There is no doubt: The face of retail is changing. Retail success today means making a consistent connection with your customer regardless of how that customer decides to connect with you.
Under an omnichannel strategy, a company’s store, website, mobile app and social media presence all have the same look and feel. The customer is offered access to the same information, and it’s designed to be used together so that consumers can begin the shopping experience on one channel and switch to another without having to start all over.
John Seebeck, vice president and general manager of eCommerce at CDW, agrees. “Having a single view of the customer across online and in-store channels is obviously very important for optimizing the customer experience,” he observes. “But it’s equally important to be able to give a customer who shows up with money the product they want, regardless of where they choose to do business with you.”
Despite the convenience of online shopping, most customers still go to stores to try on clothes or ensure that a product is solidly built. Fortunately, store visits can give customers the best of both worlds – the technology to arm them with comprehensive information, as well as face-to-face interaction with knowledgeable sales associates.
Thanks to location-based technology, such as beacon, businesses know exactly when customers come into their stores – or even when they’re window-shopping outside. They know how long they stay and what parts of the store they visit. Beacon systems use Bluetooth low energy (BLE) – or “Bluetooth smart” – technology to transmit signals to and from mobile apps and a network of beacons within a store.
These signals can give retailers information about shoppers, which they can use to push out location-based ads. For example, if a customer begins looking at headphones, he may get a coupon for 10 percent off audio accessories. Such tactics can help retailers reduce “showrooming” – the practice of visiting stores to interact with products before buying them online.
Another valuable in-store tool is a mobile POS solution, which associates can use to look up customers’ shopping history and find product information for them. This is especially important for consumers who have already done their homework online and expect sales associates to add to their knowledge. Associates can also use mobile POS devices to conduct purchases with customers on the spot, rather than sending them to stand in line.
5% of retailers have achieved their omnichannels goals. 37% haven’t defined a strategy. #cdwsolutionsblog
Online shoppers can research products, find competitive prices and order merchandise without leaving the comfort of their homes. Despite these benefits, online shopping represents only 8 percent of purchases.
That, however, doesn’t mean that customers aren’t shopping or researching online; they’re just not making their final purchases through that channel. At least 33 percent of in-store purchases involve some prior online activity, and analysts expect that figure to climb to 60 percent in the next few years.
While most customers do the majority of their shopping in stores or online, mobile devices play a big role in connecting those channels. Mobile transforms the multichannel experience into an omnichannel one, letting customers combine available channels into a richer process. With a smartphone or tablet, customers can carry the work they did at home into the store.
Retailers are picking up on the importance of mobility. In fact, among retailers surveyed for the 2015 State of Retailing Online report (conducted by Forrester Research for Shop.org), about 58 percent say mobile is their top priority, and 45 percent say they’re focusing on omnichannel.
Websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram let retailers expand their online marketing beyond their own websites and mobile apps. When tied to a well-planned strategy, social media can play a mutually beneficial role in the omnichannel experience. Targeted promotions can convince users to follow a company’s social media feed, which can build brand loyalty.
By its very nature, omnichannel retailing is complex. It’s not only about adding technologies, but also about the nuances needed to integrate tools and policies to create a new retail ecosystem.
This ideal, however, remains difficult for many retailers to pull off. In fact, according to a 2014 survey by Retail Systems Research, only 5 percent of retailers say they have achieved their omnichannels goals, and 37 percent haven’t even clearly defined an omnichannel strategy.
Part of the challenge is inadequate real-time integration between the disparate I.T. systems that support different channels. Another hurdle is entrenched processes that remain specific to a given channel, still another is the need to think creatively and strategically about what makes an omnichannel experience more pleasing to the customer and more profitable for the retailer.
A trusted partner can help retailers manage these nuances, providing the experience and knowledge to help businesses craft a comprehensive omnichannel strategy. For most retailers, this is a brave, new world, but it won’t be long before omnichannel retailing is business as usual.
To learn more about how technology can transform the shopping experience, read this CDW white paper, “Creating the Omnichannel Retail Experience.”