Contrary to many beliefs, traditional marketing through print, television and radio is not being thrown out the window because of digital ads. Instead, it is receiving a facelift through social media, online and mobile. That mixed use of marketing channels in a customer’s shopping experience is known as omnichannel retailing.
While omnichannel means different things for consumers and retailers, the overall purpose is to be engaged with the consumer in each step of the buying process, including everything that happens before the purchase. Driving the customer experience both in and out of the store is the main goal of an omnichannel experience.
Engaging with Customers through Mobile
There is no denying that mobile marketing is on the rise. For retailers and businesses, leveraging mobile devices is at the forefront of marketing strategies and consumer engagement. For consumers, it’s a natural way of browsing and shopping – in their minds, offline or online don’t matter, it’s just shopping. Retailers must take advantage of mobile’s anywhere, anytime, any device power and use it to interact and increase engagement with their customers.
While the majority of retail purchases are currently made in store, product research and “showrooming” is heavily centered in mobile devices. Because mobile usage has made it so easy to find information, consumers are increasingly looking for new ways to shop and pay digitally through one device. According to a recent eMarketer report, there were about 145.9 million mobile shoppers in the United States in 2014.
Macy’s chairman and chief executive officer, Terry J. Lundgren, understands that incorporating an omnichannel infrastructure is best for the company: “Our business is rapidly evolving in response to changes in the way customers are shopping across stores, desktops, tablets and smartphones. We must continue to invest in our business to focus on where the customer is headed – to prepare for what’s next.”
In a Salesforce report on consumer mobile behavior, shoe retailer ALDO is acknowledged for “using mobile technology to provide a one-of-a-kind customer experience.” It offers apps like Outfit Matchmaker and Virtual Shelf that allow customers to match shoes in a store to outfits in their closets and give customers instant access to the entire ALDO collection for browsing and buying.
Starbucks is another notable example of having omnichannel marketing in the bag. They extend their customer service from in-store to a mobile rewards app, which has received praise for providing a seamless user experience across all channels. Customers can monitor and reload their Starbucks card balance on their mobile app, on the Starbucks website, or in-store. The balance and earned rewards are updated in real-time, across all channels without any action from the user – creating a truly frictionless experience.
Children’s clothier Carter’s has also brought together its online and in-store shopping experiences through the use of geolocation. This omnichannel retailer uses a customer’s location information to notify them where they can pick up an online purchase. In other words, the “buy online and pickup in-store” service is only available to website visitors who live within a certain mile radius of a store. This provides a seamless shopping experience without having to ask customers for their ZIP codes.
To pull off a successful omnichannel strategy, retailers should understand what their customers’ needs are and provide them with a customized shopping experience across any and all channels. It’s all about letting those customers do what they want to do wherever they are in their shopping journey.
Omnichannel Payment Options
Along with the ability to customize shopping experiences, a key element to an omnichannel strategy is centered on payment options. In order to create a frictionless shopping experience, all levels of the process should be included, specifically a mobile point-of-sale (mPOS). Consistent online and mobile payment options simplify the retail experience even further for the consumer.
Some retailers offer “instant credit” in store and combine that with rewards earned when used for purchases, thus driving transactions and increasing customer-brand loyalty. Receiving real-time discounts and relevant promotions is becoming increasingly important to consumers. Like Carter’s, the option for customers to buy online and pickup in-store is an omnichannel marketing feature that is also on the rise. In fact, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), 48 percent of consumers have used this feature.
Omnichannel retailing is more than digital cross-channel marketing. It’s a fully integrated strategy that offers consumers a customizable and seamless shopping experience from start to finish, ultimately driving sales and increasing customer-brand loyalty.