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Omnichannel Commerce — How it Really Works, Where it’s Going

Lonnie Mayne, president, InMoment

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Every few years, a new term enters the retail IT industry lexicon and takes firm root, even though nobody can provide an actual, definitive meaning. The latest phrase to capture the imagination of retail technology practitioners without a standard, widely accepted definition is “omnichannel commerce.” While it is generally understood that omnichannel commerce is the practice of serving customers across all available physical and digital channels, the details are still vague.

Lonnie Mayne, president of Salt Lake City-based InMoment, a cloud-based customer experience optimization platform provider that was formed from the merger of Mindshare Technologies and Empathica, recently shared some insights with Chain Store Age on the true meaning of omnichannel commerce. Mayne offered concise explanations of exactly how different channels fit in to the omnichannel paradigm and how retailers can most effectively engage with consumers using an omnichannel strategy.

A lot of industry experts talk about “omnichannel commerce” — what does this term actually mean?

Our clients are experiencing and talking about “omnichannel” in two ways. The first relates to the realities of how their customers are interacting with brands. Technology allows customers to research, window shop, get coupons, make purchases, ask questions, provide feedback and refer a friend, all without stepping one foot inside a store.

The second component of omnichannel is understanding and embracing all possible touchpoints as opportunities to connect with customers, and then developing comprehensive programs to ensure a positive and consistent customer experience across all channels.

How do the online and social channels fit into the omnichannel model?

Online and social channels allow customers access to your brand 24/7. These interactions can be direct: for example, online shopping or browsing your Facebook page for special offers. They can also be indirect, such as customers posting about your brand on their own social media pages. These round-the-clock conversations will happen, and it’s up to each brand to decide how to engage.

Successful brands will create policies and dedicate well-trained and trusted personnel who can nurture these relationships in a way that is consistent with their other experiences.

Where do mobile devices fit into the model?

Mobile devices provide interesting opportunities — and challenges. Consumers can be in-store and at the same time, check your competitors’ pricing. Technologies such as iBeacons, which use geo-location to identify and customize messages to individual consumers, are on the horizon. Smart brands will stay informed on the newest tools, and choose only the ones that best fit their individual situations.

Used wisely, these technologies have the potential to deepen relationships and dramatically increase loyalty. However, privacy issues, poorly supported solutions, and the question of how to serve the full range of customers, from the most loyal to the potential, equally well, all deserve close attention.

How about physical stores?

Personally, I love the convenience technology provides. But after more than 20 years of helping companies build people-centered organizations, I firmly believe that human interaction will never be replaced. Far from being diminished, the in-person experience will continue to become even more critical in both differentiating and reinforcing your brand promise.

What types of solutions does InMoment offer to help retailers effectively perform omnichannel commerce?

InMoment specializes in collecting experience data across all channels, surfacing insights, and then getting these insights to the right people at the right time. While simple scores and transactional data can tell you the “what” — for example, if a customer rated their experience a three out of 10 and spent $15.75 on their last visit; experience data tells you the “why” — such as if the clothing racks were unorganized and the dressing room was poorly lit, but the sales associate was friendly and really helpful.

These types of detailed insights gleaned from across the omnichannel environment can help you better understand the specific points at which the brand experience is consistently applied, and where you need to improve.

© 2014