Omni-Channel Retailing: The Way Forward (Infographic)
Omni-channel retailing—connecting with consumers via multiple selling channels—is the latest buzzword in the retail industry. But what does it mean for you as a retailer? In the past, retailers focused much of their attention on a single-channel selling strategy; that is, what was selling, where it was selling, when it was selling, why it was selling, and how it was selling in their brick-and-mortar stores. This used to be the most relevant way to gather business intelligence about consumers. The single-channel selling days are long gone. Consumers are now taking much more complex paths-to-purchasing a product or service via online shopping channels and retailers need to be there to help guide them up and down that path.
Today’s hyper-connected consumer has a very broad network of friends online. As we now know, the customer’s experience with a brand does not end when a product has been purchased. With word-of-mouth spreading around the social networks about brands and full access to product information and price comparison online, consumers’ paths-to-purchase now begin before, and in many cases during, their purchasing of a product.
What’s especially notable is that consumers are now sharing their post-purchase experience online in brand communities, via social networks, and even through blogs and vlogs (video logs) in order to help other consumers make good choices when buying from a particular brand. If they feel as though they have received bad customer service or a bad product, they will voice their opinions online to other consumers. You can see how the potential negative word-of-mouth can spread quickly. In fact, negative word-of-mouth is one of the many reasons why it is important to incorporate an online selling presence into your business in order to compliment your physical selling presence.
Unfortunately, merging their digital and physical selling worlds into one compelling, seamless customer experience is one of the biggest challenges retailers face today. Many retailers have tried and many are still trying to integrate one or two selling channels. These retailers typically add an ecommerce platform to their existing website, or they create a Facebook or Twitter page because they feel that’s what their customers want. But having an online selling presence does not simply mean plugging in an ecommerce platform or adding a social network to your single-channel system. Those are only two facets of a multi-faceted Omni-channel strategy. Incorporating a full Omni-channel strategy means enabling all technologies that help increase online traffic and foster two-way conversations between you and your customer and in every way possible.
These technologies include but, as technology inevitably changes, are certainly not limited to, a modern point of sale system that allows inventory and customer visibility and a customer loyalty program, a mobile commerce platform, an online listing of products or services with information and user-generated reviews, integration of a strong and trustworthy social presence, a customer call center, an email marketing program, a mobile point of sale solution, and in-store Wi-Fi to enable customer engagement technologies such as digital signage and near-field communications.
An Omni-channel strategy, coupled with engaging and meaningful two-way conversations, shows the customer that you understand their wants and needs, which enhances their overall shopping experience; thus helping you earn their trust. This trust turns into real value for the consumer, which then turns into loyalty to your brand. A brand loyal customer usually becomes a brand advocate—often spreading only positive word-of-mouth about your company. Building trust and fostering these two-way conversations with your customers also allows you to gain real customer insights and gather very useful business intelligence to help you further enhance the customer’s shopping experience and increase revenue.
In June of 2013, Retail Systems Research (RSR), the only research company run by retailers for the retail industry, published a research report titled Omni-Channel 2013: The Long Road to Adoption. This report shows how valuable enabling technologies is to retailers, helps explain some of the inhibitors retailers have when deciding on whether or not they should adopt an Omni-channel strategy, and describes some of the ways retailers see to overcoming these inhibitors. Below is an infographic we created to help sum up the report.
Omni-channel retailing is no longer a buzzword; it is truly ‘The Way Forward.’