Omnichannel: The Future of Retail
As retailers face enormous pressures to innovate each year, their products, services and experiences must continue to resonate with consumers — no matter who or where they are.
Thankfully, the retail landscape remains healthy, which provides numerous opportunities for retailers to connect with consumers in strategic ways. There are more than 1 million retail establishments across the U.S., and retail sales have increased about 4 percent annually since 2010, according to the National Retail Federation.
Because consumers are shopping online and offline, retailers must marry digital and physical touchpoints to develop stronger customer relationships.
For retailers to be successful, they must connect directly with customers. When retailers can reach consumers whenever, wherever and on whatever device they want, they can more efficiently move them through the purchase process, from online to offline and between devices, and increase conversions.
Shifting From Transactions to Relationships
If consumers can’t find what they want to purchase, or if prices are too expensive, they’ll simply shop elsewhere. In other words, these consumers are more transactional and not nearly as loyal as they once were. However, this critical segment is ripe for conversion, which is why the future of retail lies within creating long-lasting relationships.
Using omnichannel strategies, retailers can form stronger relationships with customers. One such case is allowing them to schedule appointments online to visit in-store. Not only are appointments convenient for retailers, but they can blend the use of technology with in-store shopping. Consumers can easily schedule appointments via retailers’ websites while on their smartphones, tablets, or computers — wherever they may be — and meet with in-store staff to receive recommendations for products or services they’re interested in purchasing. Retailers can achieve loyalty because customers will appreciate the personalized attention, as well as the opportunities to purchase more items.
Investing in Value-Driven Experiences
Experiences with retailers in the future can’t be stagnant; if they are, consumers will simply shop elsewhere. When retailers create immersive experiences, they can see bottom line impact. Hosting events and providing entertainment in physical stores, for example, can boost annual sales by 14 percent on average, according to Barclaycard.
Retailers can use omnichannel strategies to create value-driven experiences. For example, they can send consumers invitations via mail, email, text, and social media to VIP gatherings, preview sales, new product launches, and loyalty receptions with in-store promotions. Consumers will then feel special because they can use these exclusive offers to purchase items in-store. By doing so, customers will then reciprocate loyalty because they’ll feel that their favorite brands are focusing on them.
Understanding Deeper Customer Insights
Of course, any conversation about the future of retail can’t dismiss the impact of automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence. As automation and machine learning start to understand repeatable processes and behaviors from consumers, retailers will be able to use data gathered from customers to make more powerful business decisions.
With such information, retailers can obtain and analyze insightful data from customers’ purchase histories, shopping patterns, appointment times, personal interests, and more. Retailers can then deliver personalized promotions to their customers to not only make them feel like they’re individuals, but to also bring them in-store. The power of data in retail is incredible, and while AI is still future-state, retailers can start to see the short-term benefits it has on creating deeper relationships.
If retailers can connect with consumers via omnichannel methods, they’ll foster more loyalty and conversions. When they achieve that goal, they’ll win in the future of retail.
John Federman is CEO of JRNI, the enterprise SaaS scheduling platform for optimizing the customer journey.
Related story: Total Retail's 2019 Top 100 Omnichannel Retailers