Don’t Scare Away Your Omni-Channel Customers

For many retailers, Halloween has become one of their favorite times of year. Spending on Halloween-related costumes, decorations, candy, etc. has grown to the point it represents the second-highest consumer spending holiday, only trailing Christmas with NRF estimates of this year’s spending total reaching $6.9 billion. But while a good scare is all part of the annual Halloween fun, retailers need to ensure their omni-channel customers do not get scared away by frighteningly poor digital commerce features and functions.

In honor of a holiday dedicated to fright, here are a few tips for keeping your omni-channel offerings more reminiscent of Casper the Friendly Ghost and less reminiscent of Freddy Krueger.

Consistency is No Hobgoblin
Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with the phrase “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," but consistency in omni-channel commerce is neither foolish, nor a mythical pest, nor small-minded. Omni-channel by definition is a removal of traditional barriers separating channels so that customers have a seamless shopping experience no matter what touchpoint they use.

If browsing and navigation, product assortment, pricing, promotions and discounts, and checkout are not consistent across every virtual and physical channel, your omni-channel experience will be a failure that causes customers to beware of your brand.

One Size Does Not Fit All
Beyond offering a consistent customer experience across channels, a big part of omni-channel retailing is offering an experience that is optimized to whatever form factor the customer is using. Beyond providing a digital experience optimized for desktop/laptop PCs and a digital experience optimized for mobile devices, retailers need to offer digital experiences optimized for the variety of different screen sizes available to the modern consumer.

At a bare minimum, this means one experience designed for smartphones and one for tablets, and more conscientious omni-channel retailers will also optimize digital experiences for at least a few standard screen sizes of smartphones and tablets. Moving forward, this will also require experiences optimized for wearable digital devices like Google Glass and Samsung Galaxy Gear.

Whether retailers develop different back-end infrastructures for different form factors, use responsive design to adapt one back end to varied form factor specs, or a hybrid development approach, they need to realize that nothing will scare away an omni-channel customer more quickly than trying to navigate a PC-optimized site crammed into a mobile screen.

Don’t Forget the Back End
Imagine a house all lit up and decorated for Halloween whose owners tell the trick-or-treaters ringing their bell, “Sorry, we have no candy.” Those owners would very likely wind up picking toilet paper out of their bushes the next morning.

Disappointed omni-channel shoppers will not likely “TP” your corporate headquarters, but this example illustrates the important fact that no matter how well you align the omni-channel customer experience on the front end, without back-end alignment your efforts will be for naught. Inventory, assortment planning and distribution systems must all be transparent in real-time throughout the enterprise so that all the various stakeholders in providing an omni-channel experience have access to the same data at the same time. Otherwise customers who try to pick up an item in a store that they purchased via tablet will feel tricked.

So have a safe and happy Halloween, and let the cheesy horror movies they show on cable TV this time of year scare your customers, not your omni-channel experience!

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