Day to day, the modern consumer touches point with multiple channels across several different devices. This is as true for shopping online as it is their personal relationships. From social media to the cash register, shoppers are now interacting with their favourite brands across more on and offline touch points than ever before.
What is the omnichannel experience
For retailers with both an online and offline presence, an optimised omnichannel experience has become the ultimate goal. Encompassing all the communication points a brand has to offer its customers; from brick-and-mortar stores to their website, this strategy integrates traditional and new emerging technologies to provide a unified view. Key traditional channels such as email become the bridge between on and offline, with newer developments such as mobile and social media shaping omnichannel as we know it.
While multi-channel simply looks at how a brand can take advantage of all available channels to communicate to customers, omnichannel takes a holistic approach. The aim of omnichannel is to provide a consistent experience across all available touch points, requiring retailers to look at how information is shared when customers change devices or channels. This inevitably means working from the ground up to improve the interaction of back office software to share customer data, inventory, product information and more.
Why the omnichannel experience is important
Customers simply expect omnichannel. With most transactions now taking place across several devices and many communications across multiple channels, customers are increasingly expecting the experience to cross over seamlessly. While 15 years ago the average consumer used about two touch points during the buying process, today consumers use an average of almost six touch points. That’s 50% of consumers who regularly use more than four touchpoints compared to just 7% in previous years.
While harder to achieve than a basic multi-channel strategy, a cohesive omnichannel experience can optimise almost every aspect of your business. From nurturing customer relationships to shipping and order fulfilment, omnichannel puts the consumer first and promises business growth in return. Businesses that adopt omnichannel strategies, for example, achieve 91% greater year over year customer retention rates compared to those that don’t.
Optimising the omnichannel experience
While adapting your current strategy to this new approach can be a challenge, there are now more ways to connect your back office systems available than ever before. Cloud ERP systems and other multichannel focused software help provide a means for integration and with that, simplify the process for delivering a consistent customer experience.
Cross device customer information
Ensuring customer data is shared between channels and accessible on each one is omnichannel 101. While easy to accomplish once your back-office systems are all synched up, this can make a surprisingly substantial difference to the overall customer experience. It means you can preserve a customer’s interactions across channels and devices, making the entire journey completely seamless.
For example, you can enable shopping carts to be preserved across devices. With 65% of shoppers starting their journey on a smartphone and 61% finishing their purchase on desktop, accounting for the multi-device path is now vital to a good customer experience. Ensuring customers can access their basket even after they change device helps to create frictionless conversion while failing to do so could be a major barrier to purchase.
The same goes for customer account information, especially if you offer a loyalty scheme. Customers want to be able to access accurate, real-time data on their loyalty card and other account information where ever they are. Whether it’s to check their points in store or even pay at the till with their in-app loyalty card, your omnichannel experience should be preserving customer account information at every relevant touchpoint.
This type of data sharing can take your customer service to the next level too. Over 35% of customers expect to be able to contact the same customer rep on any channel, and 64% of customers expect to receive real-time assistance regardless of the customer service channel they are using. While you may not be able to guarantee the same rep every time, arming your team with all the latest information can give customers the same experience. Not only will you see huge differences in your customer service efficiency, but shoppers will appreciate more accurate and quicker solutions whether they’re on the phone or sending a tweet.
Empower your sales staff
It’s not just your customer service team that could use the extra help. Your sales staff are the most important conversion tool in-store but are often disconnected from the other great conversion tools you use online. Customers know what it’s like to shop your website and have product and inventory information at the click of a button, and they now expect the same speed and accuracy in-store with 45% expecting sales associates to be knowledgeable about online only products.
Fortunately, turning tablets into all-knowing POS systems for your in-store staff is no longer just a vision of the future. While it may seem like a fancy idea reserved for big retailers, this strategy is easier and much more affordable to set up in smaller businesses. It may now be relatively simple, but it can completely change the way you interact and sell to customers. In fact, 69% of consumers think store associates should be armed with a mobile device or tablet to perform store tasks then and there.
Implementing this omnichannel strategy empowers your in-store staff to be able to check product information and stock for customers and even take payments anywhere in the store. With shipping and order fulfilment in place, customers can have something ordered to their home or the nearest store of their choosing. Exceed customer expectations, reduce store queues and customer service times, and ultimately convert better.
Augment your brick-and-mortar experience
While many retailers with physical stores have expanded their business online, customers are progressively bringing their online experience in-store. With increasing dependence on mobile devices for instant access to information, 56% of consumers have used their mobile to research products. Of those, 38% have checked inventory on-route to store and 34% have researched in the store itself. For shoppers who do use smartphones to research in-store, 71% say it’s become an important part of the experience.
You can now leverage this change in behaviour by augmenting your own store experience with a complementary mobile app. With the right integrated back office systems, you can use the app to show real-time inventory and other product information. With advancements in QR type technology, you can also enable shoppers to scan product tags in the app. Customers can then be directed straight to the product page to check online availability and place an order. Closely tied to inventory and fulfilment software, this delivers the type of experience customers now expect and ensures every aspect of your omnichannel offering is designed to convert.
Optimise your order fulfilment
Click-and-collect type services are becoming a standard offering, but real-time cross channel inventory is still lagging behind customer expectations. In the past, synchronising this data across multiple systems has posed a problem. Today, many retailers don’t realise that any point integration solutions make dataflows like this more than achievable. Failing to address the consumer expectation gap could mean missing out on important sales, with 27% of shoppers likely to leave and visit another store if an item is out of stock. Of those, 21% would buy from another retailer while 21% would simply hold off on buying the product.
Providing accurate real-time inventory online lets customers know that they can still buy the product they want, even if it’s at the store rather than the warehouse. Combined with ship-from-store fulfilment, you can connect even more customers to your products and make more conversions a reality.
Don’t forget about the 50% of shoppers who expect to be able to order online and pick up in store or the 39% who are unlikely to ever visit you in store without inventory information provided online. To get people through the doors look at introducing a stock finder. For smaller businesses with just one or a few locations, this is even easier to do and enables customers to find which stores are holding stock of their product. Customers can find the most convenient store, and retailers can improve footfall. You can even reduce shipping costs by using stock already in-store to fulfil click and collect orders rather than shipping fresh items from your warehouse.
Know the customer journey
Your customers don’t live their life on one channel, and neither should you. But simply existing on these channels is no longer enough to win customers and fend off the competition. Providing a more streamlined omnichannel experience is now a must-have rather than a competitive choice for retailers with an online and offline presence.
Omnichannel strategies are no longer an option for big retailers only. In fact, smaller businesses may find many are easier to implement and reap bigger rewards than the retail giants. With more intuitive and affordable back office systems now available, omnichannel is more achievable than ever. With simple cloud integration from Mothercloud, both small and large businesses can achieve the data synchronisation and workflows needed to make these omnichannel experiences reality.