Retail & Distribution
28 March 2016
Omnichannel retailing, in which merchants’ brick-and-mortar stores, websites, catalog divisions, and other business components operate as a cohesive unit instead of as disparate entities, has become increasingly important in recent years. It’s no wonder: Following an omnichannel model enables retailers to best meet the demands of consumers who will quickly defect to competitors rather than tolerating long delivery lead times or waits for out-of-stock items. However, ensuring a successful omnichannel retailing experience for customers necessitates the following key elements:
Brand consistency across all platforms.
Customers will likely not enjoy a positive omnichannel retailing experience unless they encounter an identical brand experience at all points of interaction, from stores, to websites, to mobile shopping apps, to catalogs. They must be made to feel that they are experiencing a single retail brand throughout the journey.
To achieve this, graphics and messaging used by retail brands, from identifying icons and slogans that establish a brand identity to the verbiage contained in promotional vehicles and product descriptions, should remain consistent. Even more importantly, under the brand consistency umbrella, merchandise and promotions cannot be channel-specific; rather, they must be the same across all channels. For example, if a particular garment is available in a merchant’s stores, it must, in order to attain omnichannel retailing success, also be featured on the company’s website, and consumers should be able to order it via the mobile shopping app. Similarly, if a “buy one, get one half price” promotion is touted in-store, customers should be able to access the identical deal online, as well as have the opportunity to order the items online and pick them up at the store.
Streamlined customer engagement and the assurance of a good customer experience.
In the optimal omnichannel retailing scenario, streamlining customer engagement requires a clear visibility between inventory and point of sale. Customers will remain disengaged, with no loyalty to the retail brand, if they cannot immediately learn whether an out of stock item is available through another channel. But with an inventory management system that provides a single view of merchandise availability across all stores and operations (online, catalog, and even the distribution center), retailers can immediately share the information shoppers want, compelling them to engage with the brand. Similarly, when retailers leverage a single point of sale system to handle transactions in every channel, they can offer a streamlined, engagement-forging experience. How? By making it possible for purchases to be initiated at one touch-point (e.g., the website) and completed elsewhere (e.g., a brick-and-mortar store at pickup time).
Yet another imperative in fostering customer engagement in an omnichannel retailing environment is amassing detailed data about each customer, such as previous purchases made through all channels and merchandise preferences (e.g., color, size and style). Such data can, via mobile devices, then be used to provide personalized assistance to customers at the point of decision; this is called clienteling.
As discussed above, streamlined customer engagement and a positive customer experience are cornerstones of omnichannel retailing. However, retailers would be short-sighted to assume that the customer experience they are delivering is truly what they think it is and intended it to be. Regular follow-ups – whether through dialogue initiated in-store, via social media, through emailed surveys, or a combination thereof – is necessary to get a handle on a customer’s experience and to determine what should be done to enhance it.
Omnichannel retailing is not a fad; it’s here to stay, and it can play a major role in merchants’ success going forward. Ensuring that the three elements discussed here are part of the model will create a win-win situation for retailers and consumers alike.
Contact us today to see how you can deliver a omnichannel retailing experience to your customers.