B&E| Bridging the Omni-Channel Chasm

B&E| Bridging the Omni-Channel Chasm

By TimeTrade

Today the interaction of a tech-savvy customer is complex, convoluted and non-linear, traversing multiple different channels and touch points. To adroitly interpret customer preference and provide holistic customer experience, retailers are left with no choice but to stitch together customer data and more importantly customer interaction data spread across different channels. Today, most retailers’ channels operate in silos both organizationally and from a systems standpoint. Therefore it fails to project homogeneous single-entity brand awareness, up to-date information and a unified look and feel, which disappoints customers.

B&E| Bridging the Omni-Channel Chasm

Retailers acknowledge that they need to understand their customers’ individual experiences on a continuous basis as they interact with their organizations both on and off net. This puts retailers in the best position to manage all the touch points that can affect the customer experience, including the web site, call center, mobile app, retail store, kiosk, etc.

Today retailers’ goals should not be restricted to just creating loyal customers. They need to aspire to go beyond that and create active advocates by creating a more personalized relationship with their customers that are context-driven in nature. In today’s social media-aware age, consumers have the power to make and break a brand. Retailers thus need to build an emotionally weighted relationship with each customer. Hence, providing a superior in-store experience is an effective way to drive a more personal relationship with customers, as well as a means of gathering more information for a customer profile which allows for more personalized offers and consistent service across all channels in the future.

Not so long ago, when these social channels did not exist, a customer of a service or brand could communicate their positive or negative experience via word of mouth to an average of seven people; in today’s social media age, the same customer can reach out to thousands of people in a matter of moments. The more positive that relationship, the more trusted the retailer becomes and the more successful the retailer is likely to be at keeping the customer’s business, selling the customer further services over time and encouraging the customer to promote the retailer and its products to friends and associates.

Bridging the cross-channel silos that exist today to create a combination of unified touch points that together creates a seamless customer experience should be a critical step in their quest to deliver on a superior customer experience. Unifying cross-channel customer experience is an evolutionary process. Retailers need to strategically embark on such a unifying effort with adequate planning. Consumers today have never had more channel options. They continue to expect more seamless interactions that build brand experiences and boost loyalty and retention. So it becomes a necessity for retailers to offer a robust cross-channel experience that delivers against customer expectations. Every touch point must enrich the shopper’s experience, and every interaction must be viewed as pivotal in the customer’s purchasing decision.

In order to standout, retailers must make sure they are providing customers with the right knowledge while keeping in mind that the majority of TimeTrade survey respondents prefer shopping in stores so they can touch and feel things. Retailers can enhance the in-store experience through prompt service and enable a smart hands-on experience that helps customers with their final purchasing decisions. Adam Silverman, a Principal Analyst at Forrester, who covers in-store commerce technologies, comments:

Forrester believes that, “in the future, retail stores that drive convenience, service, and relevant personalized experiences through the use of digital store technology will succeed. Why? Because today, customers shows an affinity for digital store technology more compared to previous years. In fact, 66% of luxury apparel customers are more likely to shop with a digitally-enabled associate. Those retailers who wait on the sidelines are at risk of maintaining the status quo and may only grow marginally.”

According to Sheryl Kingstone's Report titled - "Blurring the new 'digital divide' between the mobile and in-store experience", The industry needs to transition from a merchandising point of view to a customer-centric point of view. The shopping journey has changed more in the last 5 years than it did over the past 150 years. As a result, there can no longer be a divide between digital and brick-and-mortar. It’s important to meet the new consumer behaviors and expectations that doesn't think among organization silos still rampant in today's retail industry. Hudson Bay agreed that it’s essential to break down barriers across e-commerce, m-commerce and in-store across the mobile journey. It’s not about channel, but content; whether that be an app, mobile web, e-commerce or store. The entire company owns the customer journey, not the channel.

Natasha Baker of Forbes recently wrote an article “5 Tech Trends That Will Hit Every Retail Store By 2020.”  The following is a summary of the technologies and trends that Baker lists:

1. Beacons:

Sensors placed around stores that communicate information to smart phones—will track information such as which products customers linger around. The beacons can then push information on those products to customers’ mobile devices, allowing them to order from their devices and have merchandise shipped to their homes.

2. More Intelligent Devices:

Stores will use devices that can determine the demographic information of customers as they walk by, and target ads to them through a video console, similar to smart shelves being developed by Mondelēz International.

3.  Store Associates Can Focus on Customers:

Retailers will be able to take advantage of managed infrastructure at the edge. This is a vitally important enabler because having to add relatively expensive IT staff can make deploying new technologies in retail environments cost prohibitive. Of course, sales associates will not disappear. Rather, with many of their routine tasks automated, they will be able to focus more on building relationships with customers while increasing sales and affinity for their employers

4. Analytics:

Brick-and-mortar stores will use analytics to map where people walk and what they pickup so they can better position products in the store or track shoppers at the device level to target promotions to them. This data will be used to understand customers and increase sales.

5. Technology as Sales Assistant:

Technology will increasingly automate a lot of routine and mundane processes that happen in retail stores. Whether it is more self-service check-outs, in-store mapping to make it easier for customers to self-navigate around stores, or beacon and NFC technology for greater self-education on products, technology will play a greater role in automating the retail experience.

Conclusion:

Retailers must keep in mind that through the digital first touch all the way to the in-store purchase, it is all about the customer’s path and how to provide the best service across all these touch points. Creating a high-value, personalized interaction will lead to a more satisfying experience for the customer.

Millenials are looking for products and service that is very focused on the individual, while Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have done much research and want purchase validation from an honest and transparent retailer. Though all have different shopping habits, what they all have in common is disposable income as retail sales continue to grow.

 In order for retailers to survive and retain market share, they must be progressive in how they create the in-store experience, using modern-day technology while providing prompt service, all the while knowing a customer’s needs before they even enter the store. Though this seems like a tall order, leading retailers are doing all of the above and are aware of consumers ever changing needs.

Publication Details:


This article is extract from a report titled –“State of Retail 2015” which is licensed under the CreativeCommons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License by the Original Publisher “TimeTrade”.  Download the Survey Report - LINK
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