Although many stores have closed others have taken the opportunity to reinvent customer experiences. In the UK, for example, the home goods retailer B&M maintained its financial performance in 2021 through its brick and mortar stores even though it hasn’t yet launched an ecommerce site. It has plans to open more new stores before the end of the financial year so, for some at least, it’s clear that brick and mortar is not dead.
Post pandemic purchasing behavior
Adapting to the pandemic with technological alternatives has permanently changed our social, work life, and buying behavior. However, in many cases, the pandemic has simply accelerated trends that were already underway. While we are now much more familiar with new technologies, it’s not yet clear how customers will choose to make their purchases in the future.
With shortages and supply chain challenges alongside natural caution people are being more selective about their buying choices and are looking for unique experiences.
In 2021, global brick and mortar sales generated an estimated US$19.1trillion – almost 80% of all retail sales. By 2025, it is estimated that brick and mortar sales will be US$22trillion or just over 72% of the total.
In the longer term, the pace of the post-pandemic recovery will slow down, with developed economies returning to the levels predicted before the pandemic and growth in emerging and developing economies falling from 6.3% in 2021 to an estimated 4.4% by 2023. Making the right strategic choices for your online and off-line channels now will have a significant impact on your business in this elastic economic environment.
What is omnichannel?
An efficient omnichannel strategy focusses on creating seamless user experiences at every touchpoint with your customers. Customer engagement and content must deliver accurate and relevant information with easy opportunities to buy at the precise moment people are ready to make their choices.
This isn’t a new approach and many retailers have been using it successfully to differentiate themselves from in-store only or online only competitors for some time. A study of 46,000 shoppers at a traditional US retailer found that almost three quarters of customers used several channels as part of their shopping journey.
Five steps to create an efficient omnichannel strategy
1. Understand your audience
You will need to know how, where and when people in your target audience are most likely to make purchase decisions and the steps they will take on the way. Your strategy must prioritize your customers’ needs at each stage of their journey.
Converting your data into useful insights about customer behavior will be key to your success. Examine customer experiences from every angle in every channel, use mystery shoppers, or explore every touchpoint yourself to see how effective they are. Wherever possible collect customer feedback and analyze complaints to identify opportunities to improve.
2. Build trust
Your customers will value personalized experiences. Segmenting your audience based on the personal information they are willing to provide, their engagement with your campaigns and promotions, and their buying preferences will allow you to deliver tailored content and help you to add value.
While that might seem labor-intensive artificial intelligence and machine learning can now make automation much more affordable. Relevant messages and recommendations can be triggered when your customers act in certain ways or even when they haven’t engaged with you for some time.
Whichever channel your customer chooses they will receive consistently relevant, personalized content tailored to their purchasing journey.
3. Become customer-centric
Recognizing and responding to your customers’ needs will improve your conversion rates and build loyalty. To respond effectively and engage your customers their data must be used by every member of your team. Your organizational focus must change. Rather than relying on internal operations and processes every part of your business must become responsive to customer needs. From product design to marketing and customer service to fulfilment, one of your top performance indicators will be customer satisfaction.
4. Measure to Improve
Understanding that your customers’ needs are changing all the time means you must continually measure, test and review your omnichannel strategy. Without baseline figures you won’t be able to test new approaches and without time specific measurements you could miss important buying trends. Messages, images and offers might work better for some segments of your audience while others might be more responsive to in-store or online promotions. To maintain and improve your performance you will need to use this information at every touchpoint.
5. Integration to streamline your strategy
By integrating your enterprise (ERP) systems with your in-store, ecommerce and marketing channels your whole organization can share a single source of near real time customer and product information. You can combine digital and physical channels and use technology to increase your sales and improve customer satisfaction.
You can create rules to organize how orders are fulfilled from your available inventory and coordinate with stores, distributors and other systems and processes to deliver the best possible delivery options for you and your customers and simplify returns.
Work with experts
At Williams Commerce we have helped businesses around the world deliver seamless omnichannel experiences. Our consultative approach helps you to create an efficient and effective omnichannel strategy. With our deep technical experience of implementing integrated systems, you can confidently accelerate your business growth and improve operational efficiency.
Speak with one of our experts to find out how an omnichannel strategy can help you meet the needs of your customers.