There has been a lot of conversation lately around the concept that omnichannel is BS. Yes, the term has been overused to the point that people may be sick of hearing it, but in my opinion, the concept and need for omnichannel experiences is more vital than ever. And until someone has a new or better buzz term for it, “omnichannel” is here to stay.
Part of the confusion around the strategy is the definition of omnichannel. The literal translation is “omni” – meaning “all” the channels. We used to talk about multi-channel retail strategies but those lines have blurred, and now there is only one channel, your customer.
Omnichannel is the retail strategy that integrates different methods of shopping into a seamless experience, whether your customer is online, in a physical store, on their mobile phone, or anywhere in between. More often than not, your customers are moving back and forth across those access points to your brand. It’s not JUST about the technology at those interaction points; it’s about how you address your customer and how they, in turn, feel about you.
“Nearly half of U.S. online adults agree that they tend to shop more with retailers that offer consistent customer service both online and offline.” - It's Time For Retail Stores To Open Their Doors To The Digital Org, Forrester
The only thing that is BS about omnichannel is the lack of retailers and brands truly achieving the strategy. Very few have been able to create a strong brand experience that addresses customer expectations and provides them the option to purchase what they want, whenever and however they want to.
So why do people hate on omnichannel? It’s not a lack of need for a consistent and delightful brand experiences; it’s a result of pure frustration that they haven’t been able to achieve it!
“74% of shoppers don’t feel they get a consistent experience across channels.” – The State of Retail 2017, TimeTrade
Why has there been such a lack of movement into this customer-centric direction?
- A lack of proof investments will work. Very few retailers want to take the path less traveled until someone else has paved the way and promised a reward, in the form of profit, for their efforts.
- A lack of customer understanding or brand definition. If you don’t know who your customers are inside and out, who you want to be for them, and what they expect of you, it’s impossible to create such a strategy.
- A lack of agile teams focused on omnichannel goals and key objectives. Companies are finding it difficult to build teams with the right stakeholders from various areas of the business. Often it results in a one-store pilot or forgotten project because the project management strategy is on the side of someone’s desk who’s already wearing many hats.
Your brick-and-mortar space is the door to your business, but your website and customer interactions are the thousands upon thousands of windows. Let your customers easily see or walk into your brand and give them a reason to do so. How?
“84% of visitors report using digital for shopping-related activities before or during their most recent trip to a store and consumers who use a device during their shopping journey convert at a 40% higher rate.” - The new digital divide, Deloitte
- Understand your customer journey. Who are your customers and where do they expect to interact with you? Are you selling high-consideration products that require more research or is it impulse or need-based?
- Identify the pain points. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need branded mobile apps or digital signage in-store. But recognize if those things do help your customers fall more in love with your brand and lead them to purchase faster.
- Create a unique brand experience. What truly sets you apart from your competitors? Why would shoppers want to engage with you? What keeps them coming back for more?
- Give your customers what they want. Whether that means buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) or buy online, return in-store (BORIS) or even just the ability to have out-of-stock items drop shipped to their place of choice.
- Get genuine buy-in across your company. Don’t waste your dollars and time on implementing strategies that teams won’t see through. Understand that omnichannel is an ongoing business process, not just one project. Get the right stakeholders involved, create clear goals, and get buy-in right down to the sales-representative level.
If you agree with me that omnichannel doesn’t need to be a curse word, I encourage you to check out our infographic “5 Steps To Achieve Real-Time Personalization.” It will get you well on your way to proving you don’t have time for BS.