With an omnichannel strategy, you have the opportunity to reach customers across a vast array of physical and online venues. To get there, you’ll first need to ensure that all components of your newly expanded operations are up to par. Today, high expectations are the rule in both eCommerce and traditional retail – and you’ll have to meet them if you want to win the sale.
Customer experience is one of the pillars of a successful omnichannel debut. People need to feel comfortable shopping with you, and when you’ve staked your reputation on using multiple platforms, these channels need to be equally strong and consistent. Whether you’re an online seller striking out into brick-and-mortar stores or a traditional seller setting up an expanded online presence, achieving a unified customer experience is key.
What is True Omnichannel?
Yes, we’ve all heard the term – but to be a successful omnichannel retailer, it’s important that you understand what this means to customers. A true omnichannel experience is, above all, consistent. People should recognize your branded offerings whether they are shopping on your website or your store. The backend should also be seamlessly connected, with physical retail locations and distribution centers all feeding into the eCommerce experience. If there are breaks in the system – with presentation, branding, inventory or communications split up by channel – customers will leave feeling unimpressed.
The goal of an omnichannel experience is to reassure customers that they are dealing with one company, no matter which channels they choose to shop or communicate through. Shipping items ordered online for pickup at retail stores, facilitating internet returns in person (or vice versa) and other cross-channel actions should all be possible when your backend systems are fully integrated and aligned. Once you reach such a level of consistency, you’re a true omnichannel brand.
Best Practices of Customer Service
When it comes to omnichannel, just enhancing your website and brick-and-mortar customer experience isn’t enough; it’s crucial that you also combine and link those venues. Customer Think specified that establishing a consistent presence between physical and digital retail is one of the more commonly overlooked elements of becoming an excellent omnichannel retailer. Companies focusing on online or physical store operations as siloed concerns are “stuck in parallel ruts.”
When focusing on specific customer desires, it’s important to ensure that shoppers will be pleased regardless of where or how they interact with your brand. If you’re committed to making the shopping experience easier to navigate, it’s best to ensure that product categories being set up at retail stores are reflected online and vice versa. When creating a themed aisle in a retail store, it is a good practice to ensure that the same types of products are grouped together on your eCommerce site.
Marketing and Perception Should Align
Not only should your online and physical stores share layout and tone, but marketing strategies should also treat them as parts of a whole instead of separate channels. According to Econsultancy, campaigns and calls to action that only affect part of an eCommerce business don’t make sense in the current retail climate. Letting one channel of the company promote itself in a way that contradicts the messaging coming from another part will potentially lead to confusion and dissatisfaction among consumers.
This is especially important as it relates to setting expectations: Consumers who anticipate one experience and receive another – or find themselves disappointed by one of your retail channels – may end up disillusioned with the organization in general. Making it easy to shop both online and in stores is half the battle. Setting up a consistent public face that will draw customers in and accurately represent your capabilities is equally important. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to break down operational barriers between channels wherever you find them.
Backend Systems Must Follow Suit
The beginnings of a true omnichannel business actually begin with your backend systems. If your eCommerce platform and the solutions powering your brick-and-mortar stores don’t share information effectively, everything from consistent returns to accurate inventory readings may be impossible to come by. When you can’t deliver this type of consistent and strong retail experience to your customers, all other efforts to put forth a unified face could feel hollow. By contrast, once you have a backend solution that unites operations across channels, it’s not so difficult to create a consistent brand image.