All across today’s retail landscape, “offline” and “online” shopping habits intermingle to such an extent that they simply cannot be considered separate entities anymore. Now that in-store shoppers can access online product and brand information just as readily as their at-home counterparts, retailers face the increasingly complex task not just of maintaining a relevant presence throughout all of the channels their customers are exploring, but also of offering seamless transitioning between each.
The ultimate goal of the omni-channel approach is to ensure that customers feel the same level of familiarity, recognition, appreciation, and ease no matter how or where they choose to interact with your brand. Innovative retailers are rising to the occasion by devising integrated systems that replace yesterday’s bumpy—and distracting—road between laptop, tablet, smartphone, and brick-and-mortar with a high-tech, super-smooth journey across all touchpoints.
So what can you do to make the omni-channel experience a reality for your customers today? Here are a few simple steps to get you moving in the right direction.
Utilize mobile technology in store.
While mobile purchasing hasn’t quite taken off yet, a recent study by Marketing Land and Survey Monkey showed that a vast majority of in-store customers use their smartphones to search for product reviews, consult social media, and shop for better deals. This can be a high hurdle for brick-and-mortar—but it can also be an opportunity. Bridge the gap between these channels by using in-store mobile features—or a personalized app—to capture your customer’s attention before she starts looking elsewhere. Try offering discounts to customers who check in at your location on social media. And always let them know you’ll match whatever prices they find if and when they start shopping around.
Know your customer.
More channels means more leg work, but it also means more data. Valuable customer information is everywhere, just waiting to help you predict and capitalize on consumer behaviors. Collect as much of it as you can in as many ways as you can—but make collecting it meaningful for participants by offering discounts and other incentives. Closely monitor individual shopping trends and micro-target sales accordingly. Sync a customer’s preferences with in-store staff technology so your customer service reps can identify repeat customers and avoid asking for the same information multiple times.
Get rid of the overflowing shopping cart and the long checkout line.
The ease and comfort of online purchasing is now expected from the in-store experience as well. For one, that means no checkout lines. Self-checkouts go a long way to smoothing over the transition from online to in-store, but allowing customer service reps to complete purchases on the go with tablets and smartphones eliminates checkout lines for good. Feeling even more ambitious? Set up a scan-as-you-go system, so your customers can find everything they want, process their payment, and pick up their purchases on the way out the door—just like an online shopping cart. You can even incentivize larger purchases and customer loyalty by offering free local or reduced-rate long-distance delivery of in-store purchases.
Speaking of delivery… streamline your fulfillment network.
For better or worse, the fulfillment playing field is now level—and convenience is the name of the game. The new retail supply chain is all about the single customer, so it pays to be flexible enough to incorporate everything from in-store and warehouse inventory replenishment all the way down to delivering a single, one-item order. Retailers call this delivering on the “eaches”—and it’s no easy feat. The fact is: if you’re going to satisfy customers who want to buy from anywhere and at any time, you’ll need a continuously updated, unimpeded view of your entire supply chain. A revamped omni-channel fulfillment network puts the right quantities of the right products in the right places at the right times.
It’s always been true that smart online shoppers don’t buy anything without first reading customer reviews. Now that’s the case for all of the customers in your store as well—so why not use it to your advantage? Customer reviews are a great way to bridge the gap between your in-store, mobile, and at-home experiences. Encourage your customers to share information with each other equally across all of your channels. Leverage live tweets from your store in a way that increases traffic both online, on the go, and on location. And let your customers see their feedback in action by adapting quickly based on what you learn.