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How to Harmonise the Online and Offline Shopping Experience

The term "omnichannel" is often misinterpreted or wrongly attributed in the retail industry. Omnichannel commerce is not just about integrating your ecommerce website with other channels. And it's goes beyond personalisation and retargeting. Harmonising the online and offline shopping experience is the key to creating an effective omnichannel approach in retail.

In this blog, Space 48's Head of Insight, Oliver Lees, discusses the key elements that make up a winning omnichannel strategy and outlines how to ensure your customers get the best brand experience online, in-store and across all touchpoints within the customer lifecycle.

What is omnichannel commerce?

The reason that so many retailers are now looking to take an omnichannel approach, is that the more seamless and interconnected your commerce channels and communications are the better the experience is for consumers. And a customer-centric strategy is a smart strategy. In retail, creating great shopping experiences across multiple channels and easy routes to purchase helps meet the modern consumer's heightened expectations in this fast-changing landscape.

Lasting success in retail comes from customer retention and encouraging repeat purchases. You need to give customers reasons to keep coming back to your stores, online and in-store.

Consumers who shop via multiple channels have a 30% higher customer lifetime value (CLV) compared with single-channel shoppers. (Source: IDC)

Providing customers with a consistent and integrated shopping experience, unifying offline and online processes, is essentially what omnichannel commerce is all about.

Omnichannel versus multichannel

Not meaning to be pedantic with semantics, but multichannel and omnichannel are not strictly interchangeable. You can use multiple channels in your retail strategy and even have your channels integrated using automation, but this doesn't necessary add up to an omnichannel strategy.

Brands demonstrating an omnichannel approach look at the bigger picture and think holistically. Put customer needs and expectations first and ensure that they get the same quality of service and experience, whether they walk into your high street shop or if they're browsing your ecommerce store on their mobile.

However, whilst you should seek to deliver continuity across channels this doesn't mean pure replication. You still need to optimise your user experience for different channels and devices, especially as mobile shopping conversions continue to rise.

Key things to consider when creating an omnichannel strategy

Omnichannel retail strategy

So, how do you go about implementing an omnichannel strategy and what are the key ingredients? We've outlined some key considerations when looking to harmonise your commerce experience across channels:

Accurate product information: This sounds simple, but it's crucial to be consistent with product information at every touchpoint

Inventory stock availability: Is the product you have on offer (which you're promoting with ads) still available online? If not, stop running the ad, as it will frustrate your shoppers. When will it come back into stock? Inform your customers.

Customer service: Ensure that you deliver great customer service across the board. A bad experience of customer service in one of your physical stores may well deter someone from visiting your website in the future.

Deliverability: Get your teams and systems working together efficiently to ensure high-quality deliverability.

Promotions/price: Nobody likes to make a purchase one day only to find it cheaper elsewhere the next day, especially from the same retailer! If you're going to offer in-store only or online-only promotions, or offer customers exclusive deals via specific channels, do your best to inform customers and give them the best chance of get the best price.

A smooth route to purchase: Providing consumers with smooth route to purchase is so important in retail these days. This is not just about speed, it's also about offering a good range of payment methods and flexible shipping options.

Post-purchase marketing: Whether it's welcome emails, personalised product recommendations, product tutorials, innovative unboxing experiences or loyalty rewards and incentives, look to delight your customers throughout their journeys with your brand.

GDPR: The General Data Protection Regulation has enhanced everyone's awareness of data processing and marketing consent. So, it's important to have the right processes in place to ensure data compliance across channels. Segment your database to ensure the right communications go out to the right people, according to how data and/or marketing consent has been captured.

Customer experience: Today's shoppers like flexibility, in terms of where and when they purchase products and their delivery options. Browsing and buying behaviours are changing all the time and retailers must meet consumer expectations. Some customers want to browse products online and get them delivered to stores or pick-up locations. Others want to buy products in-store and have them delivered to home. Then there are those who like to try products out in-store and buy online later. The latter has led to pureplay brands opening physical stores to cater for the trend. This is omnichannel customer experience in action.

Channel integration: Are your emails pointing your subscribers to your social channels? Do you have pixels and automation in place on your website to trigger retargeting ads? Or are you using dynamic content and geotargeting to highlight local stores to relevant website visitors? Integrate your channels to nurture customers and increase conversion rate.

Single customer view: If you truly want to integrate channels and harmonise offline and online customer experience, having a system that enables a single customer view means that both online and offline data, regarding behaviours, preferences and purchase history, is pooled together. This gives retailers a greater ability to nurture customers and deliver relevant communications. 

How to harmonise the offline and online experience

Harmonising the offline and online user experience for consumers is not just about investing in technology to integrate channels and create a single customer view, it also relies heavily on the processes in place across all key departments in your business. You need the right communication between departments, channels need to talk to each other, and your staff need to be trained properly to ensure the right messages and service filters down every strand of the business.

90% of customers expect consistent interactions across channels. (Source: SDL)

On an inventory level, try to ensure that customers are aware of the best way to browse, buy, try or receive the right product and experience. It's about continuity of service and customer experience. A unified experience that always feels the same, wherever and whenever you come into contact with the brand. This omnichannel approach ensures the reputation of your brand is upheld and that customer expectations are met.

You should still tailor the experience to different channels and devices, but the communication and level of service should remain the same. Each channel should nurture the relationship between user and brand, whether it's through automation to trigger retargeting ads, behaviour-based emails and loyalty offers or invitations to engage with your brand via other channels.

When it comes to customer service, it's important that shoppers get the same level of help and support via your website, chatbots, service centre operatives or in-store staff. And if, say, a chatbot cannot get a customer to the answer or solution that they're after, you need bridge this knowledge gap with a clear route to a source of information that will help them.

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Summary

We hope this blog has highlighted the benefits of taking an omnichannel approach and the importance of harmonising your online and offline customer experience. There are tools, integrations and platforms that can help you to do this. For example, Magento Commerce offers an Order Management product which, in combination with Magento 2acts a unified commerce platform that enables a single customer view to help retailers connect with customers on whichever channel or device they're using and wherever they're browsing and shopping.

If you want to talk to our ecommerce specialists about omnichannel commerce, you can get a free consultation with our team. Or why not check out our new Guide to the Best Ecommerce Tools and Integrations to Enhance Your Strategy

Ecommerce Tools & Integrations Guide

Space 48 is a leading UK ecommerce consultancy and website development agency, specialising in Magento and Shopware platforms. Do you have any questions about the themes discussed in this blog or perhaps you'd like to discuss an ecommerce development project with us? Get in touch or book a free consultation with our experienced ecommerce experts and see how we can help improve your performance!

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