What does an omnichannel strategy look like?

Quality service and high functioning products are no longer succeeding in winning consumers over. Expectations are rising and our set of behaviors as consumers are transforming. Along with connected devices, we expect connected experiences. Along with seamless transactions, we expect seamless interactions. Along with differentiated channels, we expect integrated channels. Now is the rise of the omnichannel, and it strategically meets those demands.

Omnichannel strategies are integrated cross-channel strategies that deliver seamless experiences to the consumer. This means that despite the touchpoint in which the consumer comes into contact with a brand on a wide range of channels, the experience will be the same. An omnichannel strategy embraces brand consistency at every touchpoint. Though omnichannel strategies deliver a connected and consistent experience across channels, they understand that consumers seek out value differently on one channel versus another.

A Zara online shopper, for example, finds value in customization and feasible delivery options, where as a Zara in-store shopper finds value in assortment and accessibility. Zara’s omnichannel strategy solves these consumer needs by offering customized choices online, while offering the consumer a painless checkout that allows them to pick up that day in store to avoid delivery fees and/or a wait. This is also a strategic business move because it gets the shopper buying online, while potentially shopping offline during item pick-up. Additionally, Zara enhances the in-store experience by allowing shoppers to scan items, bringing the shopper to the online website where they can browse the availability of the item, the clothing item matched with an outfit for inspiration or they can directly purchase the item online hassle-free.

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Omnichannel Trends

Trend 1: Fast and on demand

Consumers live increasingly fast paced lives, which pushes them to buy from brands that provide convenience of transactions and access. This is why airport shopping has expanded from simple souvenir purchases to retail and commodity purchases. In the ‘now’ economy, consumers want instant solutions. 10 years ago, purchasing a car online would have been perceived as impulsive and ludicrous, but UK BMW now offers customers the convenience of scanning a car, which brings them to the website purchasing page.

Trend 2: Human touch both online and offline

Of course consumers expect to be able to buy and browse online, but that doesn’t negate the value of the human experience. Certain retailers are bringing the human touch to the online experience through omnichannel strategies by offering shoppers the ability to check inventory online and by geo-localization techniques, which allows push notifications to be sent when a customer comes into contact with a brand. In-store touch, mobile feel therefore delivers an integrated experience that consumers are hungry for. The incorporation of technology is valuable to consumers, but the human element remains essential to customer interactions.

Trend 3: A personalized customer experience

Consumers expect cross-channel personalization, whether they connect with a brand on their app, on social media, on the website or in the store. Thanks to machine learning, businesses are gaining insights from browsing history and purchasing behavior that can aid in personalized advertising, retargeting and customer segmentation.  

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An omnichannel customer-journey

Traditional retailers once offered information and fulfillment on an offline basis whereas pure players offered information and fulfillment on an online basis. The omnichannel journey is a hybrid of the two. An omnichannel customer-journey consists of finding information and experiencing fulfillment both online and offline. A shopper can make their way through the aisles getting the touch and feel, while experiencing a consistent brand experience from their mobile.

Pure players like Bonobos that once delivered information and fulfillment online have even expanded their business model by showrooming, where they allow the consumer the in-store touch and feel at popups, while still requiring the shopper to purchase online. Such stores benefit from low costs as they have centralized inventory management. Fulfillment and information have evidently developed new dimensions with the rise of omnichannel and such dimensions will only enhance the customer-journey.

An omnichannel journey is complex, yet it is repeatable. The customer has a customized and varied end-to-end experience, implying customer satisfaction cannot simply be measured at the transaction phase. Rather, it must be measured at the inspiration stage when the customer browses a product online, at the research phase when a customer moves to the store for the touch and feel, at the transaction phase when the customer experiences the most pain points, and at the post-conversion phase when the customer establishes loyalty to the brand. These journeys are intricate and inter-connected, demonstrating that they must be nurtured across the board.