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What makes a good omnichannel experience? - [Ask The Experts]

In our new series of articles, we’re tackling some of the most pressing topics in online retail, and bringing you the views of the experts.

Customers routinely research and shop in store, on their computers, and on their mobile devices. No doubt you’ll have found challenges in offering shoppers an experience that’s just as good wherever they interact with your brand.

Need more actionable tips on customer experience? - Read our full guide

 

It may be difficult, but it’s achievable. And rewarding. As you’ll see again later, happy omnichannel shoppers are more than worth it.

We’ve sourced some expert opinion on how to improve the omnichannel experience. This article will share tips on what a good omnichannel experience looks like, and how you can achieve it.​

Background

Data from the IMRG Quarterly Benchmark Q3 2017/8 has revealed:

  • Checkout abandonment rose to a two year high. It increased across every device, most notably on smartphones by 3 percentage points
  • The percentage of sales via mobile devices increased slightly from last quarter to 54.3%. The rolling annual average is now 54.6%
  • Click and collect now accounts for over one-in-three of all multichannel retail sales, an increase of over 5 percentage points in the space of 12 months
  • Product page exit rates increased by 2.5% in Q3 over Q2, adding further evidence to suggest that shoppers are browsing more, and not progressing to the checkout or other areas of retailers’ websites

Challenges

Offering a seamless omnichannel experience is still a tall order.

  • The shopper needs to experience a retailer’s brand in a consistent way, whether they interact with it on their computer, on their smartphone, or on the high street
  • The shopper’s experience needs to be just as pleasant and easy in one medium as another
  • The retailer needs to know where the shopper is on the path to purchase

None of that is easy.

There are practical challenges with ensuring that the brand and the user experience remain consistent in all contexts, and the shopper is never going to take the path you intend for them. The customer journey, is seldom, if ever, linear.

Then you have the challenge (and, importantly, opportunity) of the Single View of Customer.

It’s unlikely that the term will have escaped you. It’s the ability of a retailer to identify a shopper across all channels, and thus have a view of their needs, their progress as they shop, and how they convert.

Of course, not all shoppers are happy about that. Data from the IMRG report Everybody wants a single view of customer showed mixed attitudes from shoppers about retailers knowing their preferences.

These are just a few of the hurdles to a great omnichannel experience.

But, as the above chart shows, a good 70% are happy with retailers knowing their preferences, in one context or another. This suggests, for the broader context, that in exchange for a good experience, shoppers are willing to see a retailer using their data.

That bodes well.

But how do retailers go about creating that omnichannel experience, and what do they need to remember?

Over to the experts.

What the experts say:

Mark Thornton, COO at Maginus:

An omnichannel business blends all channels to make a customer’s user experience personalised, seamless and relevant at each touchpoint.  Omnichannel strategy benefits both customer and business, with businesses implementing a strong omnichannel strategy retaining ‘on average 89% of their customers’ and an ‘increase in their annual revenue by an average of 9.5% year on year’.

Omnichannel companies place customer experience at the centre of their business strategy. Customers can choose whatever method they want to deal with that organisation, and feel that the relationship with that brand is a single one. Omnichannel companies are completely focused on customers, with business strategy being completely experience driven.

Businesses must identify what the key tasks are that customers perform. Those tasks should be optimised across all touchpoints making customers lives easier, such as simplifying returns and purchases.  By focusing on delighting customers wherever they want to buy, businesses will be on track to creating a good omnichannel experience.

Ciaran Bollard, MD, Kooomo:

A good omnichannel experience is like a Philharmonic Orchestra. You’ve got different sections, all with an essential role.  Separately, each section can play and sound beautiful but if they are not in-sync with each other, your night at the opera will quickly become a royal mess and you won’t make it to the interval.

When a conductor takes control, they bring all the strands together to tell the composer’s story. The sections will not be playing the same notes, but they will all be reading off the same page, complementing one another and working in harmony. Replace musical instruments with retail channels, and you’ve got omnichannel.

So you’re a retailer with brick-and-mortar stores, a well-designed website, an email newsletter list, third-party sellers and engaging social media campaigns. For an omnichannel strategy to be effective they all need to sing off the same hymn sheet.

As the lines between online and offline continue to blur, it’s really important to give your customers a seamless shopping experience. Successful online shops are the ones that have nailed omnichannel. For a business to be hitting the right notes, it needs to sell across any channel, to every corner of the world.

Nick Stacey, Director Corporate Customer Solutions, Barclaycard:

Your shopper’s journey is no longer a linear progression; they probably use several devices before parting with their money. A buyer might read reviews on their phone, compare prices on social channels, fill their online basket on their laptop, and speak to staff in a high street store.

Setting up an omnichannel approach gives your customers a consistent experience with your brand and can help you recognise your returning customer regardless of the channel they use. For example, online purchases could be returned or exchanged in-store. This makes shopping more convenient, which enhances the customer experience and can help boost loyalty to your brand.

It could also encourage people to spend more. A 2017 study by the Harvard Business Review showed that customers who have had an omnichannel experience are more valuable to retailers. They spend around 4% more on every shopping occasion in-store and 10% more online than single-channel customers. This is because shoppers feel more confident about making a purchase if they’ve been able to conduct product research both online and in-store.

So if you’re looking to set up an omnichannel experience for your customers, a critical step in the whole transaction process is when your customer actually pays you. Most of your customers are likely to have similar expectations when they’re paying: is it easy? Is it secure? Is it quick? Is it convenient?

So check that the payments systems you’re using – from contactless terminals to mobile apps and taking payments online – are simple, speedy and safe. You should consider how payment technology could ease your consumer’s shopping experience, and meet any concerns they might have.

 

More information

Download IMRG’s Everyone wants a single view of customer report.

Read: 5 things we learned at Data Summit for data-driven summaries of how retailers can improve their offerings.

Read: Shopper expectations in online retail for data around customer expectations from online retail.

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