Of all industries, the brick-and-mortar retail sector has probably been the most visible collateral damage from online retail competition. Declining store traffic is plaguing every retail niche from apparel to grocery to children’s toys, all of which have been forced to compete with giants like Amazon to retain what little market share is left.
Retail reality requires a creative solution
Brick and mortar is a dying breed, but is it truly breathing its last gasp? As in-store shoppers continue to dwindle in number, some major retailers are responding to the change by repurposing their real estate. In two such examples, office equipment superstore Staples is dipping its toe into the coworking business model, and at least one Macy’s store is undergoing a completely different type of transformation – giving up the underused real estate of their parking garage to reallocate to residential development. In 2015, the oldest functioning shopping mall in the United States was converted to microlofts, and this year, Sears was forced to close 400 stores and distribution centers in Canada. The list goes on and on.
Some retailers, however, are waging a very different war, pushing back against the Amazons of the world with the one thing that retailers that exist solely online just can’t deliver: the seamless experience of a well-executed strategy that resonates through every point of contact – in other words, omni-channel retail. Leveraging in-store assets and human collateral, the retailers who have chosen to embrace omni-channel have enabled a more meaningful in-person brand experience for their current and future customers, differentiating themselves from their competition by truly knowing their clientele and delivering what they really want.
It could well be the David vs. Goliath moment that will finally turn the tables.
Omni-channel retail: customer focused
With a focus on differentiation through customer service excellence, omni-channel retail is much more than just the sum of its parts. Resonating from every possible touch point, omni-channel provides an opportunity to connect with retail shoppers in a meaningful way, streamlining brand messaging and personality so that it’s all one, unified experience.
It may start with a customer on their mobile device, but it will ultimately lead to a store visit. For example, a potential customer sees an ad on their social media feed and visits the store’s business page. The shopper browses reviews and is referred to the store’s website where they make use of a price comparison web app. They then reach out to customer service to get questions answered and are provided with incentives to try the products in-store. Once the customer has arrived at the store, the customer service associate will pick up where support left off, enhancing the customer experience and providing the kind of service and value that only a human can. Their selection isn’t available in their size? No problem. Being able to view store inventory across the network allows store associates to source the right product. The customer is impressed by the attention to detail and the process itself has been one seamless experience from start to finish.
Data drives business decisions
The data that omni-channel delivers can also be beneficial in driving business decisions that further on-site retail objectives. For example, knowing what geographical areas customers are coming from may help a company to make more informed decisions as to where to open a store location. Omni-channel data also allows retailers to track buying behaviors, providing an avenue to suggest value-added offers and upsell incentives no matter where they choose to shop. From tracking the demographic information of loyalty customers to discovering the optimum shopping times, this data can be leveraged to improve and personalize customer service as well as to form a basis for many business decisions.
Bringing the omni-channel experience home
Within the retail organization, omni-channel effectively connects the efforts of multiple teams and departments across the organization, providing a seamless shopping experience between channels. Being constantly connected to each other in this way, each department is its own evangelist of the core brand message, ensuring that from the app to chat support and all the way to the mall, every touchpoint has value.
But what do the customers say? Retail is, after all, dependent on its audience to keep it alive. According to the Harvard Business Review, retail customers are enthusiastic users of omni-channel touchpoints. Their study showed that customers who were engaged in the omni-channel experience tended to spend more both in-store and online than their single-channel peers. Further to that, if the same shoppers were to add additional channels, their spending would increase almost 10% over the single-channel comparison. The study was conducted over a one-year period in conjunction with a major retailer.
Of the 46 thousand customers who were surveyed, 7% only shopped online, 20% were in-store aficionados, and the majority – 73% – used multiple channels such as online catalogs and price comparison modules. Sometimes they would purchase in-store and have their item shipped to them, and others would order online and pick up in-store. Having the ability to make these types of choices are what keeps them coming back. Arguably, omni-channel shoppers are currently the lifeblood of retail’s future.
And the answer to the burning question of whether omni-channel can save retail? It already has.
If you would like to learn more about how omni-channel can drive value in your retail environment, get in touch with Mojix today.