Brick-and-mortar retailers are quickly discovering how to use omnichannel solutions to delight shoppers with enhanced service. They’re integrating both their face-to-face advantages and the efficiencies of the online world to create unique, memorable, combined in-store/online engagements.
You make sales by serving customers better, not by selling them harder. This can lead to increased revenues and stronger, more loyal customer relationships.
Technology is the great enabler of service.Utilizing your wireless network and access to your online presence on the cloud system,you can give customers access to all the information they need—streaming video demonstrations, up-to-the-minute inventory information, personalized coupons or offers - right at the point of sale.
Equally important, you can serve customers with a team of sales associates enabled and empowered by mobile technology. One key is making certain that your sales associates have as much, if not more, information about your products as the customer has. Another is making sure associates have the same customer data - from demographics to purchasing history to shared likes and dislikes - to help them deliver more thoughtful, more personalized service.
Omnichannel success depends on keeping customers satisfied. The slightest glitch in service or convenience, and customers can instantly choose another channel to help them find what they want.
Brick-and-mortar-based retailers are addressing this omnichannel reality with a variety of interactive applications and sales processes that enhance the customer experience across all channels, notably inside the store itself.
One of the fastest growing is the store’s mobile app, accessed through the guest WiFi network.
Mobile apps enable a variety of customer interactions ranging from greeting a loyal customer to enabling her to check prices with a barcode scanner to pushing coupons based on her past purchase history.
Other applications include mobile check out capabilities that allow associates to accept payment using smart handheld devices, eliminating the frustration of waiting in long,inefficient cash register lines.
Others include smart dressing rooms, interactive video displays and apps that allow customers to more easily navigate your store.
The rise of omnichannel retailing means that application innovation is continuing at a rapid rate with new apps appearing seemingly every day.
But customers have only so much space on their smartphones and only so much time to spend on learning new applications. That’s why on the horizon are so called “over-the-top” apps, single applications that customers can use across a number of different, even competitive, retail operations.
These omnichannel applications provide customers with value when they’re not in your store—think shopping list aggregation—then add retailer-specific functionality inside the store. This includes viewing a store map, getting product information by scanning shelf or kiosk barcodes, accessing selected social networking tools such as likes and peer reviews, finding online help, seeing limited price matching from respected retailers, requesting associate assistance and streamlining electronic payment.
Gaining Insights from Omnichannel Analytics
Collecting and leveraging customers’ personal information have long been staples of online retailers to provide personalized recommendations, but brick-and-mortar stores are catching up quickly. By more closely integrating their online and in-store operations, they’re enhancing their knowledge and understanding of customers through integrated data collection and analytics.
For example, when a woman logs on to a garden center’s WiFi network, the system sees that she has recently purchased vegetable seeds and sends a coupon for 25% off fertilizer to her smartphone. A home improvement store associate sees that a customer is an avid birder so he shows him the store’s new shipment of birdhouses. A pharmacy informs a loyal customer that her prescription medication has become an overthe-counter drug and offers her a personalized introductory discount.
The system makes information—ranging from demographic and psychographic data to purchasing histories to personal shopping behaviors—available to sales associates on the floor.
As in virtually everything omnichannel, the key is making sure that every store and every associate has access to the crucial customer information your network has accumulated. The more you and your employees know about your customers, the more you’ll be able to provide more personal, more consistent, more satisfying and more differentiating customer experiences.
Managing the omnichannel supply chain
In-store and online aren’t the only ways omnichannel customers interact with your store and your brand. A crucial part of the shopper experience happens at the customer’s mailbox or front door. If the delivery is on time, the experience was positive. If it doesn’t arrive when promised, you have a dissatisfied customer.
The speed of omnichannel retailing can place substantial new demands on the supply chain, especially for premises-based retailers.
If the customer’s purchases aren’t in stock, the traditional take it-home-with-you advantage disappears. Now you have to compete with online retailers who offer numerous shipping options, including next-day delivery and even same-day delivery.
Brick-and-mortar retailers are relying on their wireless mobile systems to enable more effective management of their supply chain, warehouse and shipping environments.
Although the customer nirvana has always been same day delivery, what’s most important is actually time-defined delivery, usually within a 2-4 day window. The truth is, only a small percentage of online shoppers are willing to pay extra for expedited delivery.
What shoppers most want to know is when their goods will arrive. If they arrive within the promised time frame, the customer is satisfied. The key is a wireless network that provides real-time visibility across the supply chain to enable accurate, reasonable delivery estimates and streamlined warehouse and logistics operations to ensure deliveries are made within those estimates.
Breaking down the silos between
in-store and online
When in-store operations and online merchandising channels exist as separate silos that don’t consistently talk with each other, customer experiences and sales can suffer.
The omnichannel model gives brick-and-mortar retailers the opportunity to interact with customers in many different ways such as face-to-face in the stores, on the store guest WiFi network, on the store's online e-commerce site, on the store mobile application, and on e-tailing partner sites.
Connected customers are well prepared for this model. No matter where they are, no matter what device they’re using, they know how to connect with your store virtually anytime they choose.
Retailers themselves, however, may not be as prepared for the omnichannel world as their customers are. Many brick-and-mortar operations have fallen into the “silo syndrome.”
They are organized into separate teams: in-store, e-commerce, network application, outlet management and more.
All too often, these silos and teams are neither integrated nor coordinated, so much so that they can even end up competing with each other. That can cause customer brand experiences that may not be consistent across all channels, which can lead to customer confusion, dissatisfaction and loss of business.
That’s a problem that omnichannel retailing is helping to eliminate, as the problems caused by lack of communications among silos become more and more apparent.
The reality is, as retailers better understand the benefits of omnichannel, they more clearly see the need to break down the internal barriers that can lessen or negate those benefits.
This article is an adaptation of the report, which Rugnews.com has used with the permission of RetailCustomerExperience. To read the full report, click here.