Trends in e-commerce and digital marketing have moved from the multichannel approach to omnichannel. It is no longer enough to have a website, blog, or social media account. Customers want more than just interacting with your brand. They want a consistent experience with your brand regardless of the channel they use. That means you must link various touchpoints in the customer journey to create a seamless interaction with your customers no matter how they choose to reach you.
The omnichannel approach is no longer a preference for retailers but the new normal. Developing an omnichannel retail strategy is now the focus of most businesses that want to keep up with the trends in retail marketing and e-commerce.
Omnichannel retail analytics show that businesses that have adopted an omnichannel strategy have a 9.5% year-over-year increase in annual revenue. Those that are still struggling with separate multiple channels, on the other hand, only have a 3.4% annual increase in revenue. In addition to increased revenue, companies that have well-defined omnichannel strategies reduce their cost per contact by 7.5%.
A well-established omnichannel approach to marketing also leads to 90% customer retention. Given that customers want to continue with your brand from where they left off, an omnichannel approach is no longer a choice but a must-have for retailers.
To develop a sound omnichannel strategy you need to understand how omnichannel experiences work. While customers may not realize they are using omnichannel platforms, their experience increases loyalty. However, as a retailer, you should understand what constitutes an omnichannel approach.
Understand the Customer Journey
The first step in building an omnichannel strategy is understanding the customer journey. A customer journey sometimes referred to as a buyer journey map is a visualization of different touchpoints used by customers as they interact with your brand.
Touchpoints are different points of interaction between you and your customers. A touchpoint could be the brick-and-mortar store, online store, social media platform, or website. Touchpoints include all channels that create brand visibility. Mapping your customers’ journey ensures no buyer slides through the cracks between different channels.
The customer journey, therefore, describes the various touch points a potential customer uses to learn about your brand, make a purchase, and remain loyal to the brand. A customer journey has five phases.
1. Awareness Phase
The awareness phase represents the first point of contact between the customer and your brand. In most cases, the customer has a need or a problem that requires a solution. Consumers at this stage are looking for educational content that shows how your product can solve their problems.
Customers are not looking for promotional ads but an elaborate explanation of how the product solves their problem. Some useful marketing tools at this stage include videos, blog posts, and articles that show how the product addresses customer needs.
2. Consideration Phase
At the consideration stage, the customer feels your product can solve their problems but is yet to make a decision. They continue searching for more solutions which leads them to make multiple comparisons.
The prospective customer has more than one solution to their problem. Remember your business does not operate in isolation. The prospective customer will also meet your competitors at their various touchpoints. During the consideration stage, customers want to get the best solution to their problem.
Blog posts, articles, social media posts, and customer reviews can help convince the prospective customer that you offer superior products, or you have better prices. That’s why you need to change and adapt the tone and approach in your ads.
Step down from the formal and highly educative tone of the awareness phase to a more convincing and detailed approach. Always note you intend to move the customer to the next phase in the customer journey.
3. Purchase/Decision-Making Phase
The purchase stage is also called the decision-making phase. At this point, the customer may order the product online or visit your physical store. Customers who report a positive experience at this stage move to the retention phase.
4. Retention Phase
Mostly, the retention phase happens after the sale. Organizations that report high retention do not wait for the customer to contact them for the next purchase. Rather, the organizations continue engaging the customer through loyalty programs or detailed explanations on maintenance and new arrivals.
The retention phase is among the most essential stages in the customer journey. You will realize that retention is cheaper than acquisition. Retentions also help to create more sales through referrals.
5. Advocacy Phase
Finally, if all the other phases are well executed, customers can become brand advocates. This means that customers who had great and meaningful experiences with your brand’s products or services will be more likely to support it openly.
Satisfied customers can actually provide the best marketing you can get, word-of-mouth! Recent studies show that people make more purchase decisions based on the advice of their peers, which can significantly boost your sales.
Identify Every Touchpoint
After understanding the various phases of a customer journey, the next step is to identify the various touchpoints in the path. Since each stage on the customer journey map has its unique features, seek to understand how your customers use the various touchpoints to interact with your brand. An interesting observation about customer behavior is that 50% of in-store purchases start with an online touchpoint. Research also shows that 98% of Americans switch between devices and platforms.
If you are using blogs and social media channels, try to understand how your customers use these channels. Do they use social media or search engines at the awareness stage? Or are most of your customers on Facebook or Instagram? The point here is to identify gaps and close them. If your customers use multiple channels, an omnichannel strategy would be to have similar messages adapted to each channel, with consistency between channels.
You can identify the various touchpoints and try their effectiveness by trying them yourself. Ask yourself what you would want if you were the prospective customer.
Segmenting your customers helps you create buyer personas. A buyer persona is a research-oriented profile that represents specific customers. The buyer persona identifies the customers based on who they are, what their day-to-day life looks like, and how they make their decisions. Understanding these features about your customers helps you create a buyer journey map with specific touchpoints.
One thing that every retailer should note is that a consumer’s path to purchase is not linear. There are numerous possible options for your customers. While you may not analyze all the options, you can pick key points from your understanding of the customer journey map, touchpoints, and buyer persona.
From the information, you have gathered about customers in your industry and their preferences, you can create popular scenarios. Improve on the scenarios and integrate the various channels to create a seamless experience regardless of the path taken by your customer.
To ensure your omnichannel strategy addresses every aspect of your business, here are a few points to consider:
When creating an omnichannel strategy, you should appreciate that you may not achieve your desired results overnight. You have to continuously improve your approach until you give your customers a flawless interaction with your brand regardless of their point of entry.
Use the customer journey map and available data on customer persona to define your priorities.
See Every Channel as a Part of the Customer Journey
The phrase “customer is always right” has never been more relevant than in the omnichannel approach. Your customer decides which channel to use and not the other way round. Your job is to create omnichannel visibility that allows customers to meet you where they want.
Customers can choose to meet you online but complete their purchase in-store. Do not restrict them by creating different rules for in-store and online purchases. The two channels should complement each other rather than compete.
Note that 50% of in-store purchases start online. A customer will view descriptions of a product online but test the product in-store. The in-store outlet should, therefore, provide more value to the customers than the online store. Customers also want to buy online but make in-store returns.
Focus on ensuring the online and offline information are the same.
Having a blog or a website is not enough, your customers also want to meet you on social media. An omnichannel approach is the improvement of the multichannel strategy. You want your customers to meet you from any direction.
Customers also value online reviews. Allow them the pleasure of assessing your product from a third party’s perspective.
With multiple channels and touchpoints, it is important to unify your data to a central point. Unifying your data from the physical and online interactions helps you to reap the benefits of BI. BI helps you forecast demand for different products or changes in consumer behavior to create a competitive advantage.
When creating an omnichannel retail strategy, your focus should be to create seamless interactions between customers and your brand. Boundaries between online and in-store experiences defeat the purpose of developing the strategy in the first place. Your customers should have the freedom to switch between your online and brick-and-mortar stores whenever they find it convenient.