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In the tech and e-commerce world, there always seems to be a new buzzword popping up. ‘Omnichannel’ is not a new concept, but it has steadily grown to become the new ‘normal’ way of shopping, as technologies and social media evolve.
‘Omni’ is defined as ‘all’, or ‘of all things’. Omnichannel retailing therefore is the sale of products across multiple platforms – retail stores, online stores, online marketplaces and aggregators, social media sites, mobile app stores, phone sales and help, and any other method of transacting with a customer. The consumer now expects to move between different channels in the process of researching and purchasing goods.
Tim Davies, eBay strategist at Zellis and former eBay Manager of Seller Education observes, “It’s not so much a decision to actively trade or engage with customers through many channels, but a recognition that customers don’t distinguish between channels when it comes to interacting with a brand or business.”
Omnichannel retailing provides the customer with a seamless and consistent experience across many platforms. For example, say a consumer is looking to purchase some shoes they saw on Instagram. They might click on a link within Instagram to the store, or they might look them up on Google. They browse the online store and find something they like. They’re invited to sign up to the store as a loyalty member, whereby the retailer captures their basic information. They add the item to their shopping cart but may not checkout then, instead doing some research, reading reviews of the shoes online. A day or so later they receive an email from the store, reminding them that they have something in the cart and that if they proceed they’re eligible for free shipping. This encourages them to make the purchase. They then receive the shoes in the mail or use a ‘click and collect’ method.
This is the omnichannel experience, where the interaction is consistent, fluid across channels and all transaction information is easily accessible.
1. Start small. Don’t try to grow your omni-presence too quickly. Davies observes that “social engagement is an art form that takes a lot of time, thought and patience to execute well”.
2. Be clear about your brand. Davies advises, “If you know your brand’s personality and how it will be perceived, that will help immensely when determining how to best convey the brand and your value propositions through each channel, platform and technology, online and offline.”
3. Lay the foundations. Having properly structured product data will be a huge advantage. “[It] will empower you to make better decisions, provide more precise and relevant information to customers, and implement relevant cross-promotion and product recommendations, all of which help to make the customer’s journey frictionless,” observes Davies.
4. Ensure you have the logistical back-up. Many retailers are caught out when, although they generate the sales, they cannot keep up with the demands in warehousing, shipping or technology. Davies suggests retailers look at solutions that enable them to make their wares available on all channels seamlessly. “Many retailers may commence with a stand-alone website and then add some social channels, and maybe an eBay store. Each different platform has its own peculiarities and rules, and addressing them all can be quite complex and exhausting.”
5. Provide great customer service. Ensure that you look at longer-term customer engagement and experience. The Economist Intelligent Unit Ltd 2015 survey found that prompt and reliable delivery was one of the top three aspects of good customer service. “Every customer who buys from you is another opportunity to leave a favourable and lasting impression about your brand. You want them to return and buy more, and preferably bring their friends. So curating a positive and frictionless customer experience from the start will pay dividends later on when it really counts,” says Davies.
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