Aided by technology and accustomed to instant connections, consumers are craving an omnichannel experience when they’re shopping. Omnichannel means the holistic way that a brand’s channels and touch points interact with a customer. It boils down to a cohesive, continuous, and seamless experience across all channels — no matter the way a consumer connects with a brand.
Consumers have become familiar and have come to expect these top three things in an omnichannel experience.
Consumers expect personalization amid their increasingly digital lives. According to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer Report, “66% of consumers say they are likely to switch brands if they are treated as numbers instead of individuals”. Reservations about sharing information with brands have decreased significantly and now, consumers are willing to share personal data with brands so long as they receive personalized experiences (i.e. product recommendations and customized offers).
In the age of rapid connections and instant gratification, customers expect fast, personal experiences throughout the customer journey regardless of channel. The demand for speed and convenience is high enough that consumers are often willing to pay more for an expedited shipping option.
Omnichannel is all about the cohesiveness of a brand. That means everything from inventory, speed, customer service, and even voice has to be consistent across all channels because consumers expect the same experience throughout their shopping journey. Every instance of friction is a speed bump on their road to checkout and possibly their reason for abandonment. According to Salesforce, “73% of consumers are likely to switch brands if a company provides inconsistent levels of service across departments”.
Multiple touch points
More than 90% of consumer commerce still happens in physical, brick-and-mortar stores, but consumers also interact, research, and buy from brands in multiple ways. It was once that customers would have to visit a brick-and-mortar store to peruse, but now they have smart devices and technology at their fingertips.
- eCommerce: By 2020, worldwide retail eCommerce sales are predicted to top $4 trillion.
- Mobile: More than 50% of eCommerce traffic now comes from mobile devices.
- Social commerce: More than 60% said they would be open to making a purchase through a social platform.
Not just another buzzword
Omnichannel is often described as the blurring of online and offline channels. In a study by HBR, 73% customers move across multiple channels during their shopping journey. Three out of four shoppers who find local information in web searches are more inclined to visit physical locations (webrooming). More than 90% of consumers read reviews and peruse on smartphones while browsing in-store. Additionally, 75% of consumers want to be able to order products online and pick them up in-store.
Gone are the days where it was a brick-and-mortar store versus an online presence. These days, one touch point can help bolster the presence of the other. A physical store often helps advertise a brand and drive traffic to the online store. “In a market where we have a showroom, our online sales grow twice as fast in a market where we don’t,” says Dan Green of Indochino.
The preference for a tangible experience as well as the increasing numbers of omnichannel shoppers has caused an influx of online brands such as Amazon, Warby Parker, Indochino, Fabletics, and Bonobos to open physical locations.
These online brands are expanding to brick-and-mortar stores but are doing so carefully. They’re incrementally testing the market and analyzing data. “We’ve moved fast but very methodically. We experiment, learn, and use a very agile methodology,” said Neil Blumenthal of Warby Parker. “We did pop-up experiences, we tried different shelving.”
Omnichannel customers are more valuable
Here, we come to the crux of omnichannel. Why should you care that consumer habits are changing? Because these consumers will reward an omnichannel experience.
Omnichannel shoppers have a 30% higher lifetime value than single-channel consumers. According to a study by HBR,
- These shoppers spent an average of 4% more on every shopping occasion in the store, and 10% more online than single-channel customers.
- On average, customers who used more than four channels spent 9% more in the store when compared to those who used just one channel.
- Among the omnichannel shoppers, those that conduct prior research online (webrooming) ended up spending 13% more in store. Shoppers are now doing more research, they’re more informed and prepared to buy. They know the market, the prices, and the product.
- Within six months after an omnichannel shopping experience, these customers are 23% more likely to make repeat shopping trips and were more likely to recommend the brand than those who used a single channel.
How brands are responding
Brands across all industries are sitting up and taking note. Companies are adopting a customer-centric approach by personalizing contact across every touch point (Alexa) and meeting customers where they are (social commerce, contextual commerce).
They’re leveraging data gained to personalize the shopping experience, reach consumers via their preferred method, and to better sell to consumers in the form of email product recommendations, offers based on previous purchases, abandoned shopping cart emails, and retargeting campaigns.
Technology: the facilitator of omnichannel
Brands are catering to the omnichannel consumer by taking advantage of emerging technology and redefining shopping and buying experiences.
- Rebecca Minkoff: The fashion retailer’s stores feature smart walls that display new styles or product recommendations and smart mirrors in dressing rooms that allow consumers to browse for other sizes or colors or save their preferences.
- Amazon Go: Earlier this year, Amazon took some huge strides towards frictionless shopping with their new concept of a grocery store – one with no checkout required, shoppers simply grab and go with their Amazon Go app.
- MasterCard: The card brand is rolling out their Identity Check Mobile (a biometric authentication app that asks the customer to take a selfie or use their fingerprint in lieu of a PIN) for online purchases in phases over the course of this year.
It’s all about the customer journey now – one that is unified, responsive, and agile. Give consumers a consistent, simple, and frictionless experience, and they will give you their business.