retail turns to omnichannel service

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The move towards omnichannel customer service promises to improve the customer experience in many different sectors. Retailers in particular are deploying the technology with an aim to improve shoppers’ experience in physical stores.

Omnichannel is the evolution of multichannel customer service. It essentially integrates multichannel customer service in the contact center with all other customer touchpoints. With omnichannel customer service, you can put your business wherever your customers are: on the street and online, on mobile and across all your marketing activity. The aim is to offer consistent experiences across every customer touchpoint.

consumer control

The drive to omnichannel customer service is impacting numerous industries: banking, insurance -- even medicine, but it’s most clearly evident across the retail sector, where connected intelligence is putting the consumer in control.

“The Internet and the development of mobile devices have revolutionised the retail sector, enabling customers to research and shop at their convenience, anytime, anywhere. As consumers embrace new technologies the shopping experience has become increasingly sophisticated, enabling new ways for leading retailers to reach their audience.” Deloitte wrote in its report on “The Omnichannel Opportunity”, written for eBay.

The need to invest in omnichannel -- and the growth opportunity of doing it correctly is changing how retailers view business expansion, at least according to some analysts: “Historically, retailers have been focused on rolling out their store bases as quickly as possible and have underspent on technology,” says FBR Capital Markets. “We expect continued emphasis on omni capabilities across the next few years.”

Delivering consistency across all these channels was previously something only big brands could achieve. Now it’s becoming accessible to all -- and it’s essential. If you can’t reach your already connected customers where they want to be, then they will use someone else.

showrooming

In its “Showrooming” report, Aprimo identified a plethora of evidence to show how consumer expectations are changing when it comes to retail. More consumers now expect service-driven features such as home shipping (23%); personalized coupons (36%) and price matching (57%). “In fact, 96% of smartphone owners says they intend to begin -- or continue -- using their mobile devices to research and compare prices in future,” Aprimo said.

“No matter what they’re shopping for, consumers are in control of the brand experience. From electronics to infant care products, consumers conduct price comparison research on their mobile devices across a wide and diverse range of categories,” said Aprimo.

Aprimo also points out the practise isn’t confined to major purchases, but also includes things like groceries. “They were typically successful finding lower prices elsewhere,” they added.

Today’s retail shoppers don’t just walk into the shop and buy products off the shelves -- they check price comparison sites while they are in the shop. “60% of respondents said they purchased  a product on Amazon or another competitor while in a store if the store didn’t price match,” said Baynote’s 4th Annual Holiday Online Shopping Survey.

Omnichannel consumers are likely to spend up to 25% more than standard multichannel shoppers.

brand opportunity

Here’s a few illustrative examples of how big brands are embracing the omnichannel

  • Oasis offers physical stores, an ecommerce site and a mobile app, fusing these together to create an omnichannel experience. It lets customers quickly find out what’s in stock, empowers them to order items held in stock in any retail premises, enables easy online and physical purchase and facilitates easy product return -- including provision of 5,500 local drop-off points to make that process more convenient.
  • Fashion chain Nicole Miller unified its ecommerce and retail presence to grow its direct-to-consumer business. The fashion chain’s use of omnichannel data analysis lets it develop customer-specific targeted deals across its online and high street shoppers. This attempt is all about eliminating the division between physical and virtual stores, so the chain’s retail staff are encouraged to tell customers about stock available in-store and online.
  • US high street retailer, Target, offers free shipping to customer’s using Target's REDcard. This has helped the company build online traffic and sales. The company says it is focused on developing its omnichannel presence in order to “deliver new customer experiences”. Such experiences include widening its focus from retail and e-commerce sales to include development of channels built in association with Facebook, eBay and widening its reach on Google.

These changes in consumer expectation aren’t just confined to high street retail, of course, and meeting those expectations across every consumer touchpoint is becoming increasingly important.

“Awareness generated through websites, apps and online marketplaces creates a positive effect across all sales channels, not just online,” eBay says.

Eager to find out more about how you can embrace new technologies to create an omnipresence for your omnichannel? Check out Orange Business for a host of resources and ideas to help you achieve just that.

Jon
 
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Jon Evans

Jon Evans is highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men’s interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.