Omnichannel retail is a standard way to shop in today’s modern world. In the past, customers would simply walk into a brick-and-mortar store to peruse and purchase and that was the end of the story. Now, shoppers have mobile phones, iPads, and laptops to help them compare and contrast products and services.
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Shopping is no longer a linear journey. It involves customers switching between multiple touch points — and this is where cross-channel retail strategies come in.
Omnichannel retail explained
What is omnichannel retail?
Omnichannel retail strategy makes use of multiple sales channels to interact with the same customer. Customers using omnichannel retail solutions can seamlessly navigate between each shopping touchpoint before they make a purchase — and that’s critical. Why?
✓ Your customers have a great shopping experience that's easy to engage with and buy from every time
✓ Your brand is able to offer a flexible, personalised service and build customer loyalty across different sales channels
15 years ago “the average consumer typically used two touch-points when buying an item and only 7% regularly used more than four. Today consumers use an average of almost six touch points with nearly 50% regularly using more than four.”
In other words, omnichannel retail has become a necessary strategy for small businesses — and it pays off.
According to one study, “companies with extremely strong omnichannel customer engagement retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement.”
And Adobe found that “companies with the strongest omni-channel customer engagement strategies enjoy a 10% year-over-year growth, a 10% increase in average order value, and a 25% increase in close rates.”
Knowing that, it’s important that you take a strategic approach to omnichannel retail. The best practices below will help get you started.
Building buyer personas
Creating buyer personas for omnichannel retail
It’s important to create customer identities that detail what pleases and displeases your audience. Consider their purchasing habits, priorities, and how they interact across different channels in order to create a satisfying buying experience.
To gather this data, ask your customers the following questions:
- What criteria are you looking for before you make a purchase? How do you find that information?
- How do you discover new products?
- Are there certain channels you find easier to navigate when making purchasing decisions?
- What channels or devices do you use when making a purchase?
- What helped convince you to make or not make a purchase?
After you have these answers, it's easier to determine what channels your brand needs to have a strong presence on, as well as insight into the consumer decision making funnel.
For instance, if you discover that most of your customers start their product research efforts on Google, then you’ll want to invest in paid and organic search when marketing your products. On the other hand, if you know that many of your shoppers spend time on Instagram, then you can come up with ways to make shopping easier on the platform, so customers can purchase your products without having to switch apps or devices.
Mobile shopping optimization
Perfect your mobile response
To say that mobile shopping is huge would be an understatement. According to Statista, mobile buyers account for 60.9 of the U.S. population, and by 2024, “approximately 187.5 million U.S. users will have made at least one purchase via web browser or mobile app on their mobile device, up from 167.77 mobile U.S. buyers in 2020.”
As such, your omnichannel retail strategy should have a focus on user-friendly mobile services, as 57% of customers won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile website. As much as nearly half of customers will stop visiting a website that isn’t mobile-friendly altogether, even if they like the business.
Bottom line? Make sure that your website is mobile-payment friendly and optimized for a satisfying shopping experience.
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Harvard Business Review found that 73% of those who participated in their survey “switch between multiple channels during their customer journey.” The takeaway? It’s important to design or update your cross-device sales presence, prioritising mobile, so customers can easily shift between devices without losing information.
The last thing you want is for a customer to have to start their shopping progress all over again when they change devices. Or worse yet, they're unable to find what they need due to layout changes and glitches. You want to provide consistency, not frustration, so make sure that whether they’re on their phone or laptop, their information can seamlessly transfer from one device to another.
Optimize social media
Sharpen your social presence
It’s hard to be everywhere all the time, but no omnichannel strategy is complete without having a social media presence. And it’s great for sales, as studies show that “sales reps with high social network activity achieve 45% more sales opportunities, and are 51% more likely to hit their sales quotas.”
Do some research about where most of your customers spend the majority of their time. Are they active Twitter users? Is Facebook more effective? Would Instagram be a better use of your time? Once you narrow that down, engage, engage, engage. Nobody likes to be ignored, and Sprout Social found that “30% of customers who are shunned by brands on social media are more likely to switch to a competitor.”
So, engage with your loyal customer community and welcome new followers, by reacting and replying to comments. Creating unique social content is another way to engage and promote your products or services. On some channels like Instagram, customers can even — and will — buy directly from your business's social accounts.
Omnichannel SMS marketing
Effective SMS marketing
Given that 5 billion people globally send and receive SMS messages and 77% of consumers are likely to have a positive perception of a company that offers SMS, it’s safe to say this should be part of your omnichannel strategy.
How can this most effectively be integrated?
Let’s say a customer orders an item online. After the order is placed, they can receive a text message that contains the collection/order information. Once their order is ready for pickup from in-store, they can also receive an SMS notification.
It’s no longer one channel to complete the order — it’s a seamless combination of web, SMS, and in-store, making it convenient and unified.
Bridge online and offline interactions
Enhance in-person interactions
Yes, there’s email and mobile and SMS and tablets. But people do still shop in brick-and-mortar stores, and it’s a great opportunity to digitally supplement in-person shopping experiences.
By equipping store employees with devices that can see a customer’s buying history, interests, and reasons for visiting a location, it helps them more easily meet customer needs and provide a new, unique shopping experience.
Utilise real-time updates
Provide shopping updates as they happen
By offering more ways for customers to shop, you have to offer more ways for them to see everything from order status to search history to inventory in multiple locations. If they look at new products on your website, they want to know whether or not it’s available in your brick-and-mortar store.
According to Accenture research, “71% of customers expect to be able to view store inventory online and 50% expect to be able to order online and pick up in store.” An important part of omnichannel selling is ensuring a tight integration between online information and real inventory, removing the risk of frustrations for customers who go through the whole buying process, only to find out what they want isn’t available.
Email for omnichannel retail
Don’t forget about email
Seamlessly integrate your social media channels and website with email.
Email is still a highly effective form of marketing that shouldn’t be overlooked. There are 3.9 billion daily email users, and marketers who use segmented campaigns have found as much as a 760% increase in revenue. Not only that, but email marketing generates $32 in ROI for every $1 spent and 59% of consumers say that email marketing influences their purchasing decisions.
To integrate email into your omnichannel marketing program, divide your audience into different groups based on their specific needs and preferences, which will allow you to send out highly personalized content. Customer segmentation takes more effort, but the work is more than worth it, as personalized emails have been found to have six times higher conversion rates.
Email also allows you to seamlessly integrate your social media channels and website, which can increase your follower count and site visitors and help to make sure your marketing efforts are working together.
Keep your systems tightly integrated
You can’t provide a seamless customer-facing experience if your retail systems are a mess behind-the-scenes. One of the most important omnichannel best practices to implement is to ensure that your retail apps and solutions — including your POS system, online shopping cart, and email marketing provider — are tightly integrated.
Connecting these systems with each other leads to a streamlined retail experience on both the customer side and the admin end.
For instance, if you’re planning to run a loyalty program that lets shoppers earn and redeem points on all channels, then your marketing app should be connected to both your point of sale system and ecommerce platform. That way, you and your customers can effectively track the points and rewards that they’ve earned regardless of whether they’re shopping in-store, online, or on their mobile device.
To that end, choose retail solutions that can plug into each other. Most modern POS systems and ecommerce platforms have existing integrations, so leverage them whenever possible. Depending on the solution you can also integrate different apps through services like Zappier.
Ready to move forward with omnichannel retail?
Your needs will vary depending on your unique business but by following the tips above, tailoring them to your specific situation, and creating an omnichannel strategy, your business will be better equipped to stay on target in terms of meeting — and exceeding — your goals.