Strategies for Enabling Multichannel Success Throughout the Consumer Life Cycle
- Provide access to online inventory directly in-store (i.e., buy in-store, fulfill online). Mobile commerce has revolutionized the possibilities of creating endless aisles for consumers by giving them and sales associates direct access to online inventory through web-enabled devices. Consumer-driven mobile websites and native apps as well as retailer provided in-store apps such as iPad retailing apps and kiosks are examples of buy in-store, fulfill online. City Sports is using iPad kiosks to route in-store shoppers to its website to access products online which can't be found in-store (in addition to providing an interactive shopping experience).
- Provide access to in-store inventory directly online (i.e., buy online, fulfill in-store). Extending the concept of an endless aisle to online shoppers is just as important as it is in-store to ensure consumers find the products they're looking for and retailers capture potential lost sales. Nordstrom gives visibility to brick-and-mortar inventory as part of the online experience, helping to drive significant results.
3. Engagement. Consumers who discover products don't necessarily choose to engage further with a brand. Retailers need to drive a deeper level of engagement no matter where the shopper is — online or in-store — to continue to build the relationship and convert the consumer to a paying customer. Ultimately, success comes down to how well retailers are able to personalize the shopping experience and provide relevant and timely content without “excess noise.” Examples include the following:
- Enabling store associates with customer information to conduct personalized selling in-store. Mobile devices, particularly tablets, have revolutionized what's possible with in-store personalized selling. Store associates can engage consumers anywhere on the retail floor (not just at fixed point-of-sale terminals) and provide product recommendations based off of their purchasing history and preferences. Ideally, this is achieved by combining real-time POS and online data for a single view of the customer. Pacific Sunwear is using an iPad retailing app in over 300 of its stores to help store associates personalize the shopping experience, including walking shoppers through a variety of outfit combinations and suggesting products based on their preferences. J.C. Penny, Converse and Sephora are also using iPad retailing apps to personalize the shopping experience.
- Delivering personalized selling in the online experience. Personalization extends outside of brick-and-mortar stores to traditional websites, mobile websites and any other interaction point. Dynamically segmenting online customers to serve up relevant content such as products and promotions as they navigate your site as well as tying in rules-driven recommendation engines are effective online personalization techniques. Similar to in-store personalization, online personalization would ideally combine online and point-os-sale customer data. Frederick's of Hollywood effectively uses customer segmentation and recommendations powered by online data to personalize selling online.
4. Purchase. If a retailer successfully engages a consumer, the consumer will seek to make a purchase. Differentiating at the purchase phase of the consumer life cycle can oftentimes determine the difference between a completed purchased and one that's not. Consumers expect a “buy anywhere, get anywhere” experience. Satisfy these expectations by doing the following:
- Allow consumers to buy products online and pick them up in-store. Consumers often seek to connect the online experience to the physical in-store experience. Buy online, pick up in-store is a more convenient, less expensive (no shipping charges) and faster way for them to procure products. The strategy also works to retailers’ benefit since consumers who pick up in-store often make incremental purchases on top of what they've already purchased for pick-up. Home Depot recently introduced buy online, pick up in store chainwide.
- Give consumers who are purchasing in-store the option to have products delivered at home or to the store. If a product isn't available in a store, giving consumers the option not only to discover the product elsewhere (e.g., other stores or online) but also delivered the way they choose can make them more likely to purchase. Consumers may want the product delivered to the store they're ordering from, another store or at home. Providing these options at the time of purchase via self-service or though the assistance of a sales associate can greatly increase the likelihood of purchase.