Over recent years we have seen the introduction of a number of different channels – for desktop, in-store, and mobile – through which customers can research and purchase products. The result is that customers are beginning to expect the flexibility to use their favorite channels. In fact, one study found that 1 in 3 customers use multiple channels to make a recent purchase. The challenge for businesses is not only to be present across channels but also to have seamless cross-channel user experience. Unconvinced that this trend is real? Consider these statistics from MIT and Forrester:
- 80% of in-store shoppers checked prices online
- $1.1 trillion store sales were influenced by the web
- $12 billion retail sales made on smartphones
- $252 billion sales in the US E-retail industry in 2013
Fortunately, there is a retail strategy emerging that focuses on integrating e-commerce, brick-and-mortar, social media, and mobile apps, called omnichannel retailing. The goal of this retail strategy is to provide a seamless and flexible shopping experience regardless of if a customer shops in-store, on the web, or on a mobile device.
Is Omnichannel Retailing Valuable?
Indeed, it is! A study by IDC Retail Insights showed that retailers utilizing an omnichannel strategy saw a 15-35% increase in average transaction size, a 30-45% increase in online conversion rates, and a 5-10% increase in loyalty customer profitability.
There are a number of benefits and opportunities for improvement that stem from adopting an omnichannel strategy. They are:
- Deeper Insights about your Customer
- Increased Opportunity for Conversion
Deeper Insights About Your Customers
How well do you understand your customers’ behavior in the purchasing context?
We all know that having high quality information about customers can be hugely valuable in business, and even information as simple as gender can be used to encourage repeat purchases. However, by employing an omnichannel retail strategy, businesses can gain an even deeper understanding of their customers’ interests and their purchase path.
You can already use social media and other sources to gain insights into your customers’ demographics, interests, browsing habits, and search habits, which provides a fairly in-depth picture of your customers’ behavior. But there is still room for improvement. With an omnichannel strategy, you can use sophisticated software, such as Microsoft Dynamics, to analyze all of the different customer touch-points online and analyze customer behavior across channels and platforms. This will help you paint a picture of a customer’s journey from discovery to purchase with your product.
From there you can find answers to questions such as: who are my most valuable customers? Has a particular customer increased their purchases as a result of a new marketing campaign? What channels are most effective for a particular segment of customers? Where can I find more customers from that segment? And so on.
Increased Opportunity for Conversion
Not surprisingly, the goal of most retail strategies are to generate and increase sales. Omnichannel retailing aims at leveraging multiple channels in order to increase sales, whether customers are in-store or online.
Recent research shows that 84% of customers use their smartphone while in-store, creating a huge opportunity for retailers to capitalize on this behavior and encourage in-store conversions with strategies such as targeted mobile advertisements. Perhaps someone is researching a product on their mobile device while in-store, a promotion or discount on that product may solidify the sale.
Omnichannel retailing improves a customer’s shopping experience and opportunity for conversion by providing them with information about product details, prices, and availability, combined with the convenience to shop anytime, anywhere, on whatever channel they want.
For example, consider local inventory ads. When a customer searches for a product on the web or on their mobile device, a local inventory ad will not only display the product details such as the description and price, but will also mention that there are 5 items in-stock, in that customer’s preferred color and size, at the store just 4 miles away. For Office Depot, using local inventory advertisements has created a better shopping experience of their customers and ultimately a 3 times higher return on their digital marketing budget.
Tips for Implementation
Customer-centered approach. Retailers should continuously be trying to better understand their customers, and helping customers to use the channel of their choice at any step throughout the journey. For example, an order online and pick up in-store service allows customers to purchase a product whenever and however is most convenient and pick it up later on.
Integrate your data. An important factor to successfully implementing an omnichannel strategy is ensuring your data is integrated across all of your available channels. Prices should not change from depending on if the customer is on a laptop, their phone, or in-store. Going back to our order online and pick up in-store example, this will only be possible if your online channels are integrated with in-store data about product inventory to let the customer know if it is in-stock.
The omnichannel retailing strategy requires retailers to integrate and coordinate all the various channels through which they operate, be it online or offline, mobile or web. The result is an improved understanding of customer behavior at each step of the purchasing process, and a seamless shopping experience which allows customers to use whatever channel they find most convenient. And ultimately, giving you the best opportunity to generate more, happy customers.
Now that you have the strategy, how will you use an omnichannel?