As ecommerce continues to evolve at an increasingly rapid pace, it seems quite clear that it’s all headed in one direction: omnichannel. Just about every major company you can think of is leveraging new technology and novel marketing techniques in an attempt to blur—or completely eliminate—the lines between the online, mobile and in-store shopping experience. In fact, the omnichannel approach has become so ubiquitous lately that Chris Fletcher, research director at tech research firm Gartner Inc, suggested that “we should stop calling it e-commerce and call it just commerce”.
Clearly, if a company wants to remain competitive, delivering a seamless omnichannel experience is an absolute must. But be that as it may, only a select few are really nailing it. While companies like Macy’s and Disney are providing their customers with truly integrated omnichannel commerce, others are still stuck in multichannel mode. So to provide some insight on what true omnichannel commerce and marketing is all about, we’re offering a few tips on how to up your omnichannel game, as well as a few examples of brands that are knocking it out of the park.
But first, a quick definition:
Omnichannel vs multichannel
Both omni- and multichannel commerce involve engaging customers through various platforms including a website, blog, social media profiles and a brick and mortar store. But while a company may use all of these diverse channels to communicate with potential customers, it is only omnichannel if they are used together in a seamless and integrated way.
With multichannel, a customer can still engage with a brand through several channels, but the look, feel and messaging might be different from one platform to the next. With omnichannel, the customer gets one consistent, unified user experience regardless of the access point.
How can your company use omnichannel marketing to improve user experience?
While every organisation has its own unique challenges and needs when it comes to reorganizing their sales strategy, there are a few general steps to keep in mind when transitioning to omnichannel:
There are always ways to improve your sales funnel. Whether it’s reducing the size and complexity of your site to better perform on mobile devices, eliminating steps in your checkout process, or working on improving your social media presence, your first step should be to identify areas that could benefit from being streamlined.
Does the design of your website and mobile app match the tone and visual feel of your brick and mortar store(s)? Getting all of your channels on the same visual page is a big step in the right direction. You want your customers to instantly recognize your unique brand identity whether they see it on a smartphone, in a static advertisement, on television, or on the sidewalk.
In order to create a truly integrated experience, it’s absolutely critical that you find ways to bridge the gap between your website and your physical store, and a mobile app is a great way to do that. Whether it’s a simple rewards program, a self-checkout option, in-store pickup, or all of the above, your app should give customers the feeling of a fluid transition between online and in-store.
Some examples of omnichannel at its best
As one of the most recognisable names in American retail, Macy’s understood early on that if they wanted to stay relevant, they needed to adapt quickly, and so far they’ve done a remarkable job. When a customer visits their website, Macy’s automatically installs more than 20 different tracking cookies on the visitor’s browser. Then they run TV ads with Justin Bieber urging millennials to download the Macy’s app, from which they can shop online, or use their location to find the nearest Macy’s brick and mortar store. Once at the store, they can simply pick up items they already purchased with their smartphones, or they can use the app to scan QR codes for product details and comparisons, making for a seamless marriage between online, mobile and in-store marketing and sales.
The coffee mega-merchant is named on just about every ‘best omnichannel’ list out there, and for good reason. With their Starbucks Rewards app, customers can check and manage the balance of their Starbucks cards from their smartphone, tablet, or computer. But what puts the app over the top is that it not only allows users to manage their cards, it actually is their card. Rather than having to dig through their wallets and purses to find their physical cards, customers can now make purchases with their smartphones and see their balance change in real time, so they’re never caught by surprise at the checkout counter.
The popular cosmetics chain has introduced omnichannel shopping to its marketing arsenal with their easy to use ‘My Beauty Bag’ program. The beauty bag allows customers to curate collections of their most loved items, and view and track their purchases and rewards from their computers, tablets and smartphones. Users can easily add items to their shopping list, review their purchase histories, re-order items when they’re running low, and save items for future purchases. Plus, when customers are in-store, they can use their mobile shopping lists to enhance their browsing experience.
Teresa Zobrist is president and CEO of commerce solutions provider Zobrist.com.