Adapting your omnichannel strategy to the new normal
by Lauren Cassidy
July 06, 2021
"The Irish digital commerce landscape is evolving rapidly, giving businesses a huge opportunity to attract, win, and keep more customers. But in order to do this, all of the pieces of the digital commerce puzzle must fit together to truly optimise every step of the customer journey."
- Ciaran Bollard, CEO of Kooomo
Now that consumers are accustomed to eCommerce and shopping online, the question of adaption has been turned to physical outlets as society reopens. 61% of shoppers intend to keep up their increased online shopping habits according to a joint 2020 global study from SAP and The Economist Intelligence Unit. Therefore, the idea of physical and digital retail existing one without the other is unrealistic. So how can retailers ensure that their offering modernised, future-proofed and competitive? By deploying a strategic omnichannel retail strategy.
How do you adapt an omnichannel strategy to the new normal?
1. Invest nowThe role of omnichannel eCommerce in business survival made itself known very early on in the pandemic - most retailers adapted as early as possible were more likely to survive. This means if you’re still on the fence, you’re a year behind your competitors (at the very least). The flexibility that omnichannel offers allowed it to become a survival tool for handling unexpected pivots and spikes in demand.
Not only that, but the consumer has also gone through a transformation. COVID19 has set an unprecedented digital standard for shoppers - and consumers expect that fluid experience of retailers as their physical stores re-open.
Therefore, our first piece of advice is not to wait around. For security, longevity and competitive purposes, the term “you snooze, you lose” rings true. A move to omnichannel needn’t be a daunting task, you can contact us for a consultation at any time to discuss the management of your strategy.
2. Unify your processesIntegrating your back-end systems is the most important step to take when creating an omnichannel shopping experience. Both your physical store and your eCommerce store need to share data and function in tandem.
A centralised order management system will provide you with a clear view across every channel in real-time which will reduce your dropped orders. Using a cloud-based commerce platform will give you access to your inventory statistics anytime and anywhere.
Access to rich data will also allow you to provide the best omnichannel experience to your customers, regardless of whether they have been in touch in-store or online. By recording data from every touch point, you can use it to find out more about your customers, optimise your conversions and create a seamless experience.
However, the biggest challenge might be the internal battles – those less technologically savvy team members. Arm your eCommerce team and the sales assistants in your store with accurate, up-to-date product information and the ability to instantly call up the customer’s previous purchases and preferences. Regular training should also be a priority - especially when it comes to new strategy adaption. You can invest in the very best of technology but without the know-how, you’re leading your teams up a creek without a paddle. As Richard Branson once said; “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
3. Increase your fulfilment optionsWe touched on the power of an OMS above - this can be used to help retailers stay flexible, turning on and off fulfilment locations to drive products where demand is higher to effectively meet customer expectations.
It’s also valuable to maintain control of your fulfilment process, as we have seen with Amazon FBA in 2020 and their decision to prioritise the fulfilment of medical supplies only. A necessary decision at the time, however, it did make us wise to the importance of working independently with omnichannel solutions. Following on from the logistics issues that arose in 2020, retailers need to have options and workarounds for fulfilment.
An omnichannel strategy allows you to maintain sales by running storefronts like fulfilment centres - you might decide to courier directly from your physical stores or introduce click and collect options.
Using systems such as DOM (distributed order management) gives you an in-depth look at all inventory across your central warehouse, additional warehouses, and all physical stores. All orders can be managed from one place, so you can see where they are coming from and process them efficiently. When all distribution points are synchronised on our distributed order management system, the stock is automatically updated across all channels, so that if you run out of inventory in a physical store, it immediately becomes unavailable online. The bottom line is that there are now more options for your customers and a better backup plan for your business.
4. Improve customer relations with increased touchpoints.
It’s no longer effective to simply hone in on the touchpoint a consumer makes with your business - whether that’s online or in-store. You should instead consider each touchpoint as a point in a cycle. That is according to McKinsey who reports that -
“companies often fail to execute an effective cross channel transformation because they are unaware of clients’ true preferences and needs across the stages of the customer journey.”
Therefore, adding or updating an omnichannel approach can help you keep up with the evolving habits of digital shoppers, manage operational costs and provide an outstanding user experience.
It’s no longer a case of “build it and they will come” but more so a case of “mould it or they will leave”. Retailers must meet the consumer where they are, providing support through all their active channels, including social media. By providing more opportunities for consumers to touch base with the brand in ways that the consumer likes to connect, the customer experience is improved and increases the likelihood of customer loyalty.
Purchase frequency is 250% higher on omnichannel vs. single-channel and the average order value is 13% more per order on omnichannel vs. single channel.
So, it’s important to provide integrated experiences that add value for your target audience. To do this, you can design a customer service framework that focuses on enhancing both the processes of communication and the technology used at the points of information exchange. For example, Kaliedy, a pure-play nursery retailer on the Kooomo platform, has adjusted the way their answer queries to suit the busy lives of new parents - The site has a Zendesk system integration that funnels all customer service queries with WhatsApp messages included – People who have product queries or delivery queries are getting that immediate response which combatted the lack of a store infrastructure.
5. Reassess the functionality of your physical storeThe new normal is making a return to traditional retail near impossible. While restrictions look set to be scrapped in the UK from July 2021, how consumers interact with bricks and mortar has shifted. So far as in-store interactions go, consumers fancy self-service where possible, shopping via appointments and using click and collect.
Omnichannel should not only be used to foolproof your business but to adjust easily to quickly changing trends. Retailers should consider ‘physical customer engagement’ synonymous with ‘impressions’ - enhancing numerous processes within an increasingly complex customer journey.
Forward-thinking retailers should view their stores as digital hubs, using sophisticated techniques to assess the quality of physical interactions with them. For example, including more wi-fi, video analytics and AI-powered insights. With AI, businesses can focus on generating a single customer view, where tracking in-store customer journeys will be correlated with online shopping characteristics.
Many brands have already seen great success piloting value-added techniques to their physical outlets - rolling-out appointments to provide customers with a hyper-personalised service, and have introduced digital procedures to create a simpler, safer shopping experience.
Marks & Spencer is one such example of this innovation as customers can now buy groceries in stores without visiting a till. Instead, they use the retailer’s Mobile Pay-Go app, in what it says represents a significant move towards contact-free shopping.
Adopting or adjusting your omnichannel strategy is not just about adding digital legs to the retail table. Retailers need to conduct an overall review of the ways consumers are coming into contact with their brand - be that on your website, in-store, on social media etc. The outlet is no longer the purchasing hub and the website is no longer the information directory - the roles have been reversed and intermingled with each touchpoint throughout the customer journey offering its own opportunity to increase sales. We’ve seen what has happened with retailers who wait to adapt - waiting to perfect could be the difference between customer loyalty or losing to your competitors.
Our team of experts are on standby to discuss your omnichannel queries, with a guarantee of 0% downtime should you decide to make the move to our unified omnichannel platform - simply get in touch with us to set up a chat today.
Posted by: Lauren Cassidy