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What is Omnichannel Retailing? Trends, Strategies & How to Get Started

If you’re in the retail industry, you know that the competition is unlike anywhere else. Businesses are using every available sales and marketing avenue to convert shoppers into customers and customers into long-term, loyal consumers.

While retailers may be taking advantage of new sales channels like social media accounts and ecommerce platforms, so is everyone else. To keep up with — and hopefully surpass — the competition, businesses need to deliver personalized, unique experiences. That’s where omnichannel retailing comes in.

What is Omnichannel Retailing?

Today’s consumers are researching, browsing, and purchasing products on multiple channels and devices. In fact, 98 percent of consumers switch between devices every day, which is why many retail brands have adopted a multichannel retail strategy.

Multichannel retailing creates a separate strategy for each sales channel and device. While this was once the latest technological trend, it can lead to disconnected messaging and offers for consumers — especially the 98 percent who are using multiple devices throughout the day.

With an omnichannel approach, retailers develop one strategy that is executed across all channels to create a connected, customer-focused experience. An omnichannel strategy also enables customers to convert through any available online or offline touchpoints.

An omnichannel strategy means that a shopper who begins browsing a brand’s website will have the same experience whether they visit the brand’s mobile app, social media accounts, or brick-and-mortar store, and whether they use a mobile phone, tablet, desktop, or laptop.

In addition to consistent customer experiences and a unified brand, there are many business opportunities that come with omnichannel retailing. Companies that implement omnichannel tactics have an average customer retention rate of 89%, while those that don’t use this strategy only average 33 percent retention.

Omnichannel Retail Trends

The decision to utilize omnichannel retailing is just the beginning. Every brand needs to strategize specific ways to align their brand, company goals, and customer needs. Below are a few trends that retailers are tailoring to their business.

Augmented Reality

Customers might be hesitant to order certain products online. A couch, for example, might be available at a great deal but not knowing how it will look in a certain environment might deter someone from adding it to their cart.

A modern-day spin on “try before you buy,” augmented reality is an easy and interactive way for customers to visualize products in a real-world, at-scale setting. Shoppers simply select a product to be superimposed into their environment and can then decide if they’d like it in a different size, shape, color, or other option. The Amazon app is one of the most popular examples of successful augmented reality implementation.

Augmented reality brings inventory directly to the customer and can help boost customer confidence, reduce shopping cart abandonment, and limit returns.

In-Store and Mobile Connectivity

Companies like Starbucks are fully embracing mobile app capabilities by enabling customers to place orders on their phones for in-store pickup. The coffee giant has also created a loyalty program that rewards customers every time they use their mobile app to pay.

Not only does this give consumers an incentive to visit Starbucks over other coffee shops, it’s also an opportunity for the company to use their app as a way to market and upsell to existing customers. And since 71 percent of customers who shop in a brick-and-mortar store say that their mobile device is important to their in-store experience, unifying the two channels is an effective way to recruit and retain customers.

Personalization

Tech-savvy shoppers know when they’re being marketed to. And with shoppers visiting various channels across multiple devices, generic strategies will only lead to generic customer experiences.

Delivering tailored content and product recommendations is how modern-day retailers captivate shoppers. Using a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, businesses can record and analyze customer demographics and preferences to better appeal to their audience.

Personalization can be executed throughout all sales channels — from following up via email after a customer makes a purchase, to retargeting relevant ads on social media, to training employees on how to better communicate with customers.

Here’s an example of how these three omnichannel trends can work together:

A customer visits a houseware store’s website. Since they didn’t purchase anything, they are later remarketed to on Facebook. The ad includes a photo of the exact lamp the customer was considering, as well as information about using the website’s augmented reality feature to see how the specific lamp would look in their living room.

The next day, the customer decides to purchase the lamp online and pick it up in the brick-and-mortar store. While chatting with a store employee, the customer reveals that they’ve recently moved and are in the process of furnishing their new place. The store employee makes a note of this on the customer’s profile in the store CRM.

A day after picking up the lamp, the customer receives an email from the housewares store recommending other types of home décor that would go with the lamp. With omnichannel retailing, the store was able to totally personalize the research, purchase, and follow-up process.

How to Implement an Omnichannel Strategy

To get started with an omnichannel strategy, retailers need to develop a holistic view of all of their available sales channels, including:

  • Brick-and-mortar stores
  • Ecommerce platforms
  • Social media accounts
  • Email marketing campaigns
  • Telephone sales
  • Mobile apps

In addition to unifying these channels, creating a strong brand presence will be key for strategy development and consistency.

Talk to an Expert to Get Started

From retailers to restaurants, Hitachi Solutions is uniquely positioned to help businesses implement the full suite of end-to-end capabilities offered with Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Contact us today and we’ll be happy answer your questions and help you see how technology can transform your business.