If you are running a brick-and-mortar store you have no doubt noticed the increasing prevalence of technology in retail. Be it eCommerce, apps, or having to be visible on social media to attract customers. Branching out from traditional retailing can be intimidating, but very lucrative. By embracing omnichannel retailing you will improve the odds that your business can outpace your competition.
What is omnichannel retailing?
The goal of omnichannel is to create an integrated experience for the customer, both online and offline. While the multichannel approach to sales makes use of a number of platforms, such as brick-and-mortar stores, websites, apps, etc, these work independently of each other. With an omnichannel approach, these channels are integrated into one unified experience. This allows customers to start their journey on one platform and complete their purchase on another.
Consistency across all platforms
When you set out to provide an omnichannel customer experience it is important to remember that it must be a unified brand experience. This is not limited to digital channels either – your physical store must be included in your omnichannel retail strategy. Regardless of the platform, your visitor should recognize your brand. Design, colours, logo, information, tone – these are all part of creating a cohesive experience across multiple channels.
These days, a customer might never encounter a brand representative throughout their entire relationship with your business. If a person comes across your business on a polished social media account and finds your product interesting, they are likely to proceed to your website. If that website is radically different in appearance or poorly designed, it will affect how the visitor views your business. It might even cost you a sale. This is why it is important that every touchpoint your customer has with your brand provides a unified experience.
One step at a time
With the excitement of adopting an omnichannel approach, you may be tempted to try everything at once. However, it is better to choose one channel and perfect it before adding another. This is because of the previously mentioned importance of a polished and cohesive impression throughout all platforms in your omnichannel retailing.
Most brick-and-mortar businesses can identify who their primary customers are with ease. You probably already have a buyer persona. When you plan your omnichannel retail strategy, keep that customer front and centre. Where do they shop? Which social media platforms do they frequent? How digitally inclined are they?
Focus your efforts on where your customers are. For example, baby boomers are unlikely to buy through Snapchat. Similarly, the type of products that attract attention on Instagram are not the same as those that do well on LinkedIn.
The first step in many brick-and-mortar businesses’ omnichannel journeys is setting up a website. Most stores will want to take their business from brick-and-mortar to online by setting up an eCommerce website. However, if you are a hairdresser or similar, you will want to take a different approach. Listing the services that you offer, along with high-quality photographs, prices, your qualifications, and your contact information is a good start. For an omnichannel approach, you should also offer a smooth online booking system.
There are a number of factors that play into creating a successful eCommerce website. Helpful FAQs, search engine optimization, your return and refund policy… the list goes on. In terms of omnichannel retailing, one of the most important factors is that your website is mobile-friendly. No matter what device your visitor is using they should have a pleasant experience.
Remember to set up Google Analytics on your website as soon as possible. It will gather useful data about your customers, how they found you, and what they do on your website. This will allow you to make improvements to your website based on facts rather than a gut feeling.
Google My Business
Once you have a website, the next step in your omnichannel retail strategy is to set up a Google My Business account. This will put your business on Google Maps, complete with contact information, business hours, reviews, and a link to your website. It lets people who are looking for dog groomers in your region discover your dog grooming business, complete with instructions on how to reach your brick-and-mortar business.
As mentioned above, it is important to know who your customers are. However, before you improve your omnichannel customer experience with social media, you must also answer the question: where are your customers? Some businesses, such as clothing retailers, can get great results on image-focused platforms such as Instagram. Others will get very little out of the same social media platform.
Rather than setting up an account on all the major platforms, choose which to prioritise based on your customer persona. Moderating and keeping your social media accounts active takes time, so stick to the ones that are likely to be the most useful to you at first. If someone writes to you, you must answer promptly. You also want to post an update once in a while, both to attract attention and to ensure visitors that your account is active.
Upgrading your store
Once you have the basics covered, it is time to really embrace the omnichannel approach to retail. Take a long look at your brick-and-mortar store and ask yourself how it can be improved by digital transformation. If you are uncertain, consider asking for a professional consultation.
Offering free Wi-Fi in your store is an easy way to encourage visitors to take an omnichannel approach to shopping with you. You will want visitors who access your Wi-Fi to be directed to a welcome page on your website where they can easily access your eCommerce store.
By providing free internet you will also encourage the use of several of the omnichannel options below.
In one study, 71% claimed that they could be more comfortable buying a product after reading the customer reviews. In fact, a single review can increase your conversion rate by as much as 10%. This means that encouraging customers to leave product reviews and displaying these is in your best interest.
Many eCommerce businesses feature reviews on individual product pages. This makes them easily accessible to visitors on your website. To benefit from the selling power of customer reviews in omnichannel retailing you can invest in developing a review app for your business. By scanning the barcode in your physical store via the app, your visitors can read what your previous customers think about your product.
The best part about a well-made digital catalogue is how easy it is to find the item you are looking for, especially if the store in question offers a great number of products.
To improve your omnichannel customer experience, make your online catalogue available in your brick-and-mortar store. This can be done via digital screens where customers can search through your products and where they can find the item they are looking for in-store. This is a particularly useful tool for people who, for whatever reason, are averse to asking staff for help.
Combining online and physical retail
Not everything is about technology. Having a brick-and-mortar store is a strength as all age groups visit physical stores. Omnichannel retailing can complement that strength and improve the customer experience.
To some, in-store pickups are the best of both worlds. They can browse and place their order in the comfort of their own home and then only briefly stop by the store to pick up their purchase. If the order can be prepared for pickup faster than it would take to have it delivered this becomes a very attractive option.
Improved return policies
A good return policy is a selling point and you want to make it easy for customers to return a product if they are dissatisfied. Omnichannel retailing combines brick-and-mortar stores with eCommerce and this should be reflected in your return policy. By allowing people to return a product ordered online to your physical store you can save time and money for both you and your customer. Your customer may have ordered the wrong size or colour. If they can return the item in store, you have an excellent opportunity to help them find a different product in your inventory that suits them better.
Online shopping list
82% of shoppers turn to their smartphone to assist them while in brick-and-mortar stores. Many come prepared, having already done research at home. This means that some of those abandoned carts were only abandoned because the customer bought your product in your physical store. However, using the shopping cart in an eCommerce store as a shopping list is not ideal. It isn’t designed for that and therefore might not display all relevant information once the customer arrives at the brick-and-mortar store.
IKEA, well known for its enormous stores and vast inventory, has embraced the omnichannel approach and developed an app for this. The app allows people to search through their products and add anything of interest to a shopping list. Additionally, the app will inform visitors on which shelf the product can be found, and if it is in stock. This puts a helpful and accurate shopping list in customers’ pockets, without distorting the shopping cart abandonment rate data on their eCommerce store.
In order to provide a good omnichannel customer experience your website, app, etc should show the in-store availability of your products. If you have multiple brick-and-mortar stores, let your customer know which stores are currently carrying the item in question.
This is not only helpful to your customers; it also improves sales. Seeing that something is “almost out of stock” can push people who are on the fence to make a purchase.
Running a blog is an excellent way to regularly update your website. Not only will this show visitors that you are active and can likely be reached easily if they need assistance. It also improves your search engine optimization (SEO), as search engines prioritize active websites over abandoned ones. Writing blog articles also provide good content to post on your social media accounts.
There are many factors to writing a good blog article, such as length, topic, keywords, etc. However, the most important factor is that it must offer your reader something of value. This can be news, entertainment, or helpful instructions on how to best care for the products that you sell. If you mention a product in your blog, remember to link to its store page or let visitors add the item to their shopping cart directly from the article. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to buy the item you have taken the time to write about after all.
Small beginnings can have great payoffs
By setting out on the path to embrace omnichannel retailing you will make it easier and more pleasant to shop from your business. If you need help at any step of the way, be it setting up your eCommerce store, developing an app, or something else altogether, do get in touch.