Bob Willett, the former CIO of Best Buy, hit the nail on the head when he said, “The sooner we drop the ‘e’ out of ‘e-commerce’ and just call it commerce, the better.” His statement accurately portrays the transition of commerce into a full experience that encompasses multiple screens. From mobile to in-store to even wearables, shoppers are looking for a personal and seamless experience on all of the channels that retailers offer.
The only problem is that managing all of those channels provides retailers with a whole new suite of challenges. It can be hard to integrate all channels, especially because each one must address unique needs for different customers.
A true omnichannel strategy takes into account both the type of channel they’re selling on and the varying customer needs based on it. For example, a shopper on a smartphone is likely on the go and in need of a product immediately. So why not offer stock levels for the closest store to make sure the shopper can get exactly what they need, when they need it, in the most convenient location?
Retailers have a long way to go, though, because 92% percent of retailers that operate on and offline have a hard time integrating the two experiences.
Omnichannel and personalization: It’s profitable
Wouldn’t you spend more if you had an on-going relationship with a sales associate? Websites might not exactly have an associate who knows your name, style, or past purchases, but they can mirror the in-store experience with the help of data.
Retailers are trying to do this in-store and online. Amazon is a great example of a company that gets the ROI of personalization. When you log into your account, you’ll always see “Hello, <<name>>.” This is followed by recommendations based on the categories of your past purchases.
Relationships shouldn’t have to start from scratch each time. Instead, they should pick up from where they left off. Another good idea is personalized offers for past customers who haven’t made a purchase in a while.
Use one channel to enhance another. Say a multichannel retailer wants to drive traffic to their brick and mortar stores, why not offer an in-store discount for previous customers that live within a certain mile radius of one of your stores?
How to do it right
Shoppers just want a breezy experience with your brand each and every time. Warby Parker is one retailer really getting omnichannel and personalization right and here’s why:
Customer service: I recently ordered a pair of glasses from the retailer, but the day after the scheduled delivery date they still hadn’t arrived. I’ve noticed that many brands are quicker on Twitter than by email or (if all else fails) phone. So I shot them a tweet, quickly explaining the problem. Within no time someone replied and notified me that they had emailed me about the issue. Keep in mind that I hadn’t given them an order number or any additional information besides my full name on my account. This had me impressed because I didn’t have to go through a back-and-forth. Also, they didn’t follow the “sorry that happened, email us here” template that many companies use. Needless to say, I was impressed and the lesson that all retailers can learn from them is to treat customers like you know them and offer consistent service, regardless of the medium.
More channels, fewer problems: Warby Parker started off selling glasses just online, but in April 2013 they opened their first store in Manhattan’s SoHo. They’ve expanded across the country and stores sell about $3,000 worth of merchandise per square foot, which puts it above the majority of retailers.
Opening brick-and-mortar stores was a perfect strategy for this retailer because of the products they sell. Most people like to try on their frames before committing to buying them and retail locations gave yet another option beyond their free in-home try on. In addition to that, more consumers now have access to the product and can easily discover the brand. What’s not to love?
Where omnichannel commerce could be going
One channel to look out for this year is smart watch commerce. Retailers are already on our desks, on our couches, and in our pockets, but they’re gearing up to be on our wrists as well. As the launch of the iWatch gets closer, it’ll be interesting to see which retailers jump at the opportunity to pioneer a new channel.