The new norm for the modern-day consumer includes access to multiple, convenient channels when interacting with a business. By combining your company’s touchpoints and contact channels to create an omnichannel customer experience, this will significantly enhance a consumer’s brand journey.
Omnichannel is a well-known approach to sales, marketing and customer support that seeks to provide shoppers with a seamless and unified brand experience, regardless of which channel they use. Whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone, or in a brick-and-mortar store, the goal is for their experience to be smooth and consistent.
According to research from Gartner, by 2025, consumers’ omnichannel buying behavior will drive 60% of B2C brands to move toward a functional organizational approach, rather than a channel-based organization. This means that as businesses continue to consolidate their marketing efforts, the lines will become more and more blurred between marketing channels, therefore creating a frictionless experience for customers when making a purchase.
The path to enhancing the customer journey
With the emergence of omnichannel retail, businesses should consider implementing an omnichannel strategy for their brand to attract and retain a wide customer base. Here are different ways companies can get a head start on their journey:
Monitor customer purchase behavior: Customers have several influencing factors when deciding to purchase an item. Whether it’s in-store, online, and regardless of the time of day, these components can shape the success of a retailer and the overall customer experience. This leads businesses to create practical omnichannel strategies and to consider the different customer paths across all channels. Additionally, understanding your business’ categories and how your consumers interact with the products is key to creating an omnichannel experience.
Identify pain points and gaps within the customer experience: As it is with most experiences, receiving feedback throughout the process is critical. By analyzing customer profiles and collecting feedback across multiple platforms in real-time, businesses will be able to target the right audience and make smart sales decisions.
Prioritize selling interactions: There are two phases that selling touchpoints can occur in. The first phase is ‘forward logistics’, which aims to reduce customer lead time and provide the best ordering and delivery experience. This means ensuring that the different channels consumers interact with are consistent. The second phase is ‘reverse logistics’ which is the process of merchandise moving from the customer back to the distribution center. Retailers should ensure their return and exchange process is the same online and in-store to make the customer experience seamless.
Leverage technology: E-commerce has shifted how brands and shoppers interact online, and this approach has been weaved into how businesses plan their omnichannel retail strategy. By implementing a product information management (PIM) system, retailers can receive a comprehensive and accurate view of the product’s performance in the store. Having digital asset management (DAM) software can create media content all at once with the hopes of repurposing it across customer channels. Additionally, there’s a big push in utilizing a customer data platform (CDP) where your customers' touchpoints and interactions with your product or service are stored in one centralized location. This allows for increased use of personalization among retailers.
Gain actionable insights: To attract and retain customers, retailers should identify the pain points across their different channels. Consumer journeys are changing rapidly and measuring the effectiveness of their omnichannel retail strategy and making the necessary adaptations will help support the business’ products and increase brand loyalty.
Breaking through the barriers
Understanding why your brand needs a strong omnichannel strategy is only half the battle. Developing and executing a successful roadmap can be a daunting process if not handled correctly. Below are a few roadblocks companies may encounter as they begin their journey towards creating an omnichannel plan.
Channel pricing inconsistency: Shoppers expect to take advantage of promotions and loyalty programs whether they’re shopping online or in-store. The Point of Sale (POS) systems in stores and on the website must be integrated into the overall system and have a consistent view of this type of information. The pricing should also be consistent based on customer geography.
Lack of inventory visibility: Being familiar with what products are available – both in warehouses and store locations – is key to ensuring on-time delivery. If the retailer doesn’t have an accurate representation of what is in stock, they will likely fall behind delivering the products on time and to the right consumer and potential sales will be lost.
Alternate location for products: While local store inventory visibility is important, when the desired product is out of stock in the local or preferred store it’s still possible to save the sale by providing alternative stores that have that product in stock. Retailers that have a concentration of stores in a metropolitan area should consider providing this capability. Retailers in more rural areas, or areas that don’t have multiple locations, should provide QR codes to point shoppers to online channels to complete their purchases. Specifically, this is important for products with multiple variants that may not always be stocked in stores such as in the health and beauty category.
Knowledgeable customer service: Retailers should have their customer service representatives be available and helpful when shoppers run into issues or need assistance with a product. The customer service department should also be up to date with relevant product information and be able to assist a consumer no matter if their product was purchased in-store or online.
The concept of omnichannel is here to stay. Retail companies that take the time to invest in an omnichannel retail strategy the correct way will quickly see tangible and positive results. With the ultimate customer experience in place, retailers will be able to stand apart from their competitors and stay ahead of the curve.
As Vice President of Commerce for Capgemini North America, Brian leads the Salesforce Commerce Practice which includes implementation and managed services for Salesforce Commerce, Order Management, Marketing Cloud and Adobe Commerce.
Jennifer Conklin is a VP and Global Account Executive at Capgemini.