Omnichannel Retail: Creating a Unified Shopping Experience

Oct 26, 2015

mobile_flatConsumer shopping habits have shifted tremendously in recent years. With advances in mobile and e-commerce, shoppers have more options regarding how and when they choose to interact with retailers and make purchases; transitioning back and forth between online and brick-and-mortar stores, or choosing to have a completely virtual shopping experience. Forrester Research predicts that by 2017, 60% of retail sales will be influenced by digital media – that’s nearly $1.8 trillion.  Yet, this cross-channel environment continues to present a challenge for many retailers and their loyalty programs. As brands look to keep up the pace, their legacy systems, lack of budget, and in some cases, siloed ownership across teams, product lines or channels present major hurdles.

Overcoming Omnichannel Hurdles

The ever-changing and empowered omnichannel shopper has forced retailers to be proactive versus reactive about customer loyalty tactics – leading brands to research and invest in new technologies now so they can scale their loyalty programs and customer outreach accordingly. Many retailers are innovating their systems through middleware and APIs to offer shoppers and loyalty program members a valuable, consistent, and seamless experiences across all channels.

By overcoming the legacy system hurdle, retailers can connect all aspects of their business – from inventory and fulfillment to marketing campaigns, offers and rewards – more seamlessly into the store experience.  This also opens up opportunities to leverage beacons and explore mobile, social and local channels to create a more unified shopping experience.  For example, using well-trained associates to engage with consumers via social or text message to solve customer service issues or answer questions about products or services in real time. Others are equipping their sales associates with POS-connected devices and clienteling apps integrated into loyalty and CRM systems to deliver a more personalized and relevant customer experience.

Omnichannel Experiences at a Store Near You

Dick’s Sporting Goods sets a great example for omnichannel excellence through their enhanced ecommerce and in-store pick-up experience, mobile app enhancements tied to their loyalty program, geo-fencing to deliver relevant offers and content, devices for associates, and endless aisle.  Their omnichannel efforts are improving the bottom-line with shopper spending three-times higher than those who simply visit the brick-and-mortar store.  It also speaks to the ecosystem that Dick’s has created and will reinforce future long-term investments.

Nordstrom is investing heavily into the digitization of their brand with a focus on tech that will enhance the customer experience over the next five years.  And they’re making some great headway.  With over 90% of Nordstrom customers using smartphones and a third preferring to communicate with associates via text, the retailer recently launched text-to-buy, which allows customers to securely transact via text message. Shoppers request help finding an item, then receive a personalized text from an associate with product suggestions and photos.  Once the customer decides to make a purchase, they simply text “buy” with their unique 10-digit code back to the associate.  Items are then shipped for free to the customer.

Some retailers are taking a different approach by revamping their massive stores for enhanced engagement through interactive displays and experiences to reinforce the overarching brand or provide a showcase-like experience.  IKEA has been doing this for years – offering artfully designed rooms that showcase their goods with fulfillment taking place at the end of the store experience.  A couple years ago the retail giant created an augmented reality app allowing users to view a 3D version of an item in their home. Restoration Hardware offers a similar curated in-store experience and an impressive e-commerce site that mimicks an art gallery experience much more than a traditional retail destination.

Old Navy has executed highly engaging strategies and tactics, such as an interactive social experience in which they gave away a pair of free flip flops via a vending machine to those who tweeted about their annual sale. These experiences connect brands with customers across channels in a really compelling way.

Mobile & Gamification

Mobile technology is becoming more critical to retail loyalty as it is the most direct way for brands to interact with their customers in real time to test and learn, deliver rewards or offers via in-app messaging or even create a gamified experience. Bluefly and Badgeville gave online shoppers an opportunity to earn badges which could be cashed in for early access to products, deals and discounts and other rewards after creating a wish list, watching videos, reading a blog post and writing a review.  In addition to simple strategies like asking shoppers to self-identify by logging in when shopping, or linking transactions to specific loyalty accounts, retailers can recognize customers as they transition between channels by implementing segmentation and tiers. It also helps brands deliver more targeted messages.
With omnichannel engagement tied to the loyalty program or customer experience enhancement initiatives, traditional attrition is reduced and retailers report tangible results. Brands are able to simplify and unify the customer experience, connect with consumers in ways that resonate with their lifestyle, obtain real-time feedback and build customer rewards programs that are both timely and relevant.  As competition in retail loyalty continues to be high, these omnichannel integrations offer great potential to yield robust data points on shoppers and their preferences. This then enables retailers to obtain granular insights about their loyal shoppers and impact purchasing decisions moving forward.

Is your brand ready to launch a loyalty program or revamp an existing program? If so, check out our Retail Loyalty Readiness Worksheet.