Feb 19, 2019

Aligning Across Channels in Omnichannel Retail

Dylan Compo

Dylan Compo

Aligning Across Channels in Omnichannel Retail

When in-store and online experiences are aligned, everyone wins. Customers enjoy a smoother experience across channels and retailers are better equipped to understand how their customers interact with their brand, both online and offline. Therefore, retailers have emphasized aligning omnichannel efforts through driving consistency across their channels and leveraging data to better understand customers.

Forrester research shows that 95% of customers use three or more channels to connect with a company in a single service interaction. Customers research products by reading descriptions, looking up reviews, checking inventory, and comparing these factors to the competition. This is no longer just a trend, rather statistics show that it is now the standard—81% of customers have looked up inventory before visiting the store (Kibo) and two-thirds of customers research a product online before purchasing it in-store (Retail Dive). For retailers, this is something to embrace. Harvard Business Review found that customers who interact with multiple channels are more likely to spend more and shop again.

To capitalize on an omnichannel experience, a retailer must recognize the importance of consistency across its channels. According to VisionCritical, failure to deliver a positive experience in any channel risks losing a customer forever, with 42% of U.S. customers choosing to stop shopping with a brand after just two bad experiences. Transitioning between channels must be as seamless as possible, feeling like one cohesive experience to the customer rather than a disjointed one.

Better Experience for the Customer

Positive interactions lead to repeat purchases, whereas negative ones can forever lose a customer. For retailers, when one channel falls short, the others suffer. A bad website doesn’t just hold back online sales, it holds back the entire brand. A customer who cannot find product details online might turn to a competitor as opposed to visiting the store in person. Poor service in-store can lead a customer to give up on the product rather than look online. When customers walk in expecting a product or promotion to be available after looking it up online, if it is not available in-store, their time was wasted and they may feel deceived. The resulting backlash could be the loss of a once-loyal customer.

Increased consistency across channels benefits customers. They can make an informed decision with accurate expectations before a purchase and verify it will be in stock, whether in-store or online. They don’t have to feel rushed into making a purchase while at the store. Instead, they can walk out, knowing they can count on the exact same deal being on the retailer’s website. Moreover, if shopping online, they can forego the wait of shipping by picking up in-store. They can feel more confident about ordering a new shirt without even trying it on, knowing it can be returned to the nearest store.

These positive engagements drive the customer back by establishing trust that the brand will continue to deliver, no matter the channel they choose to interact with next. Consequently, Harvard Business Review found that customers in the omnichannel shopping experience were more likely to recommend the brand and logged 23% more repeat shopping trips than single channel shoppers. 

REI Brings Online to the In-Store Experience

REI has succeeded in a strategic effort to enhance its omnichannel presence. It offers free Wi-Fi to visitors of its stores, encouraging them to get on its website to learn more about its products. According to statistics from the National Retail Federation, this push has paid off, with 75% of REI’s customers visiting either REI’s website or app before making an in-store purchase. This translates to more touchpoints and brand interactions throughout the customer journey.

Additionally, associates utilize mobile devices to help provide all the information a customer could get online. Associates can scan product barcodes to confirm prices are the same online, and if they’re not, they are empowered to match on the spot to the lower price. Going even further, if the price decreases within 14 days of a customer’s purchase, REI will match/refund to the new price, regardless of the channel. These efforts alleviate price-sensitive shoppers’ hesitancy when making a purchase and develop loyalty and trust between REI and its customers.

Better Data for the Business

Better data allows companies to remain personalized at scale. When collecting customer data across its different channels, a retailer gets a more holistic perspective of individual customers. It can see trends in their purchases, what brands they might prefer, and how they are most likely to shop with them.

Armed with personalized data, sales teams can better understand what the customer truly wants. When customers walk into a store, a sales associate can look up what they purchased recently online and recommend complementary items. They can encourage a customer to buy the rest of the furniture set, splurge on the matching tie, or upgrade to this year’s model of what was bought in the past.

Online, a website or application can do the same from knowledge of experiences in-store. By aligning its different channels, a retailer can build one coherent ecosystem, proactively serving the customer as opposed to waiting for the customer to return on their own. It can notify customers when their favorite products or brands are back in stock at their local store, or it can send offers tailored exclusively to the specific customer rather than a general marketing email that is lucky to get more than a quick glance.

Nike Capitalizes on Cross-Channel Data

Nike has been a major beneficiary of capturing personalized data on its customers. Through applications like Nike Run Club, Nike can know when someone’s going to be back on the market for a new pair of running shoes. Members add their shoe information when tracking runs, allowing Nike to know what type of runner customers are, what kind of shoes they prefer to wear, and how many miles they have tracked in that specific pair of shoes.

When customers enter a store and share their Nike+ account, a sales associate can offer a personalized shopping experience for customers, knowing the frequency and distance they run. The associate may ask how one’s blue Air Zoom Vomero 14s are holding up or make recommendations based on the runner’s preferences. Because the app also includes other competitive brands’ shoes too, Nike gets better data on who it’s competing with for certain demographics of runners, setting itself up for a better overall marketing strategy.

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Furthermore, within any of its apps, Nike can push suggested product curated to individual customers at the appropriate moment, whether that’s just after a long run or on a major milestone of their 100th run of the year. When a pair of Zoom Pegasus 34s have just run their 300th mile, Nike may capitalize on the moment and send an email to a customer suggesting a new pair of Zoom Pegasus 35s.

This information boosts revenue by maximizing sales from customers it already has, further developing and capitalizing on brand loyalty. The more Nike knows about its customers, the more it knows what they want and when they want it. By using personalized customer information and being present with the right approach and timing, through whatever channel, Nike has created an ecosystem where sales lead to data which lead to more sales.

What About Your Omnichannel Experience?

How do you overcome the struggle of aligning your in-store and online experiences? To reap the benefits, data needs to be available to the right areas of the business in an analyzable state. Assessing your data infrastructure and marketing technology tools is a great start.  We’d love to help! Get in touch with us here at Credera to learn more.

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