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GUEST COMMENT Omnichannel retail and the future of shopping

Image: AdobeStock

Image: AdobeStock

Technology has long been a differentiating factor in the retail market.  In this competitive environment, many merchants are now turning their attention to creating seamless omnichannel shopping experiences for their customers to generate in-person and online purchases. 

Not only do merchants have to offer these solutions to their clients, but they also have the tough task of keeping them uniform across platforms while ensuring they stand out among the competition. To adjust to the ever-changing consumer behaviour, it is vital that retailers get the omnichannel approach right. 

Regardless of where purchases take place, the shopping experience merchants offer customers must be smooth and easy-to-use. According to the 2019 Connected Shoppers report, 81% of UK shoppers have purchased a product online for in-store pickup and on average UK shoppers have two shopping apps on their mobiles, proving it’s critical to get omnichannel experiences right in today’s competitive market.  

“Omni” means everywhere 

Omnichannel is a comprehensive, all-encompassing approach that brings together touchpoints across all channels of the shopping experience in order to provide a hassle-free experience for the consumer. There are many forms of omnichannel offerings, such as ordering on mobile devices, picking up items instore, using alternative payment methods and providing digital loyalty programmes. In other words, omnichannel brings the digital and physical worlds closer together than ever before.  

According to Worldpay from FIS’ Global Payments Report, alternative payment methods such as electronic wallet payments almost overtook debit card payments (20% 2018 vs. 21% 2019), showing that e-payments have already become the go-to for many consumers. 

Consumers today, especially digital natives, expect their shopping experiences to be seamless, and expect to be able to switch between different devices, platforms and locations without a hitch. Today, customers’ shopping journeys are dynamic, fluid and never-ending; omnichannel is laying the foundations for the shops of tomorrow. 

The Next experience 

UK retailer Next is a good case study of a company that has had to adapt its approach to meet the changing needs of its customers. Founded in 1864 the company has had a permanent place on the UK high street for decades, whilst also having to evolve its online offering. 

Next operates a successful click-and-collect service in stores, with orders ready within 1 hour for pick up as well as advertising the store locations online during the order process. Next is also very well known for its first class customer service. Their free next day deliver offering to store, allows customers to interact seamlessly online first whilst also pulling them into the store. Not many stores offer a free next day delivery, which incentivizes customers to utilize the services and interact in a cross-channel way. Ensuring the customer has a flexible and efficient purchasing experience. 

Next also receive praise for their website, particularly if you need help choosing delivery options. If you are on the page for a few minutes then a help box appears and will offer a the chance to be called straight away by one of the Next help team. Again, this feature is very helpful for the customer, and highlights the strong cross-channel communication Next offers. Highlighting why Next has such a strong omni-channel strategy. 

What’s next for omnichannel?

Omnichannel is the future of retail commerce. Consumers are already embracing merchants’ offerings of ever more personalised, convenient and seamless shopping experiences and will only demand more in the future, so it’s imperative for merchants to get ahead of the game. 

As margins continue to be squeezed in the already competitive retail space, brands must come out with ever more innovative and intuitive solutions for their customers in order to retain their business. Simply offering a product at a good price point is no longer enough; merchants must meet and surpass consumer demand across all channels in order to thrive. The key differentiator here will be the merchants who best leverage technology to better suit the needs of their customers.  

As the digital revolution continues to shape the retail industry, the combination of technology and a good omnichannel service will create the type of shopping experiences consumers will only demand more of in the future. 

Pete Wickes is general manager for global ecommerce, EMEA, at Worldpay from FIS

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