A recent Forbes article declares omnichannel is dead. But for the majority of retailers it’s only just beginning to come to life.
Retailers understand the importance of seamless customer interactions. In fact, the majority of respondents in Gartner’s Retail Tech report stated that a unified commerce initiative is a top priority. However, they often fall short of delivering a truly integrated experience. Many brands now sell via multiple channels, including physical stores, e-commerce sites, and hybrid offerings such as click and collect.
Their marketing efforts have also diversified, enabling them to connect with customers via social media, digital advertising and email, as well as offline channels such as direct mail, out-of-home and in-store campaigns. But these individual sales and marketing channels are largely still managed in silos, leading to fragmentation and frustration. Retailers need to take a more unified approach, aligning goals and messaging across all channels to create a harmonious customer experience.
To "level up" customer experience from multichannel to omnichannel, retailers first need a better understanding of the concept. Omnichannel is a step up from multichannel, which simply means using a variety of sales and marketing methods. However, omnichannel is not about being everywhere and using every available channel to reach every possible consumer. Instead it means taking a holistic approach across all the channels that retailers do decide to use, and ensuring their audience enjoys the same experience no matter how they choose to interact. An Accenture report reveals customers now control how they engage with retailers and expect consistency and simplicity across all channels. Despite 89 percent of customers using at least one digital channel, only 13 percent find digital and physical well aligned.
Here are three ways retailers can level up their multichannel approach to deliver a truly omnichannel experience:
Understand it All Starts With the Customer
To deliver a seamless omnichannel experience, retailers need to start with a customer-centric approach. Shoppers don't distinguish between browsing in-store, perusing products online, viewing images on social networks, or flicking through a catalog; it’s all part of the same shopping experience for them. Consumers don’t simply choose between online and offline, they make endless and continually changing choices about how to shop. Retailers need to follow consumers lead.
The key to understanding what customers want and then delivering it is data. Using advanced techniques based on artificial intelligence and machine learning, retailers can assimilate data from all sales and marketing touchpoints to understand factors such as channel preferences, price sensitivity, and purchase history to gain a complete 360-degree view of the customer. These technologies can process vast data sets in real time and identify patterns in consumer behavior that allow them to accurately predict their needs, what will drive them along the path to conversion, and what will keep them returning to buy time and again. Data-driven insights are the backbone of a customer-centric omnichannel strategy.
Ensure Personalization Works Across All Interactions
One of the benefits of integrating data across all touchpoints is the ability to deliver personalized experiences tailored to the customer’s preferences, context and immediate needs. For instance, retailers can use techniques such as dynamic creative optimization (DCO) to customize messages, selecting the most appropriate creative elements for that individual user based on a variety of data points. The right level of personalization makes customers feel valued and gives retail interactions a more human touch, ensuring they're relevant and welcome rather than annoying or intrusive.
For an effective omnichannel strategy, however, retailers must ensure this level of personalization isn't restricted to individual channels, but works across all interactions. For instance, if a customer is sent a personalized promotion code via email, that same promotion code should be easily available to them if they log into the online store or if they visit a physical shop. Equally if they browse a product online but then ultimately buy it in-store, they shouldn’t see retargeting ads for that same product. Instead, they could be targeted with ads for additional products or services to complement their purchase. Three-quarters of consumers expect companies to be able to pick up where they left off if they switch channels while moving through a particular shopping journey.
Take a Holistic View of the Customer Experience
Each customer is an individual and will start their own unique path to purchase and beyond. For this reason, retailers need to map the journey in its entirety to deliver a positive, seamless experience where each touchpoint contributes to an overarching encounter. This could include implementing frequency capping across all their marketing channels to ensure a customer is exposed to messaging frequently enough to drive engagement but not targeted with the same ads from all directions. It also means shifting the focus from a linear path to purchase — which begins with awareness and ends with conversion — to a more holistic view that prioritizes building strong customer relationships and maximizing customer lifetime value over quick wins and one-off purchases.
Omnichannel isn’t dead; MainAd believes it’s the future of retail. If retailers can leverage data and the latest technologies to gain a granular understanding of the customer, execute personalization across all channels, and take a holistic view of the purchase journey, they can level up to an omnichannel approach and deliver seamless experiences that capture their consumer and build lasting relationships.
Michele Marzan is chief strategy officer of MainAd, an advertising technology company, focusing on performance results accomplished through its programmatic know-how and proprietary tech, Logico.
Related story: Total Retail's 2019 Top 100 Omnichannel Retailers