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GUEST COMMENT From high street to high-tech: how an omnichannel strategy can win you customers

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In an age when technology offers consumers limitless shopping choices at the touch of a button, retailers increasingly need to make the most of innovation that allows customers to easily interact with their brand. An ‘omnichannel’ strategy, which lets customers to browse, pay for and return goods using a mix of both on- and off-line platforms, is no longer just “nice to have”, but a necessity.

The benefits of linking purchasing platforms – including online, in-store or in-app – are numerous, from giving merchants a better understanding of customers’ habits to improving payment security. Here, Barclaycard explores how embracing omnichannel can help retailers stay competitive and keep shoppers happy.

1. Simplifying the shopping experience

Consumers want to shop in a way that suits their needs, whether in-store, online, or via app, and they expect to switch effortlessly from one platform to another. Barclaycard research reveals, for instance, that nearly two-fifths (38%) of us research clothing online before going to a bricks-and-mortar store to make their purchase.

Streamlining online and offline channels will help retailers meet customer demands for this omnichannel experience – for example, by offering one, centralised catalogue of goods accessible by phone, online or on the high street. This helps consumers move between browsing options without losing track of their items, as the channels can ‘communicate’ with one another. This ensures that whichever platform (or platforms) shoppers choose to use – whether online, face-to-face or a mixture – they can find what they need, when and where they need it.

2. Building a stronger relationship with shoppers

Consumers want a more personalised shopping experience, so it is vital that businesses understand their customers’ browsing and payment preferences, whether that’s to pay with a contactless card or via a mobile app. If they have this level of understanding, retailers can tailor the shopping experience to meet their customers’ exact needs. Barclaycard research shows two fifths (38%) of UK adults are happy for fashion retailers to use their purchasing and browsing data to provide a more personalised service, and three in ten (29%) say that tailored deals are likely to encourage them to buy from one brand over another.

By accepting and processing all payments through one platform, merchants can see the full picture of how and where people engage with their brand and buy their products. This way, businesses can make more informed item suggestions for online ‘window shoppers’, or focus on improving their mobile payment strategy if they see their customers are more likely to make purchases via an app rather than online.

3. Maintaining robust security

Shoppers rely on retailers to keep their personal information secure, particularly when making a purchase online. Using a single payment system allows retailers – and customers – to know that data is stored securely in one place, with one provider. Omnichannel services like Barclaycard’s SmartPay are designed to capture consumer data to store and protect it. For example, tokenisation, which encrypts sensitive data, is built into omnichannel systems to ensure they comply with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards that keep consumer – and merchant – data safe.

are designed to capture consumer data to store and protect it. For example, tokenisation, which encrypts sensitive data, is built into omnichannel systems to ensure they comply with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards that keep consumer – and merchant – data safe.

A linked platform for payments means that security measures like fraud screening online are consistent no matter how a consumer chooses to shop. It also reduces the need for cumbersome or unnecessarily long security processes during checkout – or even processes that vary across channels. Merchants and customers can rely on one, quality system to conduct fraud screening and pick up on any abnormal purchasing patterns.

4. Preparing for the future

Shoppers – particularly younger generations – want to use new technology when making a purchase. Barclaycard recently found that nearly half (46%) of millennials (18-34 year olds) are already paying with a “next generation” solution including “invisible” payments, where card and shipping details have been stored and so are ready to use in advance of transaction (such as one-click ordering), or “conversational” payments, where digital personal assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa are used to make a purchase.

Using an omnichannel system will make adopting these new payment methods easier for retailers. A single provider can adjust a retailer’s strategy to accommodate innovations, saving businesses the time of researching each new method and finding an additional provider to implement it. Housing transactions with one supplier will also ensure customers are able to enjoy the same shopping experience, even when paying in a new way.

Omnichannel is no longer just an option – it is an essential concept that helps merchants attract and retain customers. Having a physical and online presence is a good start, but retailers must also be able to provide a truly integrated service so that consumers can seamlessly move from one mode of shopping to another. Businesses and their payment partners should work together on implementing an omnichannel strategy in order to bring their customers the best experience possible.

Sharon Manikon is managing director, customer solutions at Barclaycard

• Data in this article was sourced from Barclaycard research conducted online by Opinium Research from September 27th to 29th 2016 and from April 4th to 7th 2017.

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