Talking about omnichannel is very fashionable for retailers nowadays. At a high level, the concepts behind providing great customer experience across channels are easy to understand. However, those in the business know that executing on a great omnichannel strategy is pretty challenging. Omnichannel retailers are acutely aware of three key trends that are heavily influencing the industry today:
- Showrooming: For some retailers, it's the bane of their existence. For others, it's just a mild annoyance. Either way, it's an undeniable phenomenon that's been covered heavily in the press.
- Increased acquisition costs: It's becoming increasingly expensive to acquire loyal customers across all channels. For example, daily deals were pitched as a compelling acquisition tool, but for many retailers they've proven to be high cost and ineffective at bringing in profitable and loyal customers.
- High customer expectations: Omnichannel customers have come to expect a great overall cross-channel experience. According to a recent eMarketer survey, 34 percent of survey respondents say 24/7 customer service is the most important attribute of a great retail experience. Furthermore, 20 percent of survey respondents say that being rewarded for purchases, feedback and referrals is most important to them.
Given these trends, now more than ever, it's critical that retailers invest in and focus on building a loyal customer base.
How is Omnichannel Changing the Game?
For retailers, omnichannel means that the number of customer engagement touchpoints has dramatically increased. Just a few years ago, it was sufficient to interact with customers in-store as well as via an e-commerce website accessed through a PC. Nowadays, retailers must effectively communicate across a myriad of channels, including PCs, tablets, smartphones, in-store, etc. The mediums include website interaction, email, text message and good old-fashioned face-to-face discussions with store associates.
Due to the proliferation of personalization and CRM technologies, customers have come to expect brands to know who they are, what they purchased and their channel preferences for interaction. For many retailers, implementing an overarching omnichannel strategy has revealed a key pain point: siloed data. Many retailers have a heterogeneous set of vendors across e-commerce, point of sale, email service provider, CRM and customer support systems. These systems were deployed at different stages of the company's life, and over time they've grown to be silos of data that are difficult to integrate for the purpose of providing a single view of the customer. The bottom line: Executing an omnichannel strategy puts an increased strain on your whole team, especially marketing and IT.