Making the Nice List in Omni-Channel Commerce

We have reached the time of year when everyone wonders whether they made the “naughty” or “nice” list. Here are a few suggestions for omni-channel retailers who want to ensure Santa (and your customers) place you firmly on the nice list.

Recognize Channel Differences and Limitations
The goal of omni-channel commerce is to provide a seamless and personalized experience across all customer touchpoints. However, too many retailers confuse a “seamless” experience with an “identical” experience. Nice omni-channel retailers are those who recognize different channels operate differently and work best with different features.

A customer interacting with an e-commerce site via PC has a user interface that optimally operates in a very different way from the user interface for a tablet, which in turn does not operate the same way as the user interface for a smartphone. Whether retailers design individually optimized sites for different devices or use responsive design to differentiate front-end experiences from a common back end, they need to recognize the unique strengths, weaknesses and features of each form factor. This also extends to creating differentiated experiences for channels such as social networks, text messages, email, and even the store (see more on the store below).

Respect Individual Customer Boundaries
Most omni-channel customers expect and appreciate some level of personalization. However, individual customers have very different levels of comfort with personalized and targeted messages, offers, discounts and promotions. Some customers would prefer an omni-channel retailer to intensively track and analyze their every move across every channel, so that for example a customer browsing a store shelf might receive a real-time, location-based promotional text on their smartphone trying to cross-sell based on an item they recently purchased online.

Others would find this level of personalized attention creepy, and would rather leave omni-channel personalization to the more basic type of targeted services offered through a loyalty program. Nice omni-channel retailers are always transparent in their personalization efforts and operate on an opt-in basis that lets customers choose how personal their personalized service gets.

Don’t Overlook the Store
While discussions about omni-channel commerce inevitably focus on digital channels like mobile, social and online, they often leave out what remains the core retail channel: the store. This is an enormous mistake. Department of Commerce figures indicate that e-commerce only accounted for about 5% of all retail sales in 2012, and Forrester Research analysis shows that 54% of retail sales do not involve and are not influenced by any digital channel.

The most effective, or “nicest,” omni-channel commerce programs are those that recognize for the majority of consumers, the store is still the primary shopping channel. Digital marketing and retailing efforts should tie back to the store, such as buy online-pick up in-store options or letting in-store customers obtain detailed product information by scanning QR codes on in-store price tags. In addition to enhancing customer convenience, these types of programs can also help increase store traffic and convert in-store sales.

Being nice is not always associated with business success, but when it comes to succeeding in omni-channel commerce during the holidays and all year long, nice retailers will get the rewards of increased consumer loyalty and spending while naughty ones will only get lumps of virtual coal. Happy Holidays!

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