Omnichannel commerce is a modern retail approach that focuses on the development of a coherent user experience at each online and offline point of contact with the retailer. It takes the customer experience as a whole into account.
Stores have proprietary data regarding consumers and their paths to purchase. With the omnichannel approach, stores no longer separate this data for each channel; they have a global vision for all points of interaction with the consumer.
Magestore sums up this new approach with an image: the customer is at the heart of the information gathering and sharing process.
Consequently, omnichannel marketing is about offering an experience that transcends individual channels and simply providing customers with what they want, when they want it.
The way people buy has changed: consumers make purchases online, in stores and on marketplaces, from traditional retailers and independent brands.
One result of this change is that cash flow comes from various sources and terminals, mobile or otherwise. This understanding was crucial for the development of Square within click-and-mortar businesses, as well as its integration into points of sale with BigCommerce. The American startup was one of the first to have launched a mobile bank card reader for all types of stores. This compact reader enables customers to pay on tablets or smartphones, in a simple and inexpensive way.
In the retail sector, the United States has many examples of successful omnichannel marketing strategies.
The Starbucks app is frequently mentioned in lists of companies that have excelled in the area of omnichannel retail. The brand offers a transparent user experience in all channels. Customers can check their balance and recharge their card using their telephone, the website or when they are in a shop. All changes to the balance or customer profile are updated in real-time on all channels (web and mobile app). Users can therefore make payments anywhere and via any device. Furthermore, all rewards are automatically taken into account, with no action required from the user. Customers can choose to pay using a gift card or their smartphone.
The luxury chain store Neiman Marcus was awarded the IRT Retailer Innovation Award 2017 by the American retail specialist website Retail Operations Insights. It received the award for its initiatives to make the omnichannel experience as transparent as possible. Personalisation is at the core of its philosophy. The aim is to remove barriers between customer interactions with the brand via the various channels while offering a high-class experience at each point of contact. In order to achieve this, digital channels gradually become more intelligent as customers interact with them.
For example, if a customer systematically searches for size 36 shoes or size 12 dresses, the website remembers and uses this information for subsequent visits to display search results for available sizes at the nearest locations.
Neiman Marcus also uses innovative technology, with tools such as the Memory Mirror, in stores. It enables users to record their own 360-degree videos, as they try clothes on in the store, which they can then save in the mobile app and view again when they are ready to make a purchase online or in a store.
Lastly, using the mobile app, users can upload a photo of shoes or handbags they like. The image will then be analysed and compared with the store’s database by using intelligent image recognition. If Neiman Marcus has the products in question, or something similar, in its catalogue, customers can buy them there and then or online.
The example of the sports goods retailer Orvis offers an excellent lesson in the art of adapting to one’s customers. The brand mainly sells sportswear, fly-fishing equipment and pet products. It does not target smartphone-savvy millennials, but rather well-off over 50s who, according to the brand, are rapidly adapting to new practices of the digital age.
Equipped with iPad minis, sales staff can order out-of-stock products and bill them for sales (both in-store and online). They can also show customers similar products and know whether they are new or loyal customers as soon as they enter the store.
The mobile app replaces emailing to establish relationships with customers and feed their desire to make future purchases. For example, customers receive personalised content based on their latest purchases and the places they go fishing. Orvis plans to continue to develop this technology, with the possibility of one day fitting fishing rods and reels (and even certain clothes) with sensors and software to track customer habits and improve their experience.
Crate and Barrel
Crate and Barrel is working with CloudTags, the software platform used notably by Timberland and Dyson for digital store management, to create the ‘Crate and Barrel Connected Store programme. The programme is based on tablets that act as mobile baskets. Customers can scan product barcodes and access information such as available colours and comments left by other customers. They can also search for items and create wish lists. They then simply place an order and pick up their products at the checkout or have them delivered.
CloudTags integrates with Crate and Barrel’s APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), such as its inventory tracking API and real-time information search API. The store therefore has real-time data on the most-scanned products and its stock.
Customers can send themselves a wish list, if they have provided their email address, or place an order. A sales adviser then gathers the items which can be picked up at the checkout. When customers send themselves a wish list by email instead of buying the items, and consult the list at home, their cookie identifier enables the brand to target them with remarketing actions. This system enables the company to adapt its message in order to remain relevant and target its communication efforts throughout the path to purchase, by putting forward products or services that match customers’ tastes.
And this works: Crate and Barrel has seen a 10% increase in its sales over the two months following the tablet test at its store in Skokie (Illinois).
The American retailing company Kroger, which currently operates 2782 stores in 35 states, launched a new omnichannel initiative in autumn 2017: ‘Restock Kroger’. The initiative uses data to optimise space and ensure the availability of customers’ favourite products. According to this article by PYMNTS, Kroger gathers more data about food product purchases than any other organisation in the U.S. The integration of the ClickList online shopping service in other digital systems, such as voucher rewards and loyalty points, completes Kroger’s latest omnichannel experiment.
Nike has deployed an omnichannel retail system that fully integrates its stores into its online strategy, in terms of both design and functionality. Customers can make purchases from any channel (online, in-store or via mobile) and order products for delivery anywhere.
In 2016, Nike opened a store offering a rich experience in New York’s Soho neighbourhood. The 16,800 m² space features a mini basketball court, a treadmill, a mini football pitch and a shoe bar. Nike stores in China have even begun testing an immersive video game experience, where visitors can try on new shoes in a fantasy world. This is an experience that e-commerce alone cannot offer, because even virtual reality does not make it possible to try on and feel the quality of a pair of sports shoes.
Macy’s has offered consumers the option of purchasing online since 1998, the year in which macys.com was launched. Since then, the store has updated its digital strategy to create a customer-centred omnichannel experience. In order to establish a hybrid digital-physical presence, Macy’s used its vast network of points of sale as online delivery centres. Orders placed online can be sent from or picked up at a store.
Furthermore, Macy’s has adopted RFID (Radio-frequency identification) technology to track products throughout the supply chain. The technology helps keep an accurate inventory and gathers data on customer demand. When an order is placed online to be picked up at a store, it is essential to ensure that the product is in stock.
Amazon’s executives know that physical points of sale offer something that even the most robust online shopping platform cannot: an innovative and memorable experience. This is why Amazon has started opening a multitude of stores, beginning with grocery and book stores. These serve as showcases where buyers can browse and interact with products in person. The accent was firmly placed on a seamless purchasing experience in order to eliminate some of the hassles that usually go with in-store purchases. The Amazon Go convenience store concept uses weight sensor technology integrated in each shelf to track items when they are taken and put in the customer’s basket. With this technology, customers are automatically billed when they have finished shopping.
In 2017, Harvard Business Review studied 46,000 customers to assess the impact of omnichannel commerce on their experience:
– 7% purchased exclusively online
– 20% purchased exclusively in stores
– 73% used several channels
Businesses therefore need to respond to this demand. Companies with omnichannel customer engagement strategies keep 89% of their customers on average, compared with 33% for companies with poor omnichannel engagement.
An omnichannel strategy stimulates customers’ engagement and attracts them to points of sale. Traditional retailers have everything to gain from synchronising their physical and digital worlds to offer consumers a transparent experience that pure players simply cannot match.