The Dos and Don’ts in Shifting to Omnichannel Retail
Five years ago, the Harvard Business Review called omnichannel commerce “The Future of Shopping,” and warned that retailers which didn’t begin making transition soon were in danger of going the way of Tower Records, Borders, etc. Now, with omnichannel retailers reporting 89 percent average customer retention rates — compared to just 33 percent for traditional retailers — it’s safe to say the future is officially here. If you haven’t gotten on board yet, now is the time. Here are a few quick dos and don’ts to help ease the transition:
Map customer behavior. With omnichannel e-commerce, customer behavior can be considerably more complex than in traditional retail. Consumers can make purchases day or night, from mobile, online, in-store, and they expect lightning-fast delivery. Understanding and mapping your customer’s purchasing habits and decision-making processes is absolutely crucial to developing a strong omnichannel strategy. You want to know where and when they make their purchases, the frequency of return business, what your best-sellers are, how they prefer to pay, etc. Therefore, gathering quality, real-time analytics is a must.
Provide engaging visual experiences. Omnichannel is all about blurring the lines between the digital shopping experience and the in-store shopping experience. The more you can do to bring your products and content to life online and on mobile, the better. This means video content, functional and pleasing visual merchandising, and even leveraging new technologies like virtual reality to create dynamic and engaging experiences that make your customers feel like they’re right there holding your products in their hands.
Talk to your customers. Another way that omnichannel retailers are blurring the line between in-store and online is with live online chat. Adding an online chat platform to your e-commerce site helps bring the personal one-on-one in-store experience to life online by allowing visitors to interact and ask questions in real time rather than having to call in or wait for an email response. And anything you can do to cut down on your customers’ waiting time is good for your bottom line.
Forget about the in-store experience. While building up your social media strategy and working on seamlessly integrating between online and mobile platforms, it can be easy to forget about your brick-and-mortar stores. This is where so many e-commerce businesses go wrong. In order to be truly omnichannel, the shopping experience has to be one fluid experience, where shoppers can move from laptop to tablet to smartphone to store without missing a beat. Successful omnichannel businesses are doing this by leveraging mobile technology to provide personalized in-store experiences. Whether it’s an app that lets customers scan QR codes in-store to compare prices, or one that allows you to use your smartphone as a frequent buyer’s card, there's a multitude of ways to use mobile technology inside your physical store.
Lose track of your inventory. For traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, inventory was relatively simple. You put products on the shelves, if they sold, you restocked. Now with omnichannel commerce, customers can order any time, from any place, on any platform. This means that if you don’t have a system in place to keep track of your inventory in every location from the warehouse to the showroom, you can get yourself into trouble pretty quickly.
Forget about your employees. Remember: No matter how slick and polished your omnichannel strategy might be, if you don’t have a well-trained staff to implement it, you might as well just forget it. Regardless of what channel your customers are using, retail comes down to providing your customers with quality, competent, friendly service. Your staff should know everything there is to know about your omnichannel strategy, from marketing to mobile apps and tools, so that whether they’re working in a call center or on the sales floor, they're ready to provide a smooth, enjoyable shopping experience for your customers.
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