Sink or Swim: Why Omnichannel is Becoming a Must For Modern Retailers

Nov 20, 2016 — Kelly Kazakoff
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Omnichannel no longer separates a few brands from the pack—it has become the gold standard for retail marketing. 

By integrating online and offline channels, an omnichannel approach can deliver a unified shopping experience to customers. Here's a closer look at why omnichannel marketing is fundamental to your business.

Customers seek information online before buying in-store

Omnichannel is customer-centric: retailers need to think like consumers, who access various platforms—print, websites, social media, and more—to shop for products. According to a Havas Media brand study, meaningful brands (those that contribute to a customer's quality of life) tend to earn more sales. An omnichannel retail strategy prioritizes the wellbeing of customers by ensuring that every channel offers consistent and valuable information to a brand's audience.

According to Forrester, 72% of U.S. smartphone owners use their phones in-store to check prices, look up product information, and find a specific item. These shoppers may also look at print advertisements, speak with sales associates, and visit other sources for more details. If they receive strong, unified messaging about a brand's products, consumers will feel ready to move to the next stage of the sales funnel: the purchase.

Omnichannel retail example: REI

For outdoors retailer REI, 75% of their customers visit their website or mobile app to check out items before making an in-store purchase. REI understood that mobile offered a great marketing opportunity. The co-op decided to equip their sales associates with mobile devices to help customers with their purchasing decisions, and provide free in-store Wi-Fi for customers to access information as they shop.

Download our free report to learn which technologies will make omnichannel a reality 

How can retailers take advantage?

Consider if the online and offline experiences you offer are consistent. Does the in-store strategy match the website's approach? Do they both give the customer the same brand messaging? If not, you can incorporate digital signage such as interactive touchscreens in your stores. Bring the brand story you've shared online into your brick-and-mortar locations, to create an impression your in-store customers will appreciate.

Customers desire convenient and seamless shopping

Beyond providing consistent messaging, retailers can enhance their value to customers by making the shopping experience more convenient. As found in a Columbia University study, long lines can have a negative impact on sales; a customer might choose to leave a store without buying anything if they expect they'll be spending a lot of time in the checkout line.

Consider this alternative shopping scenario.

  1. On an e-commerce site, a customer loads their online shopping cart with products.
  2. The customer then visits a brick-and-mortar store to find a sales associate has already gathered those items and set them aside.
  3. The customer can then leave the store with their intended purchases, no waiting necessary!

Omnichannel retail example: Starbucks

In fact, this is exactly what Starbucks has done. The coffee giant allows customers to order in advance via a mobile app before they arrive at a specific location to find their drinks already prepared. At some Starbucks shops, employees will greet guests at the entrance, and enter orders via their mobile POS devices. This saves customers the time and hassle of waiting in line to order and then waiting again for their drinks to be made.

How can retailers take advantage?

Envision how you can take your business to the next level. How can you make order fulfillment a smooth, fuss-free process? Consider equipping your sales team with mobile POS systems. A sales associate can quickly view customer profiles, check inventory, and find product details so they can serve a customer anywhere in the store.

Moving forward with omnichannel retail

Technological innovation is a key part of the evolving retail landscape. Whether you're integrating your online and offline channels for the first time or you're looking to break new ground, omnichannel retail marketing can help you give your customers what they want: an easy and supportive way to shop.

Download our free report to learn which technologies will make omnichannel a reality. Get Your Free Report

Feature Photo: Dean Drobot / Shutterstock.com

Topics: Wireless Trends, Retail Marketing

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