Consumers today expect the ability to shop on their own terms, be it browsing on their phone, switching to a desktop to complete an order and then picking it up in-store, or any other mapping process they may take on the route to a purchase. And more importantly, consumers want the experience to be frictionless in any channel they choose to engage with a brand.
Expectations are growing for retailers to deliver experiences seamlessly across every consumer touchpoint. However, the majority of retailers aren’t living up to the hype. Bold Commerce recently released the Retail E-commerce In Context: The Next Iteration report with RSR Research, which found that more than half (58 percent) of leading retailers admit they’re not living up to consumers’ expectations when it comes to bringing together digital and physical experiences.
The truth is, despite retailers’ massive shift to digital over the past year, 51 percent of large retailers acknowledge that digital channels still account for 20 percent or less of their total revenue. Those that are most successful in the next era of commerce will flawlessly integrate all digital and offline shopping experiences.
While retailers have been talking about converging online and offline experiences for years, the reality is that moving to a real-time, single view of the customer and inventory has proven challenging given rigid, siloed data and tech infrastructure.
It’s possible for retailers to meet, and even exceed, shoppers’ omnichannel expectations, but in order to do so they need to extend their omnichannel strategies right through to the checkout process. Here are three ways retailers should customize their checkout to offer seamless omnichannel experiences and reach consumers anywhere they’re shopping:
1. Create unified capabilities with checkout.
Consumers interact with brands across a growing number of touchpoints, including in-store, on their website, blogs, social media, and even fridges, cars and fitness equipment. The capabilities of checkout across all these channels should be consistent, otherwise the likelihood of checkout abandonment increases.
However, delivering consistency creates intense technical demands for teams because each channel exists in its own separate silo. Retailers all too often end up with disjointed customer experiences because checkout elements like pricing, inventory, promotions, payment methods, and delivery options are inconsistent across channels. And to address these cross-channel disconnects, they end up spending a lot of extra time and money to implement changes one at a time, on each platform.
Retailers are increasingly taking a headless commerce approach — where a retailer’s back-end commerce engine is disconnected from front-end user interfaces. Once the checkout is headless it can be served up to any and all front-end buying interfaces. This allows for pricing consistency across all channels; access to real-time inventory information; consistent payment, shipping and delivery options; and the same pricing and promotions online and in-store.
2. Make cross-channel shopping seamless.
When shoppers engage with more than one channel to complete a transaction, it needs to feel seamless. From the shopper’s perspective, if a retailer has collected profile information, shopping preferences, and purchase history, that information should be available in real time to deliver a more intuitive, frictionless experience across all channels. And 58 percent of leading retailers say one of the top business challenges they face is providing a more seamless experience across digital and physical touchpoints than is currently provided.
To date, most personalization efforts for retailers have focused on the search and discovery phases of the shopper journey. However, checkout is arguably the most critical moment of truth, and modern omnichannel checkout experiences simply need to be easier and more convenient for the customer. For example, if a consumer shops online and selects pickup in-store, they should have visibility into when the item(s) will be available for pickup in the store they typically shop in. Or if a customer regularly pays with Apple Pay in-store, that payment option should be presented as the default option online.
By making sure customers’ preferences, such as addresses, payment options and loyalty information, transition with consumers across channels, retailers can reduce friction in the buying process and deepen customer loyalty.
3. Continuously optimize the checkout experience.
Critical customer convenience elements, such as consistent pricing and promotions, can be implemented across channels, but retailers also need to personalize the checkout process or flow based on channel, device type and customer segment.
With tailored checkout experiences, brands can iterate and optimize for improved conversion by shortening and reducing friction in the path to purchase for shoppers. Examples include:
- Modifying the checkout layout and flow for shoppers on mobile devices vs desktop.
- Offering one-click checkout from the product page, a blog post, or an email.
- Pre-filling preferred shipping and payment credentials, and rewards/offers for repeat or VIP shoppers.
- Extending subscription signup and enabling subscription management from online to in-store.
As retailers implement checkout capabilities that allow them to create, test and iterate checkout experiences based on customer journeys, they'll drive more revenue while building more meaningful customer relationships.
The challenges retailers face in implementing unified commerce are often due to technical limitations. However, by adopting flexible checkout technology, retailers can meet consumers at their highest point of interest, eliminate friction in the buying process, and deliver remarkable shopping experiences across all channels. Ultimately, the ability to deliver modern checkout experiences is a key ingredient to achieving omnichannel success.
Yvan Boisjoli is the CEO and co-founder of Bold Commerce, a software development company that provides industry-leading e-commerce solutions.