Think beyond your website or app.
  • Consider what happens to your customers after they purchase something and check out from your brand. Are you ensuring the same brand experience even on your tracking page and post-purchase email notifications after checkout?

Step 3. Collect data on your customer’s behavior and optimize accordingly

Consumer data and relevant analytics data allows you to identify how to tailor a shopping experience to each shopper.

Some data dimensions to consider:

  • How customers conduct online product research, selection, and payment method preferences
  • Traffic monitors in-store to collect information on a customer’s traffic patterns and insights on how products should be displayed or promoted
  • Sentiment analysis and brand monitoring on social media to stay updated with customer sentiments online

As we talk about the benefits of data-driven e-commerce, it’s easy to forget about the ethical implications of data collection. Remember, when it comes to people’s desire to protect their data, 86% of global consumers would exercise the right to be forgotten.

“That opt-out is driven by the fatigue we as consumers experience from being bombarded by promotions that don’t speak to our needs and are generic in nature, perhaps driven off of a single transaction.”

Mike Webster, SVP and General Manager of Oracle Retail in an interview with Retail TouchPoints

Be honest and upfront with what you are doing with your customer’s data and why you are collecting data. Reassure your customers that their data is in good hands and ensure your opt-out option is displayed clearly. Collect relevant data points and align all data-driven efforts to create a better experience for your customers. Your customers love it and will show their appreciation when retailers take care of them.

Finally, be familiar with your local data privacy laws and consumer’s rights to privacy. Ensure that your customer service teams are aware of these practices and are ready to handle such customer requests.

Omnichannel retail – the future of retail?

We’ve explored in-depth why we recommend to pursue an omnichannel retail experience and examined some strategies to establish one.

Consumers now have multiple connected devices to engage with your brand. Every interaction touchpoint throughout the customer journey from attraction, checkout, and post-purchase can become an opportunity to engage shoppers with your brand and foster stronger relationships with your customers.

It’s all about making the customer experience more accessible and having their convenience in mind as you take strategic decisions to grow your business and deliver even more value for your customers.

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