By Corey Gale, Director of Marketing – Retail and E-commerce, North America, Micros
Everyone in business is talking about it, but most customers don’t even know it exists: omnichannel. And that’s the point. Omnichannel sales are an evolution of multichannel sales, not merely delivering information and messages through multiple platforms, but doing it in a seamless and continual dialogue as shoppers move between traditional online channels, mobile and brick-and-mortar stores. When it’s done well, omnichannel retailing can drive tremendous business value, and can delight customers, even though they may not recognize the efforts that went into making that interaction appear seamless.
The immediacy of the Internet and proliferation of personal mobile devices has empowered the customer to desire and demand consistent, continuous experiences with the brands they interact with, but without realizing or caring that it’s “omnichannel” they’re after. For customers omnichannel means commerce on their terms, characterized by the intuition and personalization today’s customers crave, so it’s an experience successful retailers need to find ways to create.
Most retailers have already embraced some measure of a multichannel approach, but to help illustrate how omnichannel experiences are a fundamental leap ahead from multichannel, let’s walk a hypothetical path for one customer shopping for a piece of apparel:
1. Receives direct mail piece about a sale at a brick-and-mortar clothing store.
2. Walks into store, browses merchandise, leaves.
3. Goes online, pins store website image of jeans or a sweater on Pinterest.
4. Adds store’s social app to smartphone.
5. Participates in store’s Facebook survey to gain entry into a VIP contest.
Here, the retailer is theoretically in all the right places at the right times, but it hasn’t necessarily created a seamless, cohesive moment with the customer. Omnichannel not only makes all of these touch points available, it ensures that the touch points are personalized, optimized and smart. The result is a retail omnichannel strategy that adapts to changing market conditions and promotes sticky interaction with customers.
So, how does a retailer take the customer journey across multiple channels (and sometimes back again), and elevate it to an omnichannel experience? First, consistent representation is vital. Customers need to experience the same feeling about a brand wherever the interaction is occurring. Shopping categories between brick-and-mortar and online inventory should be as identical as possible. Creative themes should repeat themselves across all channels, in appropriate ways, and quality control is key. This is because brand familiarity builds trust, so mobile, computer and in-store identities must look, feel and act related.
Also, tech-enabled data collection and business analysis is critical to fully realizing an omni-channel strategy. Powerful omnichannel software enables retailers to nurture and analyze data in every channel to create an individualized, natural-feeling customer experience. With the right tools, retailers can track purchasing paths, preferences and responses, which in turn builds intelligence that allows retailers to target customers in such a fluid way that customers don’t feel targeted at all. Retailers are increasingly turning to omnichannel solutions providers to implement integrated software and hardware suites that allow them to dynamically engage customers through point of sale, e-commerce, mobile, loyalty, customer relationship management, clienteling, loss prevention, distributed order management, inventory management and merchandise planning.
The dedication to the omnichannel approach, the commitment to detail and the investment in technology can reap huge rewards in customer loyalty. Today’s customers spend money with businesses that demonstrate a deeper understanding of what they need … whether it’s a pair of jeans, a new car or a streamlined, consistent shopping experience.