This is a guest post by Ashley Kimler, who currently works with Heroic Search in Tulsa and has been helping all sized businesses with their digital marketing for the past decade. Ashley’s sharing her insights on how the omnichannel approach can benefit retailers of any size.
E-commerce has been touted as the channel of choice for retailers. According to Digital Commerce 360, online retail sales in the U.S. reached $394.86 billion in 2016–15.6 percent increase from 2015. We can attribute this growth to the critical role that social media continues to play in the advertising space. Amazon is the undisputed leader in the online retail space–making up 65.9 percent of the $53.1 billion growth in U.S. online retail in 2016. The e-commerce giant has been described as ruthless, efficient, and has set the bar so high that the rest of the retail space is still playing catch up.
Most e-commerce businesses are also struggling to keep up with consumers’ ever-changing needs. Studies also show that 80 percent of consumers are not happy with the customer service that many brands provide, and consumers particularly get annoyed when they constantly have to repeat themselves concerning the same issues.
Today, consumers want to be in control of their shopping experience. Recent studies show consumers want to have more choices when shopping online. They are also using social media as a tool to find the best online deals.
As a result, many retailers are now adopting a new consumer-based strategy known as the “omnichannel” approach to improve a customer’s experience and their overall business performance.
What does Omnichannel mean?
“Omnichannel” (also spelled omni-channel) is a consumer-focused approach that involves aims to provide a seamless shopping experience on multiple retail channels, including brick-and-mortar stores, online websites, mobile apps, radio, TV, physical catalogs, etc.
Moreover, the omnichannel approach gives retailers a unique advantage by integrating all these retail channels on the back end. This means, for instance, that a sales representative can reference a customer’s purchase history to offer customized recommendations based on the customer’s preferences. As a result, retailers who choose to use omnichannel strategy are 91 percent more successful than those who don’t.
Photo credit: Acxiom
How the Omnichannel approach works
As I mentioned earlier, the omnichannel approach integrates multiple shopping channels, including TV, mobile apps, websites, phone, etc. These different consumer touch points are in constant communication and there’s inventory visibility across all the channels. For instance, a customer can start a purchase in one a mobile app and complete it on the company’s website. Alternatively, a customer can see an item in a store, go home, purchase it online, and pick it up later from another nearby store.
How to use the Omnichannel approach
Although many businesses have recognized the need to adopt an omnichannel approach, many are having trouble to remaining consistent across all channels. These 5 essential tips will help any retail company significantly optimize the shopping experience for customers:
1. Optimize for mobile devices
Smartphones are overtaking computers as the primary source of traffic in e-commerce. As a matter of fact, 62 percent of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last 6 months, according to EuroITGroup. As a retailer, you should embrace mobile optimization to give consumers a seamless mobile experience. Make sure your mobile app or website is optimized for various smartphones and tablets and has a simplified navigation process to make it easy for consumers to get what they are looking for.
2. Retarget consumers
According to Google, 85 percent of shoppers start a purchase on one device and finish on another. Therefore, you should be able to stay in touch with consumers on various channels for a better shopping experience. This means using technology to personalizing emails, retargeting consumers on Facebook and other ad platforms, or offering special perks and promotions.
3. Learn more about your customers
The needs and interest of the consumer should inform your entire marketing strategy. Use various tools, like surveys to gather useful information to complete your customer profile and learn more about their preferences and interests. However, don’t forget to be mindful of a consumer’s privacy.
4. Automate your processes.
Today, everything from email marketing to inventory management can be automated, eliminating human error and enhancing productivity. Consider leverage software and apps that streamline your processes. Here is a list of must-have automated technology:
- A social media management tool, like Hootsuite or Buffer.
- A responsive eCommerce theme (i.e. design for both mobile and web).
- An inventory management app
- An email marketing platform, like Hubspot
- POS card readers
- Shipping software/ TMS 2.0
- An automated telephone ordering system
While your processes can be automated, keep in mind that they should be personalized to create a sense of relationship with shoppers across multiple channels.
5. Manage customer data
You will face a lot of challenges if you don’t have a single view of consumer activity across all the channels. You need to standardize all the information you gather from various social sites or customer surveys. Make sure to have a stable infrastructure to handle significant amounts of data and the ability to retrieve it quickly.
As the retail industry continues to revolutionize the shopping experience and consumers adopt new purchasing habits, adopt the omnichannel approach can significantly benefit your e-commerce business.