Imagine for a moment what an electronics and appliance retailer might look like in the not-too-distant future... A customer walks into a bricks and mortar branch to check out a Nespresso machine she's had on her wishlist on an e-commerce website, after the retailer has emailed her about a special it is running on the product.
As she walks in, her location-aware mobile app (that she's previously downloaded free from the brand and opted into) picks up that she's in store. The sales rep automatically sees her purchasing history and walks over to recommend various accessories for the iPhone she bought a month earlier.
The sales rep then shows her several interactive demos of the coveted coffee machine on a tablet computer to pique her interest in the product. At the same time, the views and product reviews of her friends and peers are dynamically shown on a screen next to the coffee machine.
The customer decides to pick up a new protective cover for her smartphone, but leaves without buying the coffee machine. She likes the machine, but she's unsure if she can afford the product yet and thinks she may be able to find a better price if she shops around. The retailer tracks her online movement from their site and sees her browsing a competitor's site. As a result, she receives a discount coupon 24 hours later on the same smartphone app she uses to manage her rewards. She links directly from the voucher to the retailer's mobile online shop. A sale is closed and her spending habits with the retailer are widened. At the same time, the woman feels rewarded by the brand and is retained as a customer.
The data relating to this spending habit, which would include the time of day the customer responded to the voucher, the series of events that led to the sale, and the details of the other online retailers she spent time with on her purchasing journey, is now logged into the retailer's segmented database for further retargeting and cross-selling.
This is one of many examples from the world of omnichannel marketing. The technology to bring this scenario to life already exists, and it's essential for retailers who want to stay ahead of the competition to explore and adopt these opportunities. Customers, after all, have technologies such as tablets and phones already interwoven into their everyday lives. With smartphones now dropping under the R500 price point, the audience for these specific types of interactions is getting wider and wider - and there are plenty of other ominichannel examples that don't rely on smartphone ownership.
Today's audiences certainly expect that the companies they engage with are able to interact with them when, where, and however it suits them. Whether they're engaging with retailers at physical stores or via websites, mobile apps, call centres, kiosks, or digital signage, they're demanding a suitable and interlinked experience with the brand.
This is an expectation that few local retailers and brands are able - as yet - to meet. One reason for this lies in the back office, where departments often operate as individual silos. This restricts a brand being able to have a single view of the customer and their movements both off and online. The customer experience is, as a result, patchy, disconnected and frustrating, with brands being unable to unlock this great cross-channel potential.
By way of example, does any of this sound familiar?
- You receive a call from a call centre offering a special on a product that you already own.
- The product you see promoted on a retailer's website is unavailable when you arrive in store.
- The store manager interprets a warranty differently to the advice you received from the retailer's call centre.
- Your email request for help goes unanswered.
- The SMS marketing messages you receive are impersonal and irrelevant, even though you're a member of the brand's loyalty programme.
- You are required to spend time in store when you could easily self-service the issue digitally.
Tomorrow's leading retailers will be those that can blur the lines between channels and departments to give their customers a consistently great experience at every touchpoint. Omnichannel retail isn't just about supporting multiple channels (like multichannel retail), but about driving a consistent and integrated strategy across every sales and service channel, where each channel is maximised in terms of its ability and in line with the way customers wish to interact with it. This gives customers the convenience of their preferred channel at every stage of the purchasing process and a wider selection of buying opportunities.
It demands work to get the back-end systems and processes right, but the results are worthwhile. By blurring channels, a brand can gather and use data at every touchpoint, which in turn provides information that can be used to personalise offerings and build deep relationships with customers, as well as improve sales and customer retention.
Integrating technologies such as in-store kiosks or tablet computers, within an omnichannel approach, can create a more interactive and immersive retail environment for the customer, while at the same time improving productivity on the shop floor. It's a great way for retailers to set themselves apart from the pack in a world where customer experiences with retail are all too often fragmented, impersonal and inconvenient.
The world where technology meets retail is an exciting opportunity for everyone, from customer to retailer, so it's time to embrace it!