As he prepares for an upcoming job interview, a man researches suits on his smartphone. He discovers a suit he likes on his favorite apparel retailer’s website, and sees that there are three available in his size and preferred color. He goes to the store and, as he’s walking in, receives a text promotion for 10 percent off of his next order. He’s greeted by a store associate who uses an iPad to look up product details for the suit, answer his questions, review his past orders, and provide a recommendation to purchase a new pair of dress shoes as well. After a quick fitting, the man decides to buy the suit but the store doesn’t have his shoe size in stock. The associate locates and orders the shoes from another location to be shipped directly to his home. The man redeems the coupon, pays for his purchase, earns points on his loyalty card, and receives his shoes the next day.
As a woman browses blenders on her tablet during her lunch break, she sees that a popular home goods retailer is running an online promotion. After researching a variety of blenders on the retailer’s website, she places one in her shopping cart before going back to work. Later that evening, the woman continues her previous shopping session on her smartphone while relaxing at home. She views the blender’s specifications one more time, decides on a different model, chooses the retailer’s next-day shipping option, and completes her mobile purchase. The retailer processes the order through its fraud prevention platform and leverages its ship-from-store program to fulfill the order from a local store the next day.
Omnichannel shopping experiences like these showcase how dynamic today’s retail environment can be. Consumers expect their shopping experience to be seamless and consistent across all channels and devices. If they encounter friction at any point during their journey, they’re likely to switch to a competitor that will deliver the type of experience they desire. Let’s take a closer look at five key omnichannel retail capabilities that make these experiences possible:
1. Inventory Visibility
Having visibility into product availability across the chain is vital for omnichannel success. In fact, being able to check store availability of a product while shopping online is the most important omnichannel retail capability for U.S. digital shoppers. Seventy-three percent of consumers research products online prior to completing their purchase in-store, and nearly half (49 percent) say they want to be able to check product availability online before they visit a store.
For today’s connected customers, cross-chain inventory availability essentially means no more out-of-stock scenarios. They expect to be able to find the product they’re looking for on your eCommerce site and instantly know whether they can travel to your local store to pick it up or if they can arrange for delivery. Above all, they want to know that they have options when it comes to fulfillment, and inventory visibility helps them decide when, where, and how they’ll complete their purchase. If you can provide accurate, real-time product location and availability data on your website, you can drive more shoppers to your stores, increase conversions, and improve customer loyalty.
2. A Single View of the Customer Across Channels
Having a single view of your customers’ shopping preferences, buying behaviors, order history, contact details, loyalty rewards, and various other interaction points is another critical component of omnichannel retail. Unifying all of the data you collect about your customers’ interactions with your business allows you to gain a more holistic understanding of them as they research products, make purchases, fulfill and return orders, and receive support across multiple channels and touchpoints. This 360-degree view helps you facilitate more seamless, satisfying experiences that keep customers engaged and coming back.
A single customer view enables you to better target your marketing campaigns and deliver relevant communications, promotions, and merchandising across physical and online experiences. A single view of the customer is also beneficial for omnichannel customer care. By having access to every past interaction—regardless of whether it was a call, email, or chat—agents can more effectively solve customer issues and provide personalized recommendations and experiences. Ultimately, a complete view of the customer increases retention, boosts sales, and improves conversion on upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
Like establishing a single view of the customer, data is the foundation of any successful clienteling strategy. The more you understand each customer before they walk in the door, the greater your ability to personalize their in-store experiences. These days, creating these memorable experiences begins with empowering your front-line associates with mobile technology that provides timely, accurate data and useful insights about each customer. Armed with handheld devices that communicate a customer’s order history, preferences, and buying behaviors, sales associates can more effectively engage customers, answer their questions, and provide relevant product recommendations.
Clienteling enables your sales associates to be seen as trusted advisors instead of just information providers and transaction facilitators. The data they gather during each interaction can be used to personalize promotions and loyalty programs, as well as increase sales per customer visit based on highly targeted upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Clienteling shows customers that you’re invested in meeting their unique needs, and leads to greater loyalty, increased revenue, and improved marketing effectiveness. It also helps you gain a competitive advantage over pure-play eCommerce retailers who aren’t equipped to provide the type of personalized experience clienteling provides.
4. Store Fulfillment
Thanks to omnichannel fulfillment programs like in-store pickup and ship-from-store, retailers with brick-and-mortar stores have a huge advantage over eCommerce pure-plays when it comes to customer experience. More and more customers prefer the convenience of in-store pickup because they can get orders faster when they purchase a product online and then pick it up at their local store on the same day. A consumer study by Radial and CFI Group recently revealed that having the ability to pick up an online order in-store is important to 78 percent of shoppers. They also avoid shipping and delivery fees, which can otherwise cause them to hesitate during the checkout phase of the online ordering process. Forty-two percent of consumers in the same study said they choose in-store pickup to avoid shipping costs. You can expect sales to increase when you implement in-store pickup as well. Studies have shown that 40 percent of consumers end up buying additional products when they visit a store to collect the items they purchased online.
Ship-from-store programs also enable you to leverage physical stores as part of your omnichannel retail strategy. With ship-from-store, you can dramatically shorten fulfillment times by transforming your local stores into fulfillment centers instead of relying on a central warehouse to ship products. You can eliminate out-of-stock scenarios, automatically route orders to stores with surplus inventory, and reduce store markdowns by proactively utilizing slow-moving inventory in stores to fulfill online orders. Ship-from-store can also help improve delivery speed by choosing stores closest to the final destination. According to a Forrester report, 93 percent of retailers report that ship-from-store increases online revenue, 77 percent say it reduces fulfillment costs, and 88 percent find that it improves customer satisfaction. Radial’s clients typically see their sales increase by 20 percent or more when they implement our Ship-from Store program.
It’s no secret that consumers now expect to be able to shop anywhere, anytime, on any device, so it’s no wonder that mobile is at the center of omnichannel retail. When you consider that 84 percent of consumers use their smartphones while shopping in stores, and that mobile commerce now accounts for 30 percent of total eCommerce sales in the U.S. (and will increase to 45 percent of total eCommerce by 2020), implementing a mobile strategy is absolutely essential to retail success in our omnichannel world. While brick-and-mortar stores will continue to dominate retail sales for the foreseeable future, the path to purchase will increasingly be influenced by mobile.
At a bare minimum, today’s consumers expect to be able to view and interact with your content on their mobile devices, so your online presence and all communications must be mobile-optimized. Your mobile messaging should also be targetable and personalized based on a single view of your customers and their behaviors. Going further, you need to enable promotions and loyalty programs on mobile in a way that engages customers with location-based specificity. Leveraging beacon technology allows you to deliver customized messages on-site to improve your shoppers’ experience with highly relevant offers. Then, once they’ve taken advantage of your offer, they want to be able to checkout with their smartphone. Enabling mobile payments is quickly becoming an omnichannel imperative, as studies suggest that the mobile in-person payments are projected to reach $23.47 billion by 2018. Ultimately, every step of the shopping experience can and should be mobile-accessible if you expect to drive sales and increase loyalty with your anytime, anywhere customers.
The question for retailers is no longer whether to implement an omnichannel strategy, but rather how to implement it in the fastest and most effective ways. In looking at just a few key omnichannel retail capabilities that can move the needle and win over customers, it’s clear that it all comes down to the ability to consistently deliver seamless, frictionless experiences your customers desire—when, where, and how they want to do business with you. Regardless of the type of capability you decide to tackle first, the bottom line is that a true omnichannel experience needs to be designed around your customers. Discover what’s most important to them, evaluate your company’s goals, and then craft a solution that compels customers to stay engaged and spend more. If you do it right, you’ll find that you’ve not only won over loyal customers, but also created brand ambassadors in the process.
If you’re ready to develop a winning omnichannel strategy but you’re not quite sure where to begin, contact the omnichannel experts at Radial to see how we can help put your business on a path to greater retail success.