What does omni-channel really mean?
Omni-channel is a multichannel approach which seeks to provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience, whether the customer is shopping in store or online from a desktop or mobile device.
True integration means multichannel shopping becomes as easy as 1, 2, 3.
Let’s take the example of a typical shopper, let’s call her Janet:
1. Janet is getting ready for the summer. She uses her desktop computer to browse for a new pair of sunglasses and shortlist her favourites just before she leaves for work
2. On her commute home, Janet uses her mobile phone to access the retailer app, review her shortlist of favourites, check on stock at her local shop and order the perfect pair
3. Janet picks up her new sunglasses from store the next day and she’s ready for the sunshine!
Omni-channel shopping presents a significant shift in how we think about retail, but it’s a shift that comes with huge opportunities.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF INFORMATION IN THE OMNI-CHANNEL WORLD?
The availability of technology and the need for information is undoubtedly altering the way we shop. Rather than shopping in-store OR online, more and more we are seeing consumers engaging with both platforms for a single purchase. Shoppers will visit a store to browse and then go online to scout the internet for the best price. In reverse, shoppers will go online to see ‘the full extent’ of what’s available and then go in store to buy once they have narrowed their choices.
To take this one step further, going in store and shopping online are not always independent activities. 2014 saw significantly more shoppers using their mobile devices whilst in the store – finding potential products on the shelves and immediately going on-line to compare prices or to read up on customer reviews; all before deciding whether or not to make a purchase. Smartphones are increasingly becoming the device of choice and are, to some extent, adopting the role of the traditional shopping assistant: providing shoppers with the information they need at the exact moment they need it.
This ‘always-on, always-connected’ mentality is a clear opportunity for retailers to engage with their customers wherever they are, on whatever device they are using and at all stages of the purchase journey.
To accommodate this new breed of consumer and this new method of shopping, in-store and online platforms must be seamless, connected and consistent.
WHO IS LEADING THE WAY IN OMNI-CHANNEL?
The Starbucks rewards app is a great example of a seamless omni-channel experience. With the Starbucks card, customers can check and reload their balance in store, online or via their mobile phone. Each channel is updated in real-time providing customers with up-to-date information no matter where they are or what device they are using. 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.
Starbucks delivers a consistent message and promotes the same values through every interaction and every touch-point no matter the platform.
HOW CAN RETAILERS MAKE THE MOST OF THIS OMNI-CHANNEL ENVIRONMENT?
1. Retailers must recognise that it is an opportunity to communicate with their customers and encourage sales on multiple platforms at any time of day. To do this, retailers need to think about:
a) Making the multi-channel experience as seamless as possible with a clear and consistent delivery on each platform.
b) Giving customers instant and relevant information no matter which platform they are engaging with.
c) Ensuring shoppers feel as comfortable shopping and buying online as they do in store – ease and convenience are key.
2. Retailers must take full advantage of the chance to raise awareness and communicate the brand across platforms in order to build a relationships with their shoppers. They must deliver one strong identity, regardless of the touch point and rise above the ‘noise’ of the digital environment.
AND HOW CAN RESEARCH AND INSIGHT HELP?
1. ETHNOGRAPHY/SHOPPER SAFARIS
To create a seamless omni-channel experience, you must first understand how customers shop your category, product or brand. By spending time with customers in their homes and accompanying them on shopping trips, we can begin to understand the purchase journey and how it needs to work for the customer. We can see first-hand how customers interact with the various touchpoints along the way and develop an approach to ensure that every interaction is as appealing and straightforward as it can be.
Read more about understanding your shopper here.
2. MULTICHANNEL RESEARCH
Retailers need to understand their customer’s needs, expectations and experiences across channels and this can be difficult to achieve. Consistency is vital as it enables you to compare platforms against one another to determine best-practice within the organisation, as well as areas for improvement. We believe the best way to do this is to develop one single methodology that spans across each platform to measure the customer experience in its entirety, and track this over time.
3. BRAND TRACKING
Communicating and interacting with customers across platforms wherever they are and at any time of day, means it can be difficult to stay on top of how your brand is doing. As a result, brand evaluation is more important than ever in helping you to stay in the know and ahead of the game. A combination of qualitative and quantitative methodologies can help you to effectively gather, evaluate and understand consumer perceptions in order to protect and strengthen your brand.
For more information about how Marketing Sciences Unlimited can help you with ethnography, brand tracking, and multichannel research, give us a call on 01962 842211. Read more about how we can work with you to understand and improve your customers’ experience here.
Megan Knapp is a Research Manager in the Retail team.