3 ways to engage the omni-channel customer
The way in which customers engage with retailers has changed. It’s no longer typical for a retail customer to start and finish their buying journey in the same place, making them omni channel customers. Increasingly, customers expect to be able to purchase from anywhere, at any time, from any device, and any channel. Online spending is now growing five times faster than traditional retail spending, and accounts for 6.8 per cent of total bricks and mortar sales of $296.9 billion.
According to a recent global study by PwC, shopping my mobile and smartphone is ‘here and now’, with 11% of people shopping on their mobiles on a weekly basis, 9% doing so via their tablet, and 16% shopping on their PC.
According to John Maxwell, PWC’s Global Retail and Consumer Leader, consumers today are in the power position; in a ‘golden age of choice, convenience and demand for value, powered by the mobile phone and the global bazaar just a click away.’
The retail experience is no longer one dimensional, and it’s becoming increasingly important to provide a seamless omni-channel experience. As well as providing these omni channel customers with the ability to make secure payments via any device, retailers also need to provide a logical and easy to follow sales process, a high level of customer service, and in-depth, up-to-date information about what customers are interested in buying, regardless of which channel they happen to be using.
“Today’s customer is time poor, and people want a return on investment of their time. Retailers need to create an immersive, seamless, brand-defining experience for consumers across all channels; one that will keep them coming back”, says retail industry expert, Brett Ashcroft.
At Sable37, we have been helping many of our retail customers adopt technology to uncover efficiencies, streamline the customer experience, and drive more lasting relationships. In this blog – we highlight our three key priorities for retailers for 2018, when it comes to driving a connected, cross-channel experience
- Give customers the detail they need – where they need it
Today’s customer typically researches a purchase, in detail, like never before. According to a recent study, 81% of customers research a product online before they buy, 61% read product reviews before making a purchase, and on average, consumers visit at least three online stores before making a purchase.
For these reasons, the “research” or “pre-sales” part of the sales cycle is becoming increasingly vital – both in securing and retaining customers once a sale is made.
As a retailer, this means there’s increasing pressure to provide detailed, easily accessible and relevant content regarding your products and services. If your customer can’t find the information they’re looking for, it’s very easy for him or her turn elsewhere.
While it’s relatively easy to provide detailed information about your products online, it’s also crucial that in-store staff are equipped with the same information. If a customer can find out more about a product by visiting your website than by speaking to one of your sales staff, they’re not receiving a consistently high customer experience.
PwC recently asked the participants in their global survey to rate the importance of certain attributes in relation to in-store shopping experience. Interestingly, 78% said “sales associates with a deep knowledge of the product range” is the most important factor for consumers.
New Zealand based retailer, Citta Design, has taken an omni-channel approach to boost customer loyalty – combining robust digital offerings and impressive in-store displays for furniture and accessories. Among the retailer’s multi-pronged approach to building customer relationships, Citta Design is using technology to improve the level of in-store interaction between staff and customers. Sales associates use tablets to access product information, which includes technical and web copy as well as customer information on previous purchases etc.
“[Sales associates] can actually be sitting on the floor and talking to somebody about the quality of cotton sheets versus polyester sheets, the different characteristics that our products have, and use that as a tool to up sell, or just find the products that they actually want,” says Grant Taylor, Citta Design’s Chief Operating Officer.
- Drive sales by bolstering the in-store experience
According to a recent report by Bain & Company, 75% of sales will still occur in a physical location by 2025. The bricks and mortar store is a key component of the retail ecosystem. However, in the future, its primary purpose may change.
Today, ‘showrooming’ is becoming more and more common – where customers visit physical stores to view or try on merchandise, before making their actual purchase online; typically from a cheaper provider (most commonly an overseas one). Conversely, ‘webrooming’ is where a customer researches a product online extensively but then goes into a store to make a final evaluation and purchase.
According to a Harris Poll in the U.S., 46% of customers say they showroom, and 69% say they webroom. For local retailers, this trend represents a potential opportunity to secure more sales by predicting customer behaviour and more effectively tapping into customers’ needs across different channels in order to deliver a flawless and consistent experience.
To combat showrooming, for instance, retailers can actively communicate the specific benefits of buying direct – that is, the customer will receive a simpler customer experience; they can enjoy the peace of mind that an item will be exactly how it appears; there are no delivery fees; and in most cases, they can walk out of the store with the goods rather than waiting for them to be delivered.
Alternatively, retailers can even offer customers a discount or other rewards if they then go on to purchase an item online that they have looked at in store – but from your business, not a competitor
Using data to identify customers when they arrive in-store, and use this information to service the customer more effectively, can also be highly beneficial.
According to Kurt Salmon, a global management firm, 30-60% of shoppers today leave the store without ever having engaged with a sales associate. They might have been just browsing, or they might have been looking for something specific.
However, by implementing digital engagement in the store, retailers can provide customers with a much more personalised experience – with fewer hassles for customers, and greater opportunities for things like cross-selling. With in-store digital engagement, Kurt Salmon has found that in-store traffic improves by as much as 10–30%, and conversion rates can increase by 30–50%.
- Use data to understand and empower customers
Today, the customer needs to be at the centre of any retail experience, and in charge of the service they receive – whether in-store or online.
With the advent of a range of smart, retail-focused technology solutions, it’s now possible for retailers to understand customers – and what they’re looking for – in far greater detail than ever before. Data now plays a key role in guiding customers along their sales path, and ensuring they remain loyal to a brand long-term.
With the right technology in place, for instance, you can customise the information you show your customers online, meaning they only see products or services that are relevant to them. You can also provide them with far more relevant and timely after-sales promotions (based on what they have purchased in-store or searched for/purchased online), and truly address their unique needs and pain-points.
In their recent retail study, PwC asked respondents which online media sources most inspired purchases. 47% chose either “social networks” or “visual social networks” as their main sources of inspiration. PWC research also revealed that social media interactions with their favourite brands led 44% of people to spend more with a brand, and encouraged 46% of people to endorse a brand more than they usually would.
To truly engage and empower customers, retailers need to effectively leverage social media channels – creating social media marketing campaigns, tracking social trends, monitoring what’s being said about them online, and crafting appropriate social media responses to consumers.
How can your business optimise your omni-channel approach?
 Australian Financial Review, Online retail sales top $20 billion, 2016
 PwC report, 10 retailer investments for an uncertain future, 2017
 PwC report, 10 retailer investments for an uncertain future, 2017
 MineWhat Blog: 27 ways to motivate shoppers who research online to buy
 PWC report, 10 retailer investments for an uncertain future, 2017
 Bain and Company, The millennial state of mind
 Shopify: Consumers Are Showrooming and Webrooming Your Business, Here’s What That Means and What You Can Do About It, 2016
 1:1 Retailing – The Future of in-store retailing: Kurt and Salmon