Omnichannel retail: Delivering a seamless shopping experience

By Taylor Holland

| Retail

In the great debate over whether consumers prefer to interact with retailers online or in-store, the verdict is in: They want an omnichannel retail experience that offers both.

Though digital sales continue to grow, particularly through mobile, they haven’t eclipsed in-store purchases. In fact, according to Gartner, physical stores will account for 72 percent of the overall retail revenue earned through the year 2017. Yet, up to 50 percent of sales that take place in stores are influenced by digital behavior. On the way to conversion, customers jump from one channel — and one device — to the next. As such, the best way for retailers to keep customers engaged is to deliver a seamless, omnichannel retail experience.

Most retailers have already invested in this type of multifaceted approach. After all, many businesses have websites, mobile apps, blogs, social media pages and email automation tools that are specifically designed to engage digital shoppers and, in many cases, drive foot traffic to stores. But enterprises must make sure that all these channels and databases are integrated. If customer and inventory data is stored in disconnected silos, marketing messages won’t be aligned.

Why omnichannel matters

Until recently, retailers have kept online channels — and the data they gather through those channels — separate from brick-and-mortar business models. But the rapidly evolving role of mobile requires a new way of thinking: integration.

Whether consumers are making purchases from home, in physicals stores or while on the go, mobile devices are their trusted shopping companions. In fact, PwC’s Global Total Retail Survey 2016 found that 20 percent of respondents from the global sample had made purchases using a mobile device in 2015, an increase from the 12 percent reported the previous year. Furthermore, 34 percent of respondents agreed that their smartphones will eventually become the main tool they use to make purchases.

Not surprisingly, PwC also found that mobile now plays a major role when consumers shop at physical locations. When asked how they use their smartphones while in stores, respondents listed a wide variety of actions, including:

  • Comparing prices with competitors (36 percent)

  • Researching products (36 percent)

  • Accessing coupons and promotional codes (31 percent)

  • Checking reviews about the product/retailer (25 percent)

  • Storing product information for a future purchase (21 percent)

  • Paying for purchases (20 percent)

The message is clear: Consumers don’t separate online and in-store shopping, and neither can retailers.

Building an omnichannel retail experience

For mobile development teams at retail companies, creating an omnichannel experience for the customer requires integrating multiple back-end infrastructures so that data collected across channels gets stored in only one access point. This data can then be used to align marketing messages across channels, personalize the shopping experience for individual shoppers and provide customers with all the information they want and need, whether they’re shopping online or in store.

Connecting channels opens up endless data-driven business insights and creates new opportunities to engage customers. Here’s where enterprises should start:

1. Integrate customer data

Retailers collect data on individual customers from a variety of sources, including email automation, mobile apps, online profiles, loyalty rewards programs, social media and store credit cards. But if this information is locked away in disconnected silos, companies can never get a complete picture of who individual buyers are, what they want and how they shop. If brands can’t offer the type of personalized shopping experience that today’s consumers want and expect, they miss valuable opportunities to outsell their competitors and upsell their products.

For instance, imagine that an in-store customer uses her mobile app to look up information about a necklace. If this customer is also part of the loyalty rewards program, the retailer can know that she left without purchasing that item, and can use this opportunity to send her a coupon for 20 percent off. In this scenario, there’s a high chance that the customer will return to take advantage of the deal.

2. Integrate store information

Customers understand that most retailers can’t stock as much inventory at brick-and-mortar stores as they can online. However, when they can’t find what they’re looking for, customers want quick, easy access to other options. When PwC asked survey respondents about the most attractive features to enhance the in-store shopping experience, 32 percent listed the “ability to check online stock quickly.”

3. Integrate business models

As the lines between online and in-store shopping continue to blur, innovative retailers are offering services that combine their digital and in-store capabilities. While e-tailers like Amazon are now opening brick-and-mortar locations, traditional stores are finding ways to enhance their online offerings by turning stores into distribution centers, pickup locations or return sites for digital purchases.

This is omnichannel at its best: multiple channels, one company and one shopping experience.

Written By

Taylor Holland

Founder, Taylored Editorial, LLC

With 11 years experience writing about business and technology trends for both media outlets and companies, Taylor Mallory Holland understands how mobile technology can reshape industries and provide new opportunities to streamline workflows, improve employee collaboration, and reimagine…

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