Forget Romeo and Juliet, if you want a real example of true love look not to rom coms or soppy dramas, but to the brands who are using an omni-channel approach to retail to ensure their customers feel loved at every step of the buyer journey.
These brands are building a relationship with their customers that is unparalleled in the world of retail. They’re listening to their needs, they’re giving them what they need, and they’re working to ensure the customer always has a great experience. As a result, their customers are more engaged, they spend more both in-store and online, and they’re easier to retain.
But what is the omni-channel retail approach and how does it work in practice?
What is omni-channel eCommerce?
Omni-channel eCommerce is defined as a multi-channel sales approach that provides the customer with an integrated customer experience across each sales channel. In other words, it doesn’t matter whether the customer is shopping online using a desktop or mobile device, or offline in a bricks and mortar store – the experience they receive is consistent and seamless.
However, it’s crucial to point out that an omni-channel experience is NOT the same as a multi-channel experience. Yes, all omni-channel experiences use multiple channels, but not all multi-channel experiences are omni-channel. Most businesses have invested in multiple channels (a website, social, email, mobile, IM, physical store etc.) and use them to engage and connect with customers. But very few (78% of retailers admit their consumers do not have a unified brand experience) have managed to provide a seamless experience and consistent messaging across each channel.
As Tommy Walker explains, “Omni-channel as a philosophy is about providing consistent, yet unique and contextual brand experiences across multiple customer-aware touchpoints, including brick and mortar, marketplaces, web, mobile and social. It’s about allowing consumers to purchase wherever they are while communicating in a way that is in tune with why they use a given channel and showing awareness of their individual stage in the customer lifecycle.” In other words, omni-channel eCommerce focuses not just on ensuring your product is available to consumers everywhere they choose to shop, but on creating a seamless, personalised brand experience across every single one of those selling channels.
How does it work?
In a nutshell, an omni-channel strategy works by ensuring that whatever a customer does on a brand’s website, directly affects their experience with that brand offsite. Let’s take Leesa mattresses as an example to illustrate how an omni-channel approach works in practice.
Leesa’s omni-channel customer journey looks something like this:
- A customer goes through the Leesa’s website, adds a queen mattress to her or his cart, but leaves before completing the purchase.
- After capturing the customer’s email address when they added the item to the cart, the first email Leesa send the customer contains a “$100 off” incentive for queen mattresses.
- Simultaneously, over the course of a week, on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube the customer is served a series of ads for the same queen mattress and the same “$100 off” offer.
- If after a week the customer hasn’t engaged with either of those “$ off” messages, Leesa automatically switch their approach and start featuring ads (e.g. YouTube pre-roll videos) that highlight their socially conscious side with CTAs asking customers to check out their Giving Back page.
- The customer sees the video and is prompted to return to Leesa’s website, where this time they visit the king mattress webpage instead of the queen.
- In response, both a new email and a new set of social ads appear for the user – this time featuring the king mattress and a “$150 off” incentive.
- This time, the offer works, and the customer clicks through a Facebook ad, fills out her or his shipping information, but at the last confirmation screen decides they’d rather experience the mattress before buying it. So, yet again, they leave the site.
- Having captured the customers shipping information from their last interaction and detected that they live just a few miles from a Leesa showroom, two days later an invitation to test a king mattress at The Leesa Dream Gallery arrives in the customer’s physical post box.
- After trying the mattress in-store, the customer finally purchases. Upon purchase the store’s POS system updates the customer’s online account to reflect this.
- When the customer gets home, a “Thank you” email is waiting in their inbox, followed a week later by an email asking them to review the mattress.
- If the customer ignores the email to review the product, two days later a Facebook Messenger invitation to review the mattress is sent.
- This time the customer responds with a 5-star review. So, given the customer is happy with their purchase (and because the last two touchpoints were Facebook Messenger and physical post), Leesa follow up using both channels to send a message outlining their “Refer a friend” initiative.
- Meanwhile, all ads for Leesa mattresses on social have ceased. In their place, over time, ads for the Leesa blanket begin to appear. And the cycle begins all over again!
As you can see from this example, Leesa have used an omni-channel approach to capture and use information learned from one sales channel, and use it to inform the brand’s next interaction with the consumer on a different channel – keeping the messaging relevant and the brand experience seamless. Over just a matter of days, the customer has been subjected to a steady release of non-intrusive information designed to give them everything they need to feel comfortable buying a mattress from Leesa.
“What separates this from what many businesses are doing is inviting the buyer to take actions that feel native to additional channels, so the interaction isn’t forced or contrived. When done well, buyers seamlessly transition from one channel to the next, blissfully falling deeper and deeper into the brand experience,” says Tommy Walker. “As they evolve from buyer to loyal customer, your brand’s communications also deepen to accurately reflect where they are in the customer journey.”
Does an omni-channel approach really work?
According to a joint study by McKinsey and Harvard Business Review, a whopping 73% of consumers use multiple channels (4+) when making a purchase. And those who do, spend an average of 4% more online and 10% more offline than customers who use single channels. Therefore, if you’re not using multiple channels and taking an omni-channel approach you’re missing out.
Another report by IDC Retail Insights found that retailers who use omni-channel strategies see a 15-35% increase in the size of their average transaction and a 5-10% increase in profits earned from loyal customers – meaning omni-channel shoppers are more valuable to your business. While a study by the Aberdeen Group discovered that companies with omni-channel engagement strategies saw an average 9.5% YOY increase in annual revenue, a 7.5% YOY decrease in cost per customer contact, and a healthy 89% customer retention rate versus companies with poor omni-channel engagement.
How do I start transitioning to an omni-channel approach?
Every company will and must develop their own unique omni-channel approach based on their unique business goals, but each company will need to work closely with some key stakeholders to make it a success:
- Customer Support
- Customer Success
Including these departments early in the process of developing an omni-channel strategy will ensure each department understands the goals and objectives of your omni-channel initiative. Each department is crucial to the success of the other especially when it comes to an omni-channel approach. A seamless customer journey and experience is paramount, therefore each entity needs to know what the other is doing, why they are doing it, and how that impacts their department.
Ultimately, your approach should be based on a strategic plan (developed with the above stakeholders) to build a coherent, aligned experience across multiple platforms.
What trends can we predict to see for the growth of omni-channel in 2019?
According to G2 Crowd, next year 20% of brick-and-mortar retailers will begin implementing omnichannel strategies. The top expert predictions and researched facts include:
- 51% of Americans prefer to shop online and 67% of Millennials prefer to do their shopping online
- Over the next two years, the margins between e-commerce sales and in-store sales will increase by at least 5%
- 20% of brick-and-mortar retailers will begin implementing omnichannel strategies
Check out more of the G2 Crowd’s predictions for trends in specific industries and how a digital transformation will affect them in 2019, here.
Brands employing omni-channel strategies are winning the battle for consumer attention and cash. These brands are not viewing each of their selling channels as an individual component, but as a whole. They’ve realised that how a consumer behaves and interacts with one channel will ultimately affect how they behave and interact with another. They also understand how to make the most of that information so that over time, they can employ strategic engagement tactics to help subconsciously build brand recognition and trust in the mind of the consumer across each of their favourite channels .
Interested in discovering how your business can start embracing an omni-channel marketing approach? Talk to our team today!
Head of Strategic Alliances, Partnerships & Co-Founder at ChannelSight – Making The World Instantly Shoppable.