Omnichannel Retailing. What’s the Big Deal About it?
The better will give way for the best. This is the common spectacle that you find everywhere, and the retail scene is not different.
The retail landscape has grown from single channel to multichannel and is now evolving to omnichannel.
This progress is really exciting! Omnishoppers are capable of boosting your business to enviable heights. But, you need to become an omniretailer to charm these omnishoppers.
Do not worry about all these fancy-sounding terms. Let’s clarify their meaning before moving ahead.
What is Omnichannel Retailing?
Gone are the days of the single-channel retail model, when customers used to buy things from a single distribution system (brick-and-mortar store).
The emergence of the digital age and the predominance of numerous digital tools have paved the way for multichannel retailing. This model enables customers to purchase products from more than one channel, i.e. through multiple digital and physical stores.
Omnichannel is the latest fad as it offers a cohesive customer experience. Both multichannel and omnichannel involves selling products through a range of physical and digital outlets. But, what makes the latter unique is, the seamless shopping experience that it offers to its customers.
In an omnichannel shopping experience, a person is no longer an online shopper (shopping from a digital device) or an in-store shopper (shopping directly from a brick-and-mortar store). Instead, he becomes an omnishopper (omnichannel shopper or omnichannel customer), as the experience through these varied channels is unified and integrated.
Why this Kind of Coherent and Absolute Integration?
Complete and clear integration is the core of omnichannel retailing. True integration of different shopping channels on the back end is the highlight of this retail model.
The emergence of omnichannel retailing was one of the natural results of the digital transformation. The explosion of digital technologies, social media and other devices has given a facelift to people’s perceptions of shopping. The outpouring of information including product reviews, price comparisons, better price offers, exciting return policies etc. through various channels has contributed a lot.
All these thrilling advancements have inspired customers to have a true continuity in their shopping experience. They started preferring a holistic approach. Therefore, retailers, marketers, salespeople etc. need to adapt their behaviour to suit people’s changing shopping habits and inclinations.
The omnichannel retail strategy has evolved as the best approach. In this innovative model, the once siloed website and physical stores show complete integration. This leads to a seamless shopping experience.
A study by Harvard Business Review (HBR) reveals that 73% of the customers surveyed used multiple channels during their shopping journey. Only 7% were online-only shoppers and 20% were store-only shoppers. Their shopping habits revealed the fact that they either bought products online and picked-up in store, or bought in the store and got their purchases shipped.
Blending the shopping experience across traditional and digital channels is inevitable in the modern retail landscape.
Examples of How Some Brands Have Effectively Rolled Out Omnichannel Retailing.
Modern digital-savvy customers’ shopping experience flow through different channels and multiple touchpoints. They are happy only if these touchpoints and channels are made smooth and continuous. Being present at every touchpoint is the best strategy that a retailer can adopt.
Modern-day shoppers may check the inventory on a brand’s website or on an online shopping portal. They will be purchasing the item on their mobile device at a later point in time, and will be picking up the item from a chosen physical store. (Did you know picking up online purchases in stores is mutually beneficial for both retailers and shoppers?)
The new age shoppers prefer this kind of flexible shopping routines that will make their purchase a super-informed and gratifying one. Omnishoppers don’t see a particular retailer’s store and website in silos. Retailers have to take into account the whole experience into mind and craft a custom-made omnichannel retail model.
Here are some inspiring instances of how some brands are breaking down all barriers in their customer’s shopping journey.
Starbucks, the renowned American coffee company and coffeehouse chain, is a leader in omnichannel retailing. The Starbucks app creates an engaging mobile retail experience, which helps them to cater to their customers’ needs effectually. They have flawlessly integrated an effective loyalty program in the app with the option of checking and refilling their Starbucks card balance through their phone, the website, or at the store. After each payment, the balance points will be automatically updated online and in the app. The brand uses SMS and QR code strategies heavily and effectually.
As aptly remarked by Howard Schultz, the executive chairman of Starbucks, “………a company’s capability and competency as a four-wall brick and mortar retailer must be as good digitally and on mobile in all things that make the brand as relevant outside of the store and on a mobile device as it is inside the four walls of the store.”
Timberland, the leading footwear manufacturer, is offering new seamless experience heights to its customers. The brand is fusing the physical and digital retail space through the Near-Field communication (NFC) technology.
With the innovative location-based technologies like NFC and Beacon technology, Timberland customers can digitally and socially engage with every product in the store. The NFC-enabled tablets give customers rich product information. Shoppers get complete access to the full corporate product range, which is otherwise available only online. The brand gets a superior understanding of their customers’ preferences in-store. Interactive “TouchWalls” in store enable shoppers to add their preferred inventories to a personalized shopping list.
3. Crate & Barrel
Crate & Barrel, the renowned houseware retailer, has rolled out different omnichannel strategies. Their approaches take advantage of shoppers’ device toggling habit throughout the shopping journey.
In-store customers are given tablets known as Mobile Totes, which they can carry around the store. Shoppers can scan product barcodes and get more details about each product. It saves customers personalized preferences and insights, which in turn helps customer executives to deliver better customer service. Customers use the tablets to email their preferred items that are currently unavailable in the store. The brand can focus these customers when they visit their website and pitch them based on their preferred items. Customers can also check out and pay through the device. This offers a perfect digital and seamless in-store shopping experience.
Centralized data management is at the core of achieving omnichannel retailing and marketing strategies. Choosing the best eCommerce platform with the best possible omnichannel features is an ideal solution.
Many e-commerce platforms like Magento comes with this functionality. Magento offers customizable web options and extensions that enable you to provide an unbroken experience across brands, formats and devices.
The passionate adoption of consumer technology by shoppers around the world has helped them to move leaps and bounds in their journey. An omnichannel strategy that keeps your customers in a connected system regardless of their device or location is the need of the hour and of the future too.