How to accelerate your omnichannel retail experience
The face of retail is forever changing. With constant changes in consumer behaviour paired with increased competition, it’s becoming more and more difficult to gain competitive advantage, not to mention the heightened pressure on brand’s bottom line.
Retailers are well aware of their expectations of them. According to Adobe, 53% are expecting demands on their digital experience to accelerate beyond what they’ve already witnessed over the past two years. And although retail growth is set to slow down, from an estimated 3.7% in 2022 to an optimistic 1.2% in 2023, there is still a real opportunity for retailers to deliver an out-of-this-world shopping experience to strengthen consumer connections and drive sales.
And it’s not all about digital. Footfall at bricks-and-mortar stores increased by 4.1% across the UK in June. The future of retail isn’t solely digital or in-store, it’s phygital. Believe it or not customers still want that in-store experience, but they want a seamless brand experience across all touchpoints, wherever they may be.
Ultimately, being ahead of the curve is going to be essential to thrive. So how can retailers stay ahead, stand out from the competition and ensure they are present and optimising every stage of the customer journey?
Cue omnichannel, again
Yes, omnichannel has been a hot topic for a number of years, but retailers are struggling to execute it well. Long-term survival requires retailers to move from a multichannel to an omnichannel approach to deliver the frictionless brand experiences your customers are demanding.
Almost half of e-commerce decision-makers in Europe and North America agree that omnichannel strategies are ‘very important’. But what about the other half? This suggests that not everyone is getting it right and improvements are required to deliver results and push omnichannel up the importance list! But let’s refresh, what is omnichannel? And how is it different from multichannel?
A multichannel approach treats each channel as its own independent entity, delivering a consistent brand message but not necessarily connected. Therefore the way customers interact with each channel is siloed, preventing internal teams from having a full view of their customers and data. You could have an amazing website and an engaging social media campaign, but if they’re not working together then you’re not giving the customer a seamless experience.
Whereas omnichannel marketing is all about coordination activity across all channels to deliver a personalised brand experience with the customer at the heart, removing any friction along the buyer’s journey, whether that’s online or in-store. This also allows internal teams to build a full customer profile with valuable data to continuously improve and deliver personalisation.
The future of omnichannel
To us, the future of omnichannel is all about delivering a true ‘phygital’ shopping experience. Phygital retail is combining the best of physical and digital into one. A popular example of this now is click and collect, but that’s only touching the tip of the iceberg. We’re seeing more immersive brand experiences bringing both worlds together, from Charlotte Tilbury’s virtual store to H&M’s virtual showroom.
Taking this a step further, we expect to see these virtual stores and showrooms, as well as brick and mortar stores harnessing the power of data to become more and more personalised to the customer in the future. Whether that’s a sales assistant knowing what is in your favourites, or a customised virtual store showing you the products you’re running low on. The possibilities are endless.
Here are 3 key considerations for retailers when implementing an omnichannel strategy:
01 Get ready for a cookieless world
Data is at the heart of any personalised experience retailers deliver. Therefore the demise of third party cookies will pose a challenge, but it also presents an exciting opportunity for brands to optimise their omnichannel strategy. At the end of the day, the more first-party data retailers have at their disposal, the more personailsed, omnichannel experience they can deliver.
However, according to Adobe, 37% of retailers believe their organisation is ill-prepared for the post-cookie world. And surprisingly, only 16% of senior executives chose “improving our ability to establish identity without cookies” as one of their top two investment areas in 2022.
It may have been postponed until 2023, but that’s not an excuse to put it on the backburner this year. It’s time for brands to up their first-party data strategies now, in order to stay ahead. Value exchange and complete transparency are key here. Consumers aren’t going to part with their precious data unless they trust you and what they get in return is of high value to them.
02 Using data the right way
First-party strategy nailed? Good. Now use it… but in the right way! Let’s be honest, there’s no point having all of this valuable data to hand if it’s not used correctly. Nearly a third of retailers say they are ineffective in using their first-party data to personalise the customer experience.
An omnichannel strategy will help to collect customer data from each touchpoint, but it’s important to manage and analyse your data to develop a full customer profile and get a deep understanding of their wants, needs and motivations.
Then it’s all about using that data to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right message to deliver a strong personalised experience to the customer.
And H&M does just that. On their app you can ‘activate in-store mode’ which allows your shopping assistant to help you find what you’re looking for, whether that’s checking your favourite items are in stock in a local store or whether another size or colour is available. Using their customer’s data and providing them with the exact information they need at the right time and in the right place gives them the convenience and ease of use they are wanting. They also serve personalised offers based on your previous shopping habits, all which can be used either online, in-store or on the app.
03 Put the customer first
Customer loyalty is dwindling, especially with such fierce competition in the retail space. But we all know it costs less to retain customers than it does to acquire new ones, so a personalised, omnichannel customer experience could pay dividends.
The essence of an omnichannel strategy is all about putting the customer first. If your customers feel valued, a part of your brand and always have a positive interaction at every touchpoint, then they’re likely to become repeat customers, which in turn increases your customer lifetime value – a no brainer. And, there are so many ways you can deliver just that, whether it be through loyalty programs, timely emails or exclusive in-store events.
By preparing for the cookieless world and then using your first-party data in the right way, you’ll already be making great strides in improving customer loyalty and retention rates.
KFC partnered with DEPT® to deliver an omnichannel digital transformation. We created an online and mobile experience by using insight-driven personalisation to give customers a fun and convenient experience, connecting online ad in-person experiences. In the app, customers were able to re-order their favourites and be served recommendations based on their previous purchases and behaviours. The app also included new features such as progress bars and digital ticketing, which enables a more seamless pick-up and drive-thru.
Choosing the right tech architecture
Delivering a successful omnichannel strategy isn’t possible without the right tech architecture in place. Traditionally, retailers kept e-commerce and their in-store tech architecture separate, but this hinders retailers from being able to implement a true omnichannel experience.
The right technology solution can provide seamless integration of online and offline channels, facilitating the end-to-end customer experience, as well as providing retailers with the ability to manage data at scale. But how do you know which solution is best? There’s no one-size-fits-all, it boils down to each brand’s unique requirements.
A headless technology stack is becoming increasingly popular. This has meant that many DXP providers have started to move away from the monolithic approach to offer a hybrid solution: composable DXPs. These allow retailers to have a greater degree of flexibility, breaking free from the constraints of large implementation updates and platform lock-ins. It also lets teams adopt a best-of-breed methodology.
But a composable solution is by no means the only option. A ‘Monolithic’ digital experience platform, also referred to as suites, can provide retailers with everything they may need to execute an omnichannel strategy. Providing a single platform to manage and optimise all stages of the customer journey could be the ideal solution. It does however come with some limitations, such as being locked into a single vendor or technology.
Ultimately, it’s all about having a platform with the right systems connected to enable omnichannel and that is best suited to your business.
The phygital shopping experience is here to stay, and an omnichannel retail strategy allows brands to deliver just that. Retailers need to invest now or risk being left behind. With the right solution in place and a strong omnichannel strategy, you will take your customers on a seamless, personalised experience, however and wherever they choose to shop with you.
Get in touch with our experts today to find out how we can help you define or accelerate your omnichannel retail strategy.
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Managing Director, Design & Technology UK