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By Jeremy Francis, General Manager Marketing, Marketplacer
One of the biggest challenges facing retailers is how to get their various sales and marketing channels working in cohesion. Or in industry jargon: turning multichannel into a seamless omnichannel experience for the consumer.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem because each and every retailer has its own variables and factors to consider. However, the end result should always be about creating a better experience for your customer.
Consider the multichannel options available to even the smallest of retailers and you quickly get a sense of how difficult it can be to get omnichannel right. As a small retailer, for example, you’re possibly juggling a bricks and mortar store, standalone ecommerce webstore, an online marketplace store, an app, plus social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
Now take these channels and think about how they work across multiple devices including PC, laptop and smartphone, and how these channels might factor into the experience of shopping in store. Then also consider things like payments technologies and supply chain logistics. It can be quite a puzzle.
Taking your retail offering and making it work across all these channels requires a strategic plan involving IT, marketing, sales, customer service and backend functions all being on the same page and knowing what each function is doing and how that affects the overall experience.
As a starting point, this involves mapping out entry and exit points for customer journeys across each channel and crossover points where customers move between channels, devices or modes (e.g., from online marketplace to in-store engagement).
Laying out the architecture of your various channels and mapping customer journeys and potential routes will allow you to identify roadblocks and deviations that hinder your customer’s omnichannel experience. Some of these issues might revolve around things like software integration, while others might be simple brand messaging hiccups. But by breaking your overall architecture down you’ll be able to start adjusting and rectifying problem areas.
Again, from a resource perspective, this should be an easier ask for bigger retailers, but keep in mind that bigger retailers could also be committed to a greater number of channels at more complex levels of integration. Smaller retailers usually have fewer resources at their disposal, which means they should focus more tightly on integrating key channels before opening new channels that could lead to customer dissatisfaction due to poor execution and integration.
A few years ago one of the big concerns for some bricks and mortar retailers was ‘showrooming’: shoppers coming into their store, maybe trying on an item of clothing, and then checking for cheaper options online. This is an everyday example of the omnichannel puzzle.
The stores that were mainly worried by ‘showrooming’ were usually the ones that had done the least in terms of being prepared for the challenge of online competitors. One Brisbane store even went as far as charging customers a $5 ‘just looking’ fee!
Of course rather than going on the defensive, retailers like this have to think about what their customers want from them and how they can deliver in the new retail environment in which customers expect an omnichannel experience. Integration issues between online and offline will continue to arise for retailers as will integration of new channels and new devices (which will proliferate as we see the Internet of Things ecosystem and virtual reality tech grow and mainstream).
The challenge to give customers an omnichannel experience is ongoing. Retailers need to understand and anticipate how their customers want to shop and then build and refine an omnichannel architecture that meets that customer demand.