The Potential for Omnichannel Analytics is Real

The retail industry has recently seen a great deal of focus on omnichannel strategies — i.e., an integrated approach for each retailer to take for online, mobile and, of course, brick-and-mortar. With all the discussion on this topic, however, I’ve yet to see any dialog about omnichannel analytics, which I define as the following:

“the integration and intelligent use of the various pieces of information available for each different retailing channel in order to more holistically understand the buyer and path to purchase or to create opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t exist.”

From a systems perspective, analytics for these three channels are quite separate from each other. A web team is collecting a whole raft of metrics like visits, average time per page, bounce rates and the like; a mobile app is owned by the IT department, which is collecting a similar set of usage statistics; and store operations is measuring traffic, movement throughout the store, transaction count, average transaction value and other data.

Different metrics in different systems being viewed by different people. They’re all looking at the same set of customers, but they’re doing it through different lenses and taking different actions based on what they see. This approach flies in the face of the basic idea of an omnichannel strategy, where the customer is a single human being who apprehends your brand through different channels. So why would you treat them like different people based on whether they choose to use their phone, PC or feet?

Now imagine what happens when you start to pull all these separate analytics together into a single data cube. Important questions about customers’ holistic shopping behavior begin to answer themselves. Here are just a few examples:

  • When customers start using your mobile app, how does that affect their behavior in other channels? Are mobile purchases net-new or cannibalized from older channels? Or does mobile app usage actually increase use of these other channels? All are possible, but for each retailer only one is the case. Which is it for your brand?
  • How much mobile app usage takes place in-store? Are shopper behavior patterns different when a mobile app is in use as opposed to when one isn’t?
  • How frequently does the same customer look at your products in the store, then purchase from you via another channel? Many retailers are geared up to combat “showrooming,” but if the showrooming shopper makes a purchase through your website or mobile app, then your store becomes an asset to the electronic channels. Or does your online store serve as the starting point, enabling consumers to narrow down their choices before they actually purchase in-store — maybe to get the items immediately or see them in person before making a final purchase decision?

There’s tremendous value in analyzing customers holistically across channels as a critical part of a successful omnichannel strategy. The technology exists today to gather insights like these. For a comprehensive picture of the customer environment, retailers need these key pieces in place:

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