While a number of advertisers have already successfully rolled out multichannel strategies, the need to place customers at the heart of a digital initiative has gained even greater importance.
Regardless of how customers interact with retailers in the future, shoppers need to be provided what they want and when they want it now - whether online, via mobile or in-store. Retailers that take a more integrated approach will work in harmony to generate the sale and provide a more engaging overall experience for their customers.
A Single Customer View
There has long been interest among retailers in adopting a unified and customer-centric approach to their marketing and sales. "Click and collect," "buy online and return in store" and even offering complimentary in-store Wi-Fi are examples of digital sellers attempting to create a positive brand experience by providing potential customers with more convenient purchasing options.
With today's consumers having access to multiple devices (e.g. desktop and mobile) and engaging with retailers on a number of channels (e.g. social and search), sellers must adopt a single customer view, as it allows them to understand how a consumer's online behavior translates to how he or she interacts with a brand offline. A price-conscious online consumer, for example, is likely to be tempted in-store when offered a discount through another marketing channel. Case in point, mobile commerce and performance marketing are key drivers in enhancing the concept of omnichannel retailing, as they prove to be effective in breaking down the barriers by allowing consumers to purchase in their preferred way.
Omnichannel in Action
Retailers, for example, could create a discount code and make it available across multiple channels - print, online and via mobile coupons. The results in one of our own internal test cases were extremely impressive, with the performance channel generating 43 percent of the total sales. What's more, the majority of coupons were redeemed in-store and 70 percent of the transactions were made by new customers. Would similar performance be achieved if only the social channel was leveraged?
An increasing number of retailers are offering free in-store Wi-Fi, which is adding to the shopping experience. Advertisers should embrace the benefits of consumers being connected while at brick-and-mortar locations rather than fearing the impact of showrooming. While online and in-store, a potential customer would be able to read product reviews, check prices and, if the product is not in-stock, order it immediately through his or her smartphone to either have it delivered or scheduled for in-store pickup, whichever is more convenient for the individual.
Retailers can also make use of demonstration videos by leveraging QR codes to provide more product information. By asking for email addresses in order to access in-store Wi-Fi, retailers are able to create an extensive list of prospects. Additionally, they will be able to analyze the products the user is viewing and personalize marketing messages to the individual shopper.
Retailers have been relatively quick to launch multichannel strategies, but adopting a single customer view and embracing an omnichannel approach is key to future success. Future technological developments will only enhance this further.
Matt Swan is a Client Strategist at Digital Window, where he works with advertisers on affiliate campaigns and conducts market research. He has experience in account management and business development, and regularly contributes to industry sites like Econsultancy, A4U, and The Marketing Lounge. He sits on the research committee at the IAB Affiliate Marketing Council and has conducted research on the mobile network sector and m-commerce. Prior to his current role, he was an Account Director at dgm, managing the Account Management team and top brands.