Adopting an omnichannel strategy is no mean task. There are no half measures when you choose to go this route, so the question every retailer faces at some point or the other—to omnichannel or not to omnichannel?
Companies as diverse as Apple, Disney, Burberry, Harrods and Schuh have already put this technique to use, capitalizing on its potential already. They are joined by a number of other enterprises, in fields as varied as travel, technology and (of course) retail as well.
You can argue that this technique is only just achieving mainstream success. However, there’s no question that omnichannel strategies are the future, and retailers that don’t go this route might just perish in the long run.
What Is An Omnichannel Strategy?
Omnichannel strategies focus on customer engagement and on offering a seamless brand experience to all customers across all mediums they use to interact with the retailer in question.
This means that whether the customer is scrolling through the company website on their computer or smartphone, using your proprietary app or simply looking around your brick-and-mortar store—each experience should be aligned with the others and seamless. The whole aim is to make customer experience more cohesive, and cater to consumers more effectively.
As a retailer, it’s much easier to make an impact online with the help of proper omnichannel advertising and marketing. The number of people shopping online is increasing by leaps and bounds every day, and more than half of these people shop online regularly.
The benefits of adopting this strategy are pretty evident.
Why Use An Omnichannel Strategy?
1. Connecting Online & ‘In-line’ Customer
While there are millions of consumers who shop online, the percentage of purchases that takes place in physical stores is nothing to scoff at.
As a retailer, you need to try and leverage both channels, and keep numbers high by combining the best of both—the convenience of shopping online and the familiarity of the in-person experience. Customers, even today, prefer browsing through shelves and talking to sale associates to ask questions about the products they wish to purchase.
If customers are unable to find the information they’re looking for, whether online or offline, they might simply make their business elsewhere.
Digital signage is known to mimic the online channel and improve in-store experience.
For example, you can welcome your customer as they walk through the door with a message giving them information about the deals of the day—useful information that they can then use while shopping. You could make the experience even more personal by sending suggestions directly to the customer’s smartphone via your app, based on the customer’s purchase behavior and buying habits.
You could do this in a number of ways. Let’s take a look at 3:
- Through store apps: these have been around in the ecommerce spectrum for a while, but you can actually take them further. Most of these are used for online shopping, and only that. You could take the next step, and incorporate further functionality: you can (for instance) design your app to guide your users to through their shopping experience at your brick-and-mortar store.
- Another great way to merge the in-store and online experience: in-store technology. In-store kiosks connected to your database, for instance, can be used to showcase products to customers in your store. For example: Echidna recently came up with an interactive ‘Face Chart’ for their ‘Sigma Beauty’ products. Customers were encouraged to virtually ‘try on’ these products.
- Click & Collect: Designed for the convenience of the busy customer—who doesn’t have time to wait for deliveries from your e-retail store—this method lets a customer pick up their product from a physical location, usually your retail outlet. This works to your advantage too—as customers walk into your store, you get a number of up-selling opportunities.
2. Educate Shoppers
You should also consider setting up interactive kiosks to enhance omnichannel integration. They serve more or less the same purpose as a computer, but with the added benefit of having many of the products available right there at the store, allowing customers to examine them.
Customers can get detailed information about any products they’re interested in and also get a chance to compare similar products from various brands. Most importantly, this works wonders for customers who aren’t computer or smartphone savvy.
3. Help Create Better Deals
One of the best things about adopting this strategy is that you create deals based on actual data pertaining to sales and inventory.Digital signage can be updated much more rapidly than traditional signage, letting you make the most out of brief windows of opportunity.
Suppose one of your products is not selling as expected, you can stave off an unwanted surplus by offering a one-day sale and promote this digitally to bring more people in.
So, well-targeted messages can bring customers to your store in time for a sale. This will help you plan out your retail pricing schemes knowing that you will be able to bring in the customers you need.
What exactly do you use on your digital marketing promos? Let’s take a look at your more popular—and proven effective—choices.
- Photo Promotion Campaigns: Here, you ask ‘competition’ entrants to upload a photo of themselves with your a specific theme, usually based around your product. You get some crucial information on your consumer base, and access to user-generated content that you can use in your campaign. This is doubly effective: the photo promo contest draws in both current users as well as potential clients.
- Vote Promotion Campaigns: You’ve probably seen a number of these on social media platforms. Here, you (the business) ask customers to vote on a displayed image, video or idea. It lets you engage and interact with your customer base, and gain an insight into their preferences. What’s more, you also get them interested in buying products—as customers look at the ‘vote’ product on display, they get thinking about the ones they want.
- Sweepstakes/Giveaway Campaigns: If you’re just getting started with your promotion strategies, this is a great place to start. In a nutshell, you ask customers to give you some information on a form, in return for which they enter a sweepstakes competition. Since they need to spend very little time, a number of customers are likely to enter these.
- Air France once held such a competition, asking customers to enter their details into a form, and submit a description of their perfect Parisian holiday. The prize was relevant to their brand, and the ‘Parisian holiday’ description engaged customers effectively. Small wonder, then, that the campaign attracted 14,600 entrants and a 41% conversion rate!
- Referral Promotion Campaigns: A great way to increase brand recognition when your company has been around for a while, the referral promotion campaign uses current customers to attracting new ones. Your clientele is invited to sign up for a reward, but only after they’ve referred a few of their friends/contacts as well. They are usually given a unique url to share, but you can use QR codes and other techniques as well.
4. A Brand Experience Like No Other
Making use of multiple channels gives you the opportunity to create a seamless brand experience for your customers.
Every channel used should reflect your brand’s unique aesthetic, appeal and theme. This critical branding essentially serves to differentiate your company from others in a way that is distinct across channels.
To use omnichannel to its full potential, you need engaging content that fits your brand’s narrative. It should give your customers the feeling that they’re not just at any store, but at your store.When creating advertising and branding campaigns and collateral, be sure to present the same story.
Here’s a look at a couple of companies that have got their omnichannel strategies just right, and reaped the benefits this technique offers.
- Most analysts in the field will tell you about Apple and Burberry, and rightly so. Both these companies have proved just how far a good omnichannel strategy can take your brand. Granted they also have great products, but consider this: Apple is one of the frontrunners of this movement, and Burberry are considered the best on the UK High Street that offer this feature. With more and more tablet owners—rather than PC buyers—the time is ripe for an effective omnichannel strategy, and you’d do well to ride this particular wave.
5. Benefits Of Omnichannel Strategy
Omnichannel strategy is a great way to know your customers, and for your customers to get to know you.
Such a strategy calls for data collection and in-depth retail analytics to help you get a complete picture of your customers. Using this data, you can draw conclusions as to what to anticipate, what to do and how to speak to your customers, in order to more efficiently achieve your business goals.
Omnichannel strategy helps you bring shoppers back to your store time and again. They’ll come looking for the the social element, the personal and human gratification that you can deliver using an omnichannel approach.
Some popular enterprises have embraced the omnichannel strategy, putting it to great use. Let’s take a look at some of these.
- Starbucks’ rewards card is considered by many to be a great example of omnichannel retail strategies done right. This card, unlike most other customer loyalty programs, can be updated across a variety of media—including your phone, the Starbucks website, or in-store. Any changes are made in real time; you could load your card on your iPhone when in line at a Starbucks outlet, and it’ll actually reflect by the time you get to the front and make a purchase!
- Another great real-world example is Chipotle’s online system and mobile ordering app, which let customers order from wherever they are. On (say) an office lunch, you could order for everyone on your team, and Chipotle will have your lunch ready and waiting even as you make your way to your table. And that’s not all; you can use these easy-to-navigate tools to order takeaway as well, or even get food delivered—via startup Postmates, just so you know.
This is only about integrating offline and online channels but unifying them to create a seamless and pleasurable purchasing experience. It’s important to keep in mind that an omnichannel strategy might require you to rethink your entire business strategy.
It’ll reinforce your brand image and work as an open channel of communication between you and your customers.