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GUEST COMMENT Omnichannel: the crossroads to a successful customer experience

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Increasingly connected and mobile, consumers are using multiple devices and channels (online and offline) in their buying process, with 70% of UK shoppers using both online and in-store channels. In search of information and seeking the best value for money, they are spending more and more time researching purchases in advance. Constantly demanding more in terms of flexibility and speed, they want to be able to order in a click, and receive their purchase within one hour in their nearest store, or delivered the same day.

Retailers are now engaged in a fierce struggle to satisfy their customers as soon as possible. Faced with new and evolving consumer habits, the challenge is to multiply points of contact with consumers, while offering them a unified service for a successful purchasing experience.

Sell on multiple channels to boost sales

Limiting a brand to its online shop is not a successful option anymore – retailers must increase their visibility to expand their customer base. This strategy first depends on the optimisation of online presence via both SEO and SEA strategies to improve positioning on search engines. The next step is to distribute products on other marketing channels with a higher visibility, such as price comparison sites or marketplaces. On top of this, advertising campaigns with the aim of acquiring or retargeting potential customers should also be put in place.

Buying habits are changing and taking on a social dimension, where customers want to interact more with brands through social networks and messaging apps. These become real sales opportunities for retailers, both in terms of conversion rate and customer relations. To date, more than a third of Internet users use social networks and more than 30% of the world’s population uses them to find products.

Messaging applications represent a completely new sales channel for brands. This was the case with Dior on WeChat in early August. The luxury brand used the Chinese messaging app to sell bags and has, at the same time, become pioneer of luxury product sales on the platform that boasts nearly 850 million active monthly users. This trend is likely to intensify

as by 2018, 90% of global Internet users are expected to be using at least one messaging app (FEVAD Lab – Social Commerce).

When ecommerce and bricks-and-mortar businesses become one

In competition with each other for a long time, ecommerce and traditional commerce are now one in the same in the customer buying process. So this trend now has its own name: the “phygital”. It is essential to go beyond screens to develop points of contact with consumers. Ben Greenaway, senior omnichannel manager at Adidas, commented on his strategy at the Lengow Ecommerce Day: “Although digital is increasingly involved in retail, it should not be forgotten that purchases are still predominantly made in physical stores”.

With this new form of hybrid consumption, traditional outlets become a strategic asset for online retailers with services such as Click and Collect. They are thus able to meet the new expectations of the consumers and to compensate for certain obstacles to the purchase, such as delivery times or being able to try the product before buying it.

On the other hand, Clicks and Bricks businesses (physical businesses that have developed an ecommerce site) rely on online retailers to conquer new markets. This is notably the case with French department store Galeries Lafayette, who bought the pureplayer Bazarchic, specialising in online event sales. With this acquisition, the brand intends to strengthen its omnichannel strategy.

In the same way, both web-to-store and store-to-web are growing with the rise of mobile. Used for both searching for information and making payments, mobile has become the cornerstone of a successful omnichannel strategy. Using both online and offline methods to complement each other has become an essential part of selling.

At a time when consumers are fickle in their purchasing journey, the key is to offer the best offer at the best time. A good omnichannel strategy improves the purchasing experience, but also allows for the sharing of rich and unified customer data from one channel to another, to best meet consumer expectations. They will thus be more likely to pay attention to brands that personally meet their expectations, as opposed to mass marketing.

Mickaël Froger is CEO of ecommerce automation specialist Lengow

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