While omnichannel has been around for several years and is now an established system, many companies are still having problems integrating it into their systems to make it work properly. One of the major issues surrounding omnichannel is the curiosity and confusion on what it actually means. And while omnichannel is designed to help retailers improve sales and increase customer visibility and revenue, both merchants and suppliers are losing millions every year due to not understanding it properly.
Clarity on the understanding of omnichannel is lacking
A definite lack of clarity has caused merchants to create their own problems in streamlining their sales through the use of omnichannel. With omnichannel being a complex, multi-faceted system for the retailers and merchants, many are not fully equipped to deal with it, and a lack of transparency in inventories across the whole enterprise has brought on several other challenges. On top of those issues, keeping a sharp focus on customer needs on an individual basis has caused gaps to appear in the omnichannel process. Customers are the ultimate test of whether your omnichannel is working effectively, and are often the biggest challenge any merchant faces.
Every customer has an individual purchase route or method, and it is hard for any merchant or retailer to define each and every one to provide tailored customer experiences. However, as technology improves, and data and artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more popular within the systems, the gaps in omnichannel are slowly closing.
Data should be used to drive the customer experience
The main challenge involves recognizing the unique profile of the customer within an omnichannel environment and tailoring the experience to meet their individual needs. However, it can be done, as can be seen with the video on demand company, Netflix. Content retrieved from them is uniquely curated to meet the customer profile, likes and dislikes, and device type they are using at the time of login. This use of a data-driven system is innovative and can unify the customer experience for many retailers. By collecting data from every customer from the minute they first sign up, they can tap into these valuable insights to deliver a more tailored customer experience, which grows better with every interaction as the data collected improves and builds further on the customer profile. While methods can vary depending on the channel being used, the data should still provide the same strategy throughout, driving further improvements to make the customer interaction as seamless as possible.
Data is the main key to merchants being able to best utilize their omnichannel strategy, and that data should support the business, not lead it. By using the data correctly, merchants can shape their unique omnichannel experience to each individual customer more easily. While this data collection can provide many major opportunities for merchants, it can also bring about some challenges, which makes omnichannel difficult, but highly important in the merchant’s journey.
Technology is the key to plugging the gaps
In 2014, global shoppers made around 47 percent of their purchases online. By 2016 that had risen to 51 percent, and is still rising. Customers are now in a better position to shop more online than offline, and the trends are heading for a higher percentage – the expectation is around 75 percent by the year 2020 – which means support strategies need to change to allow for this increase. Technology is the answer to streamlining offline and online customer experiences seamlessly, and filling in the gaps that are currently being seen in omnichannel. There is often a gap between online and offline strategies, and filling those gaps in the customer experience can be achieved by investing in the technology needed to ensure the web experience is seamless, and align that experience across all channels. This can reduce the customer’s frustrations and result in a stronger sales margin.
Connecting all of the marketing channels with one basic strategy is the key to creating a seamless customer experience that will make the customer feel connected to the brand and confident of their ability to provide a great experience on every channel. Modern technology such as Genesys, BRIDGE, and IBM’s Watson are making it possible to close those gaps in omnichannel, giving the perfect customer experience every time.
Points to remember with omnichannel
So, when you look at what can be done to avoid the gaps in omnichannel, the things you need to remember are:
- Link offline and online sales to make a seamless connection with customers across all channels
- Give the customer a united brand experience at every point of their purchasing journey, making sure to include social media, websites, mobile, digital marketing, email marketing, in-store interactions, etc
- Realize that your online engagement with the customer can help the in-store experience, as well as around 50 percent of online customers, finish their purchase in store
- Adopt the right avenues unique to your business with the knowledge that no two businesses – even in the same industry and niche – are the same and the omnichannel experience should be unique
According to the founder and CEO of Lightspeed, Dax Dasilva, “An omnichannel approach is crucial for retail success, allowing businesses to meet their customer at any time, anywhere in the world.” The future of retail is the global omnichannel experience.
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