“Omni-Channel” Is More Than a Buzzword

Oct 14, 2015 in Mobile, Retail

Throughout the buyer’s journey, the typical consumer uses multiple platforms and devices. The term “omni-channel” isn’t just a buzzword — it’s today’s marketing reality. You need to reach consumers at every direct, digital, and retail channel for a seamless customer experience and proper retail execution. Strong omni-channel engagement results in an 89 percent retention rate, according to Aberdeen Group, helping companies grow loyal customer bases.

How Consumers Use Multiple Channels

A cookie-cutter customer experience doesn’t work when consumers go from the store to their smartphones, to their desktop computers, and back again. Multiple devices and engagement locations are involved in the buyer’s journey, requiring an omni-channel approach. It’s not enough to have a presence on every major customer channel — you also need a synchronized, systematic strategy.

A customer may call customer service, use your brand’s app, visit your retail store, join a mailing list, and surf your website all before making a purchase. The customer may also use online resources while she or he is in your store. Google found 71 percent of people using smartphones while shopping in-store reported this usage as essential to their buying experience. When you have a seamless omni-channel strategy, you can guide your customer along the journey at each engagement point, instead of repeating the same information. In-store smartphone usage is also linked to browsing instead of buying, showrooming, and similar changes in in-store customer behavior.

Creating a Seamless Customer Experience

Your time and resources are limited, so it’s important to prioritize your critical customer channels. Real-time data helps you understand your customer’s exact journey, so you know whether you need to beef up your mobile channels, streamline the digital experience, or tweak an in-store environment. Your customers choose the channels that resonate with them the most, so your omni-channel experience should not bombard your customers with the same information. Your brand’s messaging should be consistent across all channels, but the messages should take the form that fits best with a specific channel, step in the buyer’s journey, and resonates with a certain audience.

Your customer service and retail inventory tracking also needs integration across all applicable channels. Aspect found 61 percent of customers couldn’t move seamlessly between channels during the customer support process. Few things frustrate customers as much as repeating themselves when trying to resolve an issue, so customer data should be synced between support channels. Online channels such as e-commerce stores and mobile apps need real-time inventory data so customers know whether products are available, the closest store with the product, and if certain options, such as ship to store, are available.

The in-store mobile experience is a valuable channel that sometimes gets overlooked within omni-channel strategies. Customers already in-store are in a prime position to make a purchase. Make it easy for consumers to access product information for research and comparison purposes. Offering digital coupons or pushing notifications about relevant deals are engagement options for in-store shoppers.

The bottom line is this: create a 1:1 experience with the customer, no matter which channel they choose. Urban Outfitters recently adopted a strong omni-channel strategy by integrating its store inventory with online channels and adding ship to store options. The company’s omni-channel customers spent 3.5 times more than single-channel customers, and net sales increased 7 percent.

Omni-channel customer experiences are more than having a presence on multiple channels. You have to create a seamless experience across these channels in a way that works with, not against, the ways customers shop today.