There’s a lot of buzz surrounding omnichannel retailing and WHY retailers should do it, but the HOW of it all isn’t always clear.
Which is why instead of just talking about the benefits of omnichannel, we’ll look at real-life examples of retailers that are implementing it well. Whether a retailer is just starting in the path of omnichannel retailing or simply looking for ways to refine your existing strategy, these five examples should give a better idea of how to do it right:
Crate & Barrel
The company recognizes that many shoppers switch from the ecommerce web site to smartphone to tablet when conducting research and completing purchases, so when customers are signed in, the Crate & Barrel app saves their ecommerce shopping cart so they can access their information across multiple mobile devices and browsers. This enables them to pick up where they left off no matter where they are in the shopping process.
Crate & Barrel also provides a seamless customer experience to shoppers using its wedding and gift registry. People can still create and monitor their registries online and in the store, but to make things more convenient, the Crate & Barrel app lets them manage their registry right from their mobile device.
[Related: Retailers Continue Omnichannel Pivot as Stores Struggle]
Using the app, shoppers can create and edit their registry, scan barcodes in the stores to add items, and even see purchases made in real time.
UK fashion retailer Oasis has an ecommerce site, a mobile app, and several brick-and-mortar locations and it does a pretty good job in fusing those channels to give people a great shopping experience.
Oasis arms its in-store associates with iPads to give shoppers on-the-spot information on product availability. This also allows the staff to ring up customers from anywhere in the shop. And if an item isn’t in-stock, the staff can use their iPads to place ecommerce orders for the customer.
A similar service is made available for online shoppers. If an item is sold out online, customers can use Oasis’ “Seek & Send” service where the retailer searches its stores for the product and ships it to the shopper. Once the item is located, Oasis will send an email to notify shoppers and let them track their goods.
[Related: Creating Customer Centricity in 2017: Omnichannel Marketing and Mobile]
In addition, Oasis provides convenient (and free) options when it comes to returning items. Aside from letting people ship their items back or return them by heading to any Oasis branch, the retailer also offers easy returns through a service called Collect+ that lets shoppers return purchases through a network over 5,500 drop off points in local stores, including convenient stores and grocery stores, allowing customers to return items outside of the normal 9 to 5 post office hours.
The Starbucks rewards app is frequently mentioned in “top” lists of omnichannel efforts and for good reason: the coffee company does an excellent job in providing a seamless user experience across all channels.
Customers have the option of checking and reloading their Starbucks card balance through their phone, the Starbucks website, or when they’re at the store. Any balance or profile changes are also updated in real-time, across all channels, letting users stay in-the-know no matter where they are or what device they’re using. Plus, any earned rewards are automatically reflected in the account without any action on the user’s part.
When it comes to payments, people can either pay with their physical rewards card or using their phone, and the balance will automatically be updated online and in the app.
Through its “My Beauty Bag” program, cosmetics retailer Sephora makes it easy for its loyal customers to manage their “loved” products and purchase history from any mobile device.
Sephora’s Beauty Insiders (i.e. members of its reward program) can use their Beauty Bag on their mobile or on their computer to view and track their purchases and rewards. They can add items to their shopping list, view their buying history, save items for future purchases, and easily re-order items.
[Related: Winning Customer Loyalty Through Omnichannel Loyalty Perks]
Chipotle Mexican Grill is utilizing multiple channels to enable customers to place orders wherever they are. People can place an order online for pick-up at the nearest Chipotle location, and they can also use its official mobile app to order on the go.
Plus if they create an account, users will be able to track past orders and save their favorites for faster ordering in the future. Account information can be accessed both online and using the app.
To pull off a successful omnichannel strategy, a retail store needs to determine the key tasks or actions that customers perform throughout the shopping experience, and then let them accomplish those tasks across multiple channels. Omnichannel retailing isn’t solely about selling across multiple channels; it’s also about letting the customer do whatever it is they need to do throughout their shopping journey no matter what device or platform they’re on.
What other merchants doing a great job with omnichannel retailing? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Jason Trout is the VP of Marketing at ShoppinPal.
This article was originally published in 2014 and is frequently updated
Shopping is a breeze with the ability for users to purchase products right from the app itself. Alternatively, when they’re in the store, they can use Sephora’s app to access their shopping list to complement their in-store experience.
RELATED TAGS: Sephora
Quick! How many internet-capable devices are there within 6 feet of you? I’d guess there’s more than one.
As technology advances, it becomes embedded in our culture in different ways. For example, 5 years ago, you wouldn’t ever think to go shopping on your watch. As such, it’s becoming increasingly important to invest in an omni-channel customer experience.
Especially in ecommerce marketing, where a customer may search, peruse, and research in 4 different places and finally make the decision to buy in a totally different place, it’s important to have a holistic approach to your marketing.
The Future of the Omni-Channel Customer Experience
So what exactly is an omni-channel customer experience? According to TechTarget, “...a multi-channel approach to sales that seeks to provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a bricks and mortar store.”
However, it’s important to distinguish between a multi-channel customer experience and an omni-channel customer experience. If you’ve got solid social strategy, a high converting website, and a great mobile experience, you’ve got a multi-channel experience. But if they aren’t working together, in coordination, it’s not an omni-channel customer experience.
According to HubSpot, “All omni-channel experiences will use multiple channels, but not all multi-channel experiences are omni-channel.”
If you’re wondering how important establishing an omni-channel customer experience is, know this: it’s important. Take a look at some stats from a recent study in to the traits of omni-channel campaigns:
20% of consumers have used their phone to find or redeem coupons and/or lookup product information while in a physical store.
Personalized mobile promotions increase sales: the consumer is more likely to make an in-store purchase if they can access rewards or promotions via their mobile. A significant portion of consumers are interested in accessing such resources on a digital wallet.
52% of retailers are monitoring social media. 42% are adding SKUs 36% are enhancing eCommerce sites, or are currently implementing these initiatives.
Retailers are farther behind on improving inventory visibility. To these end, about one-third have identified equipping in-store employees with mobile apps to access inventory + other initiatives to provide cross-channel inventory visibility, among their top 3 omni-channel priorities.
Workforce customer service solution provider Aspect also sums up the need for omni-channel marketing based on their own experiences quite well:
Customers now expect to receive service from your organization on the channel of their choice, which might be voice, email, SMS/text, web, mobile or social media. Companies are beginning to provide service on all of these channels – but too often, those channels may exist in silos. This multi-channel service can be taken to the next level with an omni-channel solution that integrates channels to provide a consistent customer experience
The Evolving Role of Customer Service
An omni-channel is especially important for customer service, which is constantly evolving as technology develops. New technologies like Twitter, Live Chat, and video live chat have made real time marketing a necessity for those providing customer support.
In fact, one of the easiest ways to create an omni-channel customer experience is to invest in these real time marketing channels. An Eptica study outlined the growth of Twitter for customer service. It’s not surprising to me, but it is fascinating how the domain of customer support is changing:
It’s important to cater to potential customers, wherever they are, lest you lose them to a competitor.
If there’s any quote that will persuade you to invest in an omni-channel customer experience, it’s this highly accurate quote from Eptica:
“Frustrated consumers will either move to competitors that offer more channels – or will switch to more expensive channels such as the phone or face-to-face, pushing up costs for organizations.”
So as long as you’re convinced of the need, how can you put it into practice? Where do you start?
Start With Business Objectives
Before you invest in a bunch of different technological solutions providing real time marketing, marketing automation, personalization, social listening, etc, etc, think about your business goals. If it doesn’t fit the objectives, it’s simply a shiny toy creating noise.
Here’s how TechTarget put it:
At the same time, companies can easily focus too much on technology rather than on existing gaps in serving customer needs. When companies rush headlong into buying technology, they fail to address the key organizational questions and issues that are often the foundation of poor customer service and customer experience.
Examples of Good Omni-Channel Customer Experience
It’s easy to talk about the theory and the need for omni-channel customer experience (and you do need to start thinking about it), but offering examples of companies crushing it is the best way to inspire your own strategy. Here are a few of my favorites.
Chubbies is awesome at marketing. From their copywriting, to their photos, social media, and more, they are absolutely delightful and spot-on with their messaging to their target audience. Not only that, but they are consistent. First off, their website is awesome and easy to navigate. Their brand personality permeates every element of the site:
Each of their marketing touch points integrates the same branding but in a unique way. For example, their social media channels are heavily populated by user-generated content, such as this:
They also play into relevant cultural memes that are understood by their target audience. Again, much of this is submitted by the users, making it a great use of real time marketing:
They also came out with an app recently. I enjoy navigating around on the app when I’m waiting in lines or something, and it’s much easier to navigate than a mobile site, even if responsive. They also send exclusive deals via push notifications.
This is a great example of mobile ecommerce marketing. I think we’ll be seeing more ecommerce mobile apps, actually usable ones, in the future:
Oh, and something that’s often forgotten in our short-term micro-conversion focused world: physical packaging. Chubbies is the master of it. You’ll often get coupons for free gifts with your next order. Something they throw in free gifts like koozies or tank tops.
Overall, Chubbies’ blends real time marketing with a bold and in-your-face brand personality across multiple touch points. They’re a shining example of ecommerce marketing done right.
JP Morgan Chase
I’ve been really happy with Chase banking. First, I can do pretty much everything on my phone. For anything I don’t want to do on my phone though (not much), their website is fantastic and is laid out intuitively. One of my favorite features of the app is using location awareness to find ATMs and branches near me. Super convenient:
If you’ve got questions, the fastest way might be to hit them up on social media on their support handle. You’ll get instant and friendly answers. This is solid real time marketing:
Finally, and importantly, their physical locations provide awesome service. I’ve got a personal representative who I can get ahold of any time to answer questions or help me with any frustrations. Every touchpoint is integrative and feeds into the overall customer experience.
Even if you have a multi-channel experience, you might not have an omni-channel customer experience. Just because you’re on Twitter, have a call center and a great website, doesn’t mean they’re tied together.
That’s where the magic is: the synergy. Each of your ecommerce marketing channels should complement the next, creating a holistic experience.
There’s no one way to do this. Your customers may expect different things than the next company.
For example, Chubbies’ experience is much different than Chase’s, but they both offer a delightful omni-channel experience. Chubbies’ does so with consistent branding, real time support, exclusive push notification discounts, and referral/retention targeted packaging.
Chase makes it easy to deposit checks, track spending, and send money - whether you’re doing so from their mobile site, app, website, or even in the archaic physical locations (still highly helpful).
Meet your customers where they want to be met, and you’ll see conversion grow and brand loyalty stay.