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This is how the most successful retailers win at omni-channel

Written by LS Retail | 17 December 2017

Today, the average shopping journey embraces various channels: a consumer may look for a coffee machine or a shampoo on your website, order the item via mobile while on his commute home, and finally choose to pick up his purchase in-store the next day. According to research from Google, 98 percent of Americans use multiple devices daily to research information on products and to make purchases. Retailers are quickly realizing that the only alternative to being omni-channel will soon be closing your shop’s doors. Creating a true omni-channel experience, however, is not as simple as developing a website and running a mobile app alongside the physical stores. To support the new customer journey, your channels need to be connected, creating a coherent, meaningful experience for the consumer. But how to do so? Here are seven points that retailers with a successful omni-channel strategy get right:

1. Their branding is consistent

There’s nothing worse for an omni-channel brand than to offer a disconnected experience across the various channels. Successful brands are consistent as regards both brand image (same color scheme, corporate story, style and voice) and quality of service in-store, on their website, on the loyalty app and on social media. International coffee company Nespresso is a great example of cohesive visual branding. The graphic design and color palette is consistent throughout the channels, and it functions as a common thread that guides every step of the customer journey, from website, to mobile app, to confirmation e-mail — all the way to the package that arrives to the customer’s doors. If your offline presence is hip, youthful and colorful, but your app is dull and offers few options to interact with products; if you emphasize customer service in-store, but then do not respond timely (or at all!) to customer queries on Twitter – you will confuse and lose customers.

2. Their channels are integrated

Customers today want to be able to see on the brand’s website if the smartphone they like is available in pink in your downtown store. They want to order from your webstore that art deco lamp they saw in your shop while they were on holiday. They want to be able to drop by at one of your physical locations to exchange the too-tight shoes they bought via the shopping app. These are all common requests – and yet, too many retailers can’t fulfil them. For example, if you are one of those retailers still using disparate, badly-connected solutions, you:
  • can’t see what products are available in real time – or where they are available;
  • can’t accept returns across channels;
  • may end up selling items you don’t have;
  • cannot offer highly in-demand services like click & collect, order from store, or online inventory search.
The most forward-thinking retailers, on the other hand, are able to offer the services above. Their secret? They use end-to-end retail management systems like LS Nav, which enable them to control their whole inventory centrally. An integrated management system is a necessary weapon in an omni-channel retailer’s daily war, as it enables you to always know how many items are still available, where they are located exactly, and lets you easily accept exchanges and returns in your whole retail network.

3. They are straight-forward

Research shows that seventy percent of online shoppers abandon their shopping cart before completing the purchase. The most common cause? Unclear or excessive shipping costs. Successful retailers display their sales conditions in a clear and visible format on their website. Take, for example, arts and crafts retailer Hobbycraft. The navigation bar on top of the homepage clearly states the shipping and return policy; users can also get more detailed information by clicking on each statement. Even before you have started shopping, you know the conditions of the sale, and can decide to browse more - or leave. To decrease the chance of shopping cart abandonment, create a trust relationship with your customers, and be upfront about shipping prices and times, shipment restrictions and special conditions.

4. They let customers view the inventory online

According to Forrester research, 71 percent of customers expect to be able to access in-store inventory online. This feature is so important to consumers that 2 out of 5 say they would be unlikely to visit a retailer’s store that does not offer it! Big brands like IKEA even go one step beyond, listing not only in which store each item is available, but also the quantity left in stock. Don’t want to go to such lengths? Your product list, online and in the app, should still tick all of these boxes:
  • It should be complete and updated, allowing customers to see where the product they want – in the right variants: color, size… – is available. You can make sure that your product list is always up-to-date across all your channels by using an integrated management system. All changes (to product availability, specs, price, and offers) will have to be made only once, centrally; the system then automatically updates all instances across in your e-commerce site, app, store back-office and POS.
  • With detailed product information. Do not forget to include, if applicable, materials (or ingredients), special care warnings, warranty information and special return policies. If you stock similar products, make sure you give your customers enough information to allow them to make an informed choice.
  • With clear, high-quality pictures. According to Forbes, 67 percent of consumers find product images very important when it comes to selecting and purchasing a product.
  • Featuring product reviews. According to research by the National Retail Federation, 96 percent of shoppers read reviews on the retailers’ site, and a quarter of them say that reviews are the most influential factor when deciding to make a purchase, mattering more than price comparisons, or advice from friends.

5. They put customer needs at the heart of their strategy

You can’t expect consumers to come to you; you must make sure that you are there when they need you. People spend most of their time with a computer in their hands. As a retailer, you need to identify moments of opportunity in the customer journey, and make sure to be present. Take, for example, American pharmacy and health care company CVS/Health. The company debuted a customer app that was designed to solve a common problem: managing complex medication schedules. Customers can set up reminders to take medicines inside the app, and the reminders can even be loaded onto an Apple watch. When they enter a CVS/Health pharmacy, a notification warns app users that their medications are ready for pickup. This app works because it is designed to give consumers a useful service – and is not merely made to sell more. Help consumers. Solve their problems. They will pay you back with their trust and business.

6. They collect data – and use it

E-commerce sites and apps collect a wealth of information. Successful omni-channel retailers capture the data, and then turn it into action. Innovative retailers are already using different ways to extract, collect and use data to increase their market share. Take for example videogames chain GameStop International. GameStop runs a very successful loyalty program, with 50 million members across 13 countries. By analyzing their customer data collected through program, they:
  • Discovered that their customers’ level of engagement in the loyalty program does not depend on the presence of prizes. What makes the program valuable for customers are, rather, the personalized communication and offers.
  • Managed to create hyper-targeted emails (which, for example, suggest to users what new games they could get by trading in their old ones – based on purchase history), increasing the open rate from 15 percent to an astounding 35 percent.
  • Diversified their offering to include collectibles, a business that has become very valuable for the brand.
  • As a result, expanded and diversified their customer base.
Mike Mauler, EVP and President at GameStop International, believes that the more data you get, the better you understand you customers, and the more meaningful information you can give them – which, in turn, produces engagement and loyalty. Loyalty programs are an invaluable source of information – but they are not the only source. For example, you could use your online customers’ shopping habits to determine the best location for a new physical store, or the right product mix for each of your locations. When it comes to consolidating customer information, it’s important to have well-integrated systems in place. According to a study by Forrester Research, most companies only analyze a measly 12 percent of the data they have. Information silos, which lead to fragmented, hard-to-access data, are to blame for this untapped potential, says Forrester. Smash the silos, let data flow across your whole organization and create a complete, unified view of the customer across your channels.

7. They don’t forget the brick-and-mortar store

Successful retailers are working to close the gap between online and in-store shopping. Some examples of in-store technologies used to attract customers and re-connect the channels include:
  • Fitting rooms of the future. adidas has introduced changing rooms that feature a wall-mounted tablet which shoppers can use to request items in a different size or color. At Macy’s in California Beach, customers can select products on their smartphones, and have them delivered straight to the fitting room. Other stores have installed smart fitting rooms which recognize (through RFI, radio-frequency identification) which items are taken into the changing room, and can give product suggestions, offer 360-degree views of items, change the lighting conditions and even give shoppers compliments (!) based on their facial and body response to the outfit.
  • Interactive storefrontsadidas has been at the forefront of in-store digital innovation. Its interactive shop window is not a mere product display, but a 24/7 on-demand store. By touching the glass, customers can browse the catalog, interact with products and add them to their shopping cart on their mobile – that’s a great way of using a closed storefront, and reconnecting the different sales channels.
  • Across-the-channel wish lists. Houseware chain Crate & Barrel allows users to create and monitor gift and wedding registries online and in-store, right from their phone. Using the app, shoppers can scan barcodes in the stores to add items to their online list, and check purchases in real time.

  Forward-thinking retailers are managing to create the type of shopping experience today’s consumers demand by aligning messages, objectives, information and design across platforms – and ensuring that everything works together. If you are not able to do all that, or need more information on how to create an integrated, end-to-end shopping experience, contact our experts today.

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