If you’re in retail and don’t have an omni-channel strategy yet, you’re missing out on a lot of potential review. A recent report shows that out of 46,000 shoppers, 73% used multiple channels to make a purchase. Only 7% shopped exclusively online, and 20% shopped exclusively in store. If you were looking for proof that you need to create a seamless experience across all channels, there it is. To succeed in today’s retail climate, you must provide a quality product at an affordable price, of course, but these days, it’s becoming less about price and more about the customer experience.
Developing an omni-channel retail strategy improves the customer experience, which in turn, helps to boost customer retention. When you make a customer happy, whether they shop with you online or in-store, at your website or through your app or social media channels, chances dramatically improve that they will come back to you again and again for repeat purchases. When you consider the cost of customer acquisition is (at least) 5x higher than the cost of customer retention, it makes more sense to keep the customers you have happy than to constantly focus your efforts on bringing in new customers.
Note: Omni-channel isn’t quite the same thing as multi-channel marketing. Learn the difference in this blog post.
Step One: Determine Where Your Audience is
Taking the time to determine where your customers are spending most of their time online is important. Because there are so many channels to invest time and energy in, it doesn’t make sense to overextend yourself and try to be everywhere. Rather than making a half-hearted attempt at creating a cohesive social presence across all the major social media networks, on the off chance you’ll catch a customer’s eye, it makes more sense to focus your efforts on one or two social channels where you know your customers are.
Once you know the platforms your customers are using, figure out the mediums they use the most, and the devices they use. This way, you’ll get a clearer idea of where your customers are spending time, how, and where they normally shop.
For instance, you may learn there aren’t a lot of Instagrammers in your target audience. That means you can either ditch the channel, or skip it altogether and focus your efforts on other channels that are far more profitable.
Use your Google Analytics account to learn more about your customers – specifically the Acquisition reports. These will show you the channels that are effectively driving visitors to your website, and then you’ll get a better idea of how people are finding your business. If you want to go more in-depth, look at the Multi-Channel Funnels option and run different attribution reports to see the full conversion path.
Step Two: Identify All Touchpoints and Make Them Shoppable
To maximize your omni-channel approach, any and all customer touchpoints must be shoppable. If you find, for instance, that you have a decent size customer base on Instagram or Pinterest, both of these networks have shoppable post options that allow people to make purchases directly from those platforms.
The idea is that no matter where your customers are, you should make it as easy as possible for them to move from product discovery to conversion. If they find out about your product while browsing Instagram, but have to go to a computer to actually buy it, you’re taking the chance that the person either won’t want to do that, or can’t do it right then and will forget to do it later.
You’ll decide the touch points you want to use based on the ones you believe will be most profitable to you, based on where your customers shop and where they hang out.
Step Three: Create a Smooth Transition Between Online and Offline
If you are a brand with both an online presence and a traditional brick-and-mortar store for offline purchases, you have to bridge the gap between the two to provide a better customer experience. Major retailers like Walmart and Kohl’s have done this by allowing you to place orders online and come pick them up in store, rather than waiting (and paying) for them to be shipped to your home.
This allows customers to save time and hassle associated with going to your store and finding out you don’t have the item in stock, or having to call to find out. They can pay for the purchase online, and simply pick it up later, rather than having to go into the store and find it themselves. Saving time is a good motivator for customers.
Services like Prime Wardrobe allow you to shop for clothes and shoes you’d like to try. The items are shipped to you to try on, and you buy only what you want to keep – with no obligation to keep any of it. This is helpful because a lot of the time, you’re not sure something will look the way you think, or fit the way it should based on the description. If you make the purchase first, you’re left with having to return the items, possibly losing money because you have to pay for return shipping. This encourages people to buy because they can try before they commit, or exchange for a different size or color with greater ease.
Grocery stores and fast food restaurants are following along on the trend, using third party services such as Instacart, Shipt, DoorDash, GrubHub, and UberEats. Though they don’t generally deliver, customers in the right geographical areas can get pretty much anything delivered – from tacos to fried chicken. It’s a great option for when you’re sick of pizza delivery, or just don’t have time to make the grocery trip on your own. Partnering with third-party services allows brands to capitalize on creating an omnichannel experience and add convenience for their customers, without having to invest a ton of money into their own brand-specific initiatives.
All in all, anyone in retail – whether you have an offline presence or not – needs to consider their omni-channel strategy. Put your customers first in everything you do, and test everything until you get the best possible results. Your bottom line will thank you.