The initial rise of ecommerce resulted in fear in the hearts and minds of traditional brick and mortar retailers. They proceeded with caution, not wanting to disrupt the traditional channels of retail. From a consumer perspective, they also experienced trepidation with ecommerce. Consumers were used to being able to test out products, determine what they liked, and leave with their goods in hand. With the emergence of ecommerce, consumers lost a bit of trust that the products they purchased online would meet their needs.
Over time, these fears have subsided for both retailers and consumers. Ecommerce and traditional retail channels have slowly morphed from a fear-based “acquaintanceship” into a friendship that is mutually beneficial. However, simply stated even though both consumers and retailers recognize the benefits of cross-channel commerce, it is still a complex relationship with consumers moving from offline to online back to offline at any given juncture. Retailers have to be prepared to engage with consumers on their terms and create an experience that matches with their expectations.
Cross-channel retail sales, which are defined as transactions that touch a digital channel but are not completed via the Internet, will reach $1.8 trillion in the U.S. by 2018. Thus, as consumers move across channels; i.e., spotting something they like online, doing research and eventually finding it in-store, determining they like it, going back online to find the best deal for product is, calling to confirm its availability, and then eventually making the purchase in-store.
Although shopping as prescribed above has almost become second nature for consumers, when all of the different possible touchpoints are mapped out, it quickly becomes very complicated for retailers who are now engaging multiple channels. In an effort to create a seamless experience for consumers, here are five deadly sins to be aware of and avoid when mapping your omnichannel strategy:
1. Lack of data capture and integration. Data provides the foundation for which the omnichannel strategies are built. Without proper data capture and integration, the omnichannel experience falls flat. Data helps tell the complete story of the consumer journey, from who the consumer is to how they engage with the retailer, and what their preferences are. By properly capturing and analyzing consumer and business data, retailers are able to develop omnichannel strategies that are appropriately targeted to the needs and wants of their core segments.
2. Causing friction along the consumer lifecycle. If a consumer has purchased online but wants to return or exchange the goods in-store, the responsibility rests on the retailer to create a painless experience for the consumer. Any resistance along the consumer’s path will deter them from engaging with the retailer in the future. Thus, it is important that all of the sales channels are working in conjuncture with one another to allow for an experience that fits the needs of the consumer.
3. Thinking of omnichannel as simply a sales effort. Online. In-store. Mobile. For retailers, it’s important to understand that consumers come to your channels for a number of different reasons and establishing each channel as strictly a transaction center is only a disservice for retailers. Instead, retailers should recognize that each channel plays a fundamental role in fostering consumer retention and acquisition efforts. To that end, retailers should provide content to help move consumers along the lifecycle without forcing a sale at every point of interaction.
4. Failure to optimize technology for in-store use. Gone are the days where the in-store experience was strictly a person-to-person exchange. Savvy retailers are using technology to help facilitate the sale and provide additional insight that can fuel positive consumer service. For instance, as soon as a consumer walks into the store, some retailers are able to map that consumer back to previous purchases. They know their likes, dislikes, and this information can help facilitate future sales. Retailers are no longer starting with a blank canvas each time a consumer walks into the store.
5. Disjointed experience from offline to online (and vice versa). A cornerstone for creating an omnichanel experience is ensuring that the consumer feels that whether they are connecting with a retailer through email, mobile, tablet, online, in-store, out of home, in a different state, that all of these experiences are aligned with their expectations and with past experiences. The experience is so seamless that the consumers can connect to the retailer at any given point, through any given channel and be able to accomplish what they initially set out to do.
When retailers establish cross-channel continuity and provide consumers with an easier, faster, more efficient way to complete their objectives it is at this juncture when they have successful established an omnichannel experience and have introduced the notion of customer-centricity into their marketing.