Retail Outlook: Omnichannel Consumers are in Control
Online retail and brick-and-mortar stores alike are scrambling to stay relevant and meet the ever increasing demands of today’s omnichannel consumer. This is certainly not a new development, but retailers are grasping the reality that omnichannel is NOT a trend and that consumers will only continue to demand more. This new omnichannel reality is forcing retailers to rethink their strategies to meet and exceed consumer expectations across offline and online channels, at any given moment.
Single View of the Customer is a Key Omnichannel Priority
Omnichannel retail is dependent on having a singular customer view. In research by Manhattan Associates, only 18% of the retailers say they have reached this point, a further 30% say they are close and 30% say they are several years away. According to the survey findings, “Asked to nominate omnichannel priorities from a list of eight areas – namely single view of customer, single view of stock, personalization, leverage of big data, systems, front-end technology, mobile and supply chain fulfilment – 45% named a single view of the customer as either their first priority or among their top three.”
Growth of Social Media Strategies to Engage with Customers
Retailers have had to adapt and implement tactics to communicate with consumers in new ways across a diverse range of channels. This year, 28% of retailers surveyed expect to expand their focus on social media.
Social media is a huge influencer on consumer behavior and retailers are focusing on ways to drive more direct transactions. Expect to see more social media platforms and retailers will be bringing the shopping and buying experience directly to a consumer’s social feeds.
Increased Use of Personalization to Enhance Omnichannel Experiences
Almost 28% of retailers say they will be increasing the focus on personalization in their customer communications during the coming year. Understanding consumers and making messages personal to them is becoming more and more important. Consumers don’t want to sift through hundreds of messages that have no relevance. Retailers must ask themselves when, where and how do my customers want me to communicate with them and, what messages are they interesting in hearing?
Provide a Consistent Experience Across Channels
As consumers move from channel to channel and across devices, retailers and consumers alike believe that it is critical that this experience should be consistent. 68% of respondents expect a consistent quality of experience when shopping with the same retailer in a store, online or via mobile and 51% cited that a consistent experience makes them most loyal to a retailer.
When survey respondents were asked, “Do you notice when you get a different experience from the same retailer when you shop with them through different ways, for example, either between online and in store, between stores or between a call center and store?”, 61% noticed often or some of the time.
Personalize the In-Store Experience
Despite the increased use of digital channels and online purchasing, the physical store remains continue to be an important touch point along the customer journey. In fact, 16% of the retailers surveyed emphasized the importance of stepping up in-store customer engagement.
“The role of the shop is changing dramatically in that it is becoming ever more important at the front end of the customer journey and the back end of the customer journey,” says a director of a department store chain. “The shop is a place where customers come to discover new products, to be inspired by new products, touch the product and get advice. And then similarly at the end of the journey, it’s also increasingly important in the mix with fulfilment, collections and returns.”
The survey asked consumers, “What are the top reasons that you’re more likely to go to a physical store rather than buying online?” 58% responded that they wanted to get the product then and there, 52% stated that they wanted to try and feel the product before buying in-store, and 38% said they wanted to try and feel the product before buying online.
The digital age has transformed the shopping experience for consumers and retailers alike. Consumers have more channels and options on how they choose to shop, and retailers are now facing the challenge on how to best satisfy the growing demand for instant gratification, hyper-targeting personalization, and omnichannel engagement.