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What Is Omnichannel Retail and Why Does It Matter? aka, The Story of Mary

11/05/2019 | 02:00 PM | 6 Min Read

What Is Omnichannel Retail and Why Does It Matter? aka, The Story of Mary Accumula Blog

Imagine a customer named Mary walks by your retail store on her way to work. She doesn’t have time to stop and shop, but a jacket in your storefront window catches her eye. 

When she gets to work, she Googles your business name and goes to your website to find the jacket. She also browses your online inventory and looks at your store hours to see if you’ll be open later in the day.

After work, Mary walks back to your store. This time she goes inside. She finds the jacket on a clothing rack and tries it on. It’s a perfect fit! 

But before she buys it, she goes online to look for discount or promo codes. She signs up to receive emails from your brand in exchange for a one-time discount, pulls up the promotional email on her phone, and brings it to the register to claim her discount.

This is more than an exciting sale to a first-time customer. It’s omnichannel retail in action, combining in-store, online, and mobile shopping channels to serve customers in a seamless, consistent, user-friendly way.

Thanks to this omnichannel approach, Mary isn’t just a one-off sale; she’s a new customer with whom you can pursue a long-lasting relationship. 

Why Omnichannel?

Customers’ shopping behaviors are changing. They don’t think of brands in terms of their physical store vs. their online store. They only see the brand as a whole, and they expect that brand to be consistent wherever they go.

Consider how Mary progressed from being a total stranger to your brand to becoming a satisfied customer after shopping your brand both online and in-store. Without being present in multiple channels, your retail business could have lost her early on in the process. 

If the jacket wasn’t listed in the online store, she might have forgotten about it. Or she might have opted against paying the full retail price if a discount wasn’t offered.

With a consistent, customer-centric experience, shoppers are able to move fluidly across retail properties without hitting bumps or gaps in their shopping journey. Meanwhile, your business can increase customer engagement and avoid many of the pitfalls that can lead a potential customer to abandon their purchase.

Free guide: Learn how to create a seamless customer experience across every  channel. >>

Essential Elements of an Omnichannel Retail Strategy

Mary’s example features just some of the elements that make a retail strategy truly “omnichannel” in design. To implement a similar strategy, you’ll need to prioritize the following changes:

Integrated point-of-sale, inventory, and order fulfillment solutions.

This additional support for both online and in-store transactions helps your business track and manage inventory and orders in real time, and it syncs customer data and activity across every channel. This technology also makes it possible to offer flexible order fulfillment options, including in-store pickup, home delivery, and other customer-friendly choices.

Consistent design and messaging across brick-and-mortar, online, and social media properties.

Think about color schemes, brand voice, and even little details such as product messaging and prices. If the tone of your social media presence is different from that of your online and physical stores, it creates a dissonance that will drive customers away.

Easy in-store returns for online orders.

Complicated returns only discourage shoppers from buying online—and that may lead to them shopping with a competitor. With an integrated POS solution, processing returns is a snap.

Real-time inventory numbers available online.

There’s nothing worse than going to a store and discovering the item you wanted to buy is gone. With real-time inventory information, you can spare your customers this frustrating waste of time.

Discounts and gift codes that work wherever the purchase is made.

Be consistent. Online-only promo codes favor one channel, but not the customer. Your customers don’t see online and in-store as separate venues. You shouldn’t, either.

Why Omnichannel Retail Is Here to Stay

Customer-centric retail isn’t a fad invented by struggling retail brands. It’s a response to how customers behave and what they expect from your retail business. 

Seventy-three percent of consumers combine online and in-store shopping. And customers like Mary are far more valuable than the average person: Research shows that shoppers who visit both your website and your physical store spend 13 percent more per shopping trip, and they’re 23 percent more likely to recommend your brand to their family and friends.

At its best, omnichannel is all about building a shopping experience that caters to your customers’ shopping preferences. If your retail strategy is still stuck in the past, it’s time to catch up with your customers and start taking steps toward an omnichannel strategy of your own.

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