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The Post Omnichannel World: Four Steps to Creating a Truly Connected Experience


By Jim Crawford

In the 1990s, when the Internet and e-commerce created a tangible link between modes of shopping that had previously been isolated (stores and catalogs), retailers struggled with how to understand, measure, and connect with shoppers in multiple ways.

It was out of this confusion that the concept of “multichannel” was heralded as retail’s saving grace, and soon, retailers were all abuzz with cross-channel shoppers.

Fast-forward a few years and retailers began scratching their heads wondering why their “multichannel” initiatives hadn’t delivered the stunning ROI they were promised. Shoppers still longed for a more consistent experience, but “multichannel” just wasn’t cutting it. Thus, “omnichannel” was born.

But the real problem isn’t whether the channels are “multi” or “omni.’ It’s that retailers are still focused on “channels” rather than how the shopper views the world.

What’s next? The future is beyond channels.

To bridge in-store, on-the-go, and at-home experiences, consider these four important steps:

Inspire to shop. If you’re never providing inspiration for what is possible, you’re only selling a commodity. There’s a reason why social media platform Pinterest is so popular. People still want inspiration and ideas. Whether it’s a peek into the season’s hottest fashion trends or cooking a meal with the newest superfood, give your customers the how-to that encourages them to shop. Provide in-store checklists that include featured items, and showcase popular items trending online.

Aid the experience. Over the past few years, mobile capabilities presented a threat to retailers who feared the “showrooming” effect of price-conscious shoppers comparing prices in-store and purchasing from another retailer online. Retailers need to reposition their thinking in terms of how the digital world can aid in the shopping experience. Offer access for in-store price comparison and consumer reviews. The transparency of access to information will earn you points in the consumers’ eyes. Give them access to online inventory while shopping in-store. The additional options could just be the difference between a product purchased and a sale lost.

Make it convenient. Retailers can win loyalty with consumers through convenience. Using digital technology to enhance the customer experience by adding an element of convenience. That can create a true competitive advantage for brands when done right. Offer in-store pick-up for online orders. Customers don’t always want to wait for product to be shipped to them, no matter how fast you can get it there. And getting the customers into the store just might encourage them to explore even more.

In the same realm, offering home delivery for in-store purchases is definitely an added convenience. After committing to purchase an item that just might be too large to transport, no one wants the hassle of trying to figure out how to get it home. There’s nothing more frustrating than the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Finally, provide mobile navigation to help consumers find the precise product location. They won’t buy it if they can’t find it.

Establish a history. When retailers think about the ideal length of a relationship with a consumer, it isn’t always about the immediate purchase that matters.

Often a consumer is exposed to a new product several times before making a final purchase, so creating rapport with the consumer and building a digital conversation within the shopping cycle is key to conversion.

Utilize mobile scanning or offer in-store kiosk access to let consumers add products to wish lists for future purchases or gift ideas for family or friends. Or provide in-store notifications for items consumers have browsed or left in their online cart, giving them incentive to make the purchase in-store.

Retailers that can move from focusing in single channels towards a connected consumer shopping experience can remain competitive in a rapidly evolving retail landscape.

Jim Crawford joined Chute Gerdeman as chief experience officer in 2014. Prior to that, he served as principal and founder of Taberna Retail, and worked as a retail analyst at Forrester Research and Retail Forward.

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