Today, consumers are increasingly embracing digital technologies and mobile devices in the buying process. The integration of digital and off-line shopping has led to the increasing popularity of Omni-Channel Retailing. Retailers who understand and implement the omni channel retailing concept are providing an elevated level of shopping experience to their customers.
What is Omni-Channel Retailing?
Omni-Channel Retailing can be described as an integrated kind of buying experience that will meld the benefits of the physical stores with information rich experiences of online shopping. This approach has its main focus on building strong bridges between offline and online shopping.
Omni-Channel Retailing is quite similar to Multi-Channel Retailing. However, it is more concentrated on a seamless approach to consumer experiences through the available shopping channels such as computers, mobile Internet gadgets, radio, television, catalog and direct mail among others. The retailers are now able to meet the rising customer demands through the deployment of specialized supply chain programs.
How Does Omni-Channel Retailing Work?
Usually, the Omni-Channel consumers would like to utilize all the channels at the same time. Consequently, the retailers who are utilizing the omni channel approach are able to keep track of all their customers across the Omni-channel. While using Omni-channel retailing, all the shopping channels usually work from the same database of prices, products and promotions.
Rather than perceiving different touch points as part of one brand, the Omni-channel retailers allow the consumers to have an experience of the whole brand, and not just a channel within the brand. It is worth noting that the promotions and merchandise is not channel specific, but rather they are consistent across the all channels. As such, the brick and mortar stores end up becoming a supply chain extension where the purchases can easily be made within the store, but they must be available for research through other different communication channels.
Take note that Omni-channel retailing, makes marketing increasingly efficient with various offers that are relatively specific to the consumer being determined by factors such as loyalty programs, website visits, social networks affiliates, purchase patterns as well as other kinds of data mining techniques.
The Benefits of Omni-Channel Retailing:
Omni-channel retailing approach will create a very knowledgeable consumer. This means that the store employees should be increasingly knowledgeable about the merchandise and procedures.
Notably, there has been a lot of hype about omni channel retailing, which can be attributed to several factors. Brands and retailers have been forced to reformulate their supply chain approaches so as to match with the paradigm shift in the consumer demand. Keep in mind that omni channel shopping needs providing a superior and immersive customer experience irrespective of the channel.
Usually, the retailers carry customer-centric merchandise that is not specific to any kind of channel.
Research has proved that the Omni-channel shopper usually spends an average of 15 to 30% above the multi channel shoppers and they exhibit a stronger brand loyalty, which often influences others to patronize a specific brand.
The Importance of Up-To-Date Information
As you move towards the Omni-channel approach, real time data is vital. This is because as the socially connected clients move from one channel to another, they should be allowed to return back through a different kind of retail channel so as to complete the browsing or buying process at the point where they had originally left off. A convenient and consistent brand exposure that is from an Omni-channel retailer should create more awareness from consumers.
It is worth mentioning that some investment on money and time is required while preparing an omni channel retailing presence. There should be excellent communication between the marketing department, IT department as well as the sales team so as to eliminate any confusion about the strategies and goals.
There must be a thorough and clear understanding of the client and the target market. This is essential since the right decisions about the integration and usability of the channels should be made. Since the brick and mortar sales that are influenced by online search are higher than total e-commerce sales, the Omni-channel retailers must be informed, personable and they should always be connected and they should allow channel transparency.
As much as the concept of omni channel retailing is quite new for majority of the retailers, it gets much more attention since consumer behavior is constantly changing and retailers are able to gain a single kind of customer view that integrates customer and shopping data with other factors such as customer preferences and behavioral profiling.
In order to see what possibilities Omni-channel retailing offers, it is a good idea to perform relevant tests. However, this will mainly depend on the retailers’ individual content, product types, customer behavior, profile and the market. Several strategies can be used to create a more integrated kind of shopping experience. Notably, there are those that have been tried, tested and proven while others are still fairly new.
Components of Omni-Channel Retailing
It is worth noting that there are certain components that are required for Omni-Channel Retailing. This components should be integrated so as to yield the most effective results. Mentioned below is information on some of the components of Omni-Channel Retailing and how these components should be treated so as to achieve the desired results.
1. Utilize the Social Media
Peer to peer communication has proved to be among the most effective methods that you can use to sell something. The brands that utilize social communities and the social media are moving from the traditional forms of advertising and instead they are allowing their clients to assist in building the brand through comments, recommendations and discussions. Social is a major part of Omni retail shopping as the experiments that have been done in stores have proved – for example, the display of likes on tiny screens right next to the actual products.
2. Integrating Customer Reviews
Similar to the social media, customer reviews are very powerful advertising tools. The shoppers usually trust the experiences that their peers have had more than the information that they get from the brand advertisements. Today, companies are now taking advantage of the ever-growing mobile trend so as to make reviews as well as product guides available in the stores. The customers are able to access this information as they shop and they can utilize it to assist in making purchase decisions.
When companies are able to read reviews as well as see comprehensive product information, they will be able to create a comprehensive purchase experience that will assist in driving the sales up.
3. Utilize Digital Means in Order to Personalize Physical Information
Undoubtedly, the modern consumer enjoys a personalized shopping experience. They love being given a warm greeting by a store associate and they appreciate having somebody who remembers their purchasing preferences. Consumers do not fancy going through long sales pitches as they look for items to purchase. There are stores that are using apps to assist their employees to accomplish this kind of thing for their clients. There are also apps that deliver information about the in-store sales as well as events directly to the clients as they shop.
4. The Technological Advances In Store
With the advancements in technology, businesses will now offer more personalized and detailed shopping recommendations. The in-store stations that allow clients to interact with products that are available for sale are able to gather vital information related to things like sizes and purchase history, which allows the retailers to deliver a more comprehensive product guidance to every individual client.
5. Merging Local and Social
Social Media platforms such as Facebook and Foursquare allow businesses to utilize their channels to market their products and services to the local customers. Such services link the mobile users to friends through check ins that show which people have stopped where as well as any other comments and experiences.
The business that want to use the social media platforms can offer sales alerts, coupons, messages and events, delivering information to shoppers about their day-to-day routines.
The evolution towards a more integrated digital, physical, mobile as well as social shopping experience is just the beginning. Today, retailers are now moving towards the cross channel kinds of experiences. It is actually interesting to analyze what has been tested and what has worked. Take note that utilizing closed loop marketing along a single customer view all across shopping and marketing channels will give you the data and insights that you require to perform further experiments.
The Omni-channel strategy has opened doors to different opportunities such as coupons that can either be redeemed in-store or online. The integration of online tools like tablets and smartphones to provide extra product information, ratings and reviews is a major plus. This allows the retailers to engage directly with their clients and offer extra in-store tools with the aim of encouraging them to make more purchases.
Further to this, the major challenge of inconsistency across the channels provides the retailers with the chance of collaboration between the merchandizing and marketing departments.
The consumer data should be utilized for in-store visits and also to provide similar personalized experiences as compared to the other kinds of online channels. The collaboration on this front will allow better assortment of inventory as well as forecasting.
Jo-Ann Fabric and H.H. Gregg and Craft Stores are two examples of businesses that allow their consumers to check their inventory by store, purchase online as well as pick their product from their desired store.
Another example is Restoration Hardware. This company converts its stores into brand showrooms where the consumers can test products as they shop through the vast online catalogs. Also note that WalmartLabs is now mining social, mobile as well as local data so as to predict their shoppers’ next purchases, which will aid them to have relevant stock.
How to Start
At a glance, it may appear like the omni retailing approach is a simple concept. Well, being able to unify the Focus of the Fortune 500 retailer along the mentioned complex lines is not an easy undertaking. You must begin by prioritizing among the hundreds of possibilities.
Secondly, you should think about the customer experience across the channels as well as the devices after which you should build a communication web aimed at bringing together, from the conference room to the showroom.
Also within the organization, you should break down the functional silos and, then create incentives for various departments to be able to share data and sell products from all the channels.
The majority of the retailers may probably have started making adjustments with improved client-service policies, new kinds of mobile features as well as updated product delivery options, but they are still missing the mark.
However, there are still several international and innovative chains that are closing on this deal. Macy’s, Best Buy, Nordstrom’s, Staples, Urban Outfitter and Restoration hardware have started making the transitions that are needed in developing a consistent experience for their pool of shoppers.
With the strong belief that the omni channel retailing forms an integral part of the retailing future, these chains are uniting e-commerce teams as well as retailing and integrating the technology systems with the aim of seeking a unified goal.
These companies are adding quick pickup counters for the online purchasers, staff training to handle the instant checkout through tablets and smart phones and, then gathering the data so as to personalize the shopping experience.
So, what does all this mean for the retailers? They simply need to move from the traditional way of doing things. They need to come up with strategies that will assist their customers to shop with ease.
Consumers will soon stop dealing with retailers who cannot meet them where they are. This also applies to the retailer and manufacturer relationships. Therefore, it is time that we embrace Omni-channel retailing in a bid to match the expectations of customers.