While the retail industry has been evolving into an omnichannel business model for years, the COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed widespread adoption.
The good news is shoppers have already demonstrated an interest in omnichannel and are eager for more. Seventy-three percent of consumers were already shopping through multiple channels before the pandemic, according to Harvard Business Review, and more than 75% of shoppers who’ve increased their usage of omnichannel services since March expect to continue to do so long-term, according to Accenture.
With most shoppers already primed for an omnichannel shopping journey, it’s time for retailers to leverage technologies that offer a seamless experience across channels and help consumers feel safe when shopping in-stores.
1. Put Personalization at the Forefront
Today’s shoppers are all about personalization, demanding highly-tailored experiences that put their needs first. While personal shoppers have helped meet this demand in the past, retailers can now recreate and enhance that level of customization by using technology that creates a tailored shopping experience for each customer in-store and online.
For example, we helped our partner Amaro, a digital-first retailer in Brazil, create a personalized omnichannel solution in their guide shops. By providing tablets with our Fit Analytics platform for size and product suggestions throughout their shops, Amaro allows customers to view custom product recommendations that meet their size and style preferences. Shoppers can then interact with the clothing in person — forging a tangible connection between online and in-store. Omnichannel solutions like this provide a deeper level of personalization than busy store associates can typically handle, helping to drive discovery for new and returning customers and leading to higher purchase rates, fewer returns, and stronger customer loyalty.
2. Focus on Fit
With many fitting rooms closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, shoppers are left to rely on their best guess for size. This can lead to a pileup of returns, and according to a Narvar analysis, size is the number one reason for apparel returns and accounts for roughly half of all returned merchandise. Collectively, these returns cost the retail industry billions of dollars per year.
Fortunately, retailers can use AI and data-powered size technology to slash their return rates and save money. Virtual fitting rooms on in-store tablets or native apps use data and machine learning to help customers find their size without trying anything on. The results of this omnichannel integration speak for themselves: To date, Amaro’s return rate has dropped by 4%, translating to significant cost savings and a satisfied customer base.
3. Prioritize Speed and Convenience Across Channels
According to a 2017 Retail Dive study, 49% of consumers choose to shop in-store because they can take their items home the same day. However, thanks to omnichannel solutions like buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS), shoppers can experience this same level of instant gratification when shopping online.
Rather than developing a new BOPIS strategy, retailers can leverage API integrations to provide size and style recommendations localized to the most convenient stores for customers, ensuring products are available for same day pick-up. This solution checks all three boxes for shoppers — personalization, fit and speed — allowing them to shop their favorite products as easily and safely as they could online.
Developing an omnichannel business model can feel overwhelming, but implementing technologies that offer the personalization, convenience and speed consumers crave can help retailers take the crucial first step. With shoppers’ interest in omnichannel showing no signs of slowing down, retailers that adopt these cross-channel solutions early will be rewarded with a loyal and engaged customer base – both during and after the COVID-19 crisis.
Sebastian Schulze is CEO of Fit Analytics.