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The path to purchase is no longer linear. A consumer might research a product on your website before buying it in store. They might make an impulse buy using the “Shop Now” button on Instagram. They may browse several retailers’ sites to compare prices before ultimately deciding to purchase your product on Amazon and taking advantage of two-day Prime shipping.
Welcome to the omnichannel world, where every touchpoint presents an opportunity to convert customers — or lose them altogether.
The last few years, and 2020 in particular, have ushered in omnichannel retail in a way we have never seen before, as many companies have rapidly expanded their digital capabilities to serve a growing number of online customers.
The future should be no different — and, if anything, a further amplification in omnichannel retail. Here are five ways omnichannel commerce is changing the industry and why a robust omnichannel strategy is crucial for success moving forward.
Omnichannel ecommerce involves creating a seamless, connected customer experience as customers move from channel to channel. It means a shopper who has abandoned their cart on your website sees a targeted ad with a discount offer for that same product — or ones like it — when they go to a third-party retailer’s site.
It means they can buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) or use curbside pickup the same day. It means less friction and more convenience.
Research shows 90% of consumers switch devices during the day, and they interact with an average of six touchpoints during their journey, including online, mobile, in-store, desktop, laptop, and tablet. One Harvard Business Review study of 46,000 shoppers found 73% of them used multiple shopping channels, compared to 20% who only shopped in store and 7% who shopped only online.
These figures make it resoundingly clear that omnichannel is the future of retail and that brand manufacturers who want to compete in the marketplace need to break down channel silos and embrace digital.
To improve the customer experience, you need to know your audience. Though many brand manufacturers continue to grapple with an ever-increasing volume of data, this influx of cross-channel data is also a boon for brands.
It enables you to transition away from a wide-targeted marketing and customer acquisition strategy to a more targeted approach where you understand who your customers are, how they prefer to interact with your brand, and on which channels.
In an omnichannel world, you can leverage data to get more granular with audience segmentation, which leads to more relevant messaging along every stage of the customer journey.
According to the Zendesk "Customer Experience Trends" report for 2020, roughly half of customers say they would switch to a competitor after just one bad experience. In the case of more than one bad experience, that number grows to 80%.
In an omnichannel world, relevance and responsiveness to customer research and support requests are critical. That requires organizations to ensure all interactions with a customer are invested in and valued.
It demands every stage of the customer journey is optimized to give consumers all the relevant information they need to make a buying decision and that every part of the transaction is as personalized and as user-friendly as possible.
This tactic is just one way that omnichannel strategies increase conversions. The data your brand generates along the customer path to purchase — however nonlinear it may be — provides more insights your business can use to convert customers from browsers to buyers on every channel where you have your brand, whether it's shoppable posts and pins on Pinterest and Instagram, your own site, or your brick-and-mortar storefront.
Omnichannel commerce also offers brand manufacturers the opportunity to take a hard look at their product content and explore how to make it more accurate and consistent across channels.
Consumers need to trust the information they receive to make an informed purchasing decision. However, far too often, brands rely on spreadsheets and manual processes to ensure product content is up to date. However, omnichannel commerce is making automation more essential for brands to move at the speed of their customers, which is why many brand manufacturers are turning to commerce experience management (CommerceXM) platforms.
These platforms integrate powerful tools that give brands the ability to create dynamic, interactive content to engage and inform consumers and accelerate their path to purchase.
Thanks to omnichannel commerce, brand manufacturers are now making strategic investments in their tech stack, giving their organizations automated capabilities that enhance the accuracy and consistency of their product content across all channels.
Along with breaking down channel silos, omnichannel commerce also drives brands to break down their own internal silos. Ecommerce and search, customer experience, sales and marketing, and product teams often work within their own islands. Much of this has to do with accountability, but without the right tools, it is often difficult for teams to collaborate across functions.
A disconnected internal culture leads to a disjointed customer experience. Suppose the employees in your contact center have no visibility into the in-store or mobile-app experience. In this case, it’s difficult for them to register why a customer had difficulty using a QR code in-store to make a purchase.
The same thing goes for your ecommerce team. If they do not have timely product information, they can’t ensure your brand is telling a consistent story on every channel.
To deliver the best omnichannel experience, every part of your business must talk to each other and work together to streamline the customer journey — and not just the parts their particular team owns.
Retail is rapidly changing, but omnichannel is here to stay. Consumers will continue to use every touchpoint at their disposal to gather information and comparison shop as they move closer to a buying decision.
Your job is to make their journey as frictionless as possible and ensure there’s a strong, connective thread in their experience as they move from channel to channel.
This approach will help gain their trust and confidence, which could mean acquiring new, loyal customers that will stick with your company — regardless of whether they make their purchase on your own site or one of the many other touchpoints where they might interact with your brand.
Watch our on-demand webinar, “Exec POV: How to Transition to a Digital-First Omnichannel Organization,” to learn how your brand can demolish silos and reshape itself for the new digital-first consumer journey.
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