Omnichannel refers to the omniscient retail experience. In other words, it is the multichannel approach to convenience and customer satisfaction. Retailers have been talking about its impending actuality for years now, but we have yet to see many of them master its basic principles.
The benefits of omnichannel for both retailers and consumers are obvious. For retailers, having a coherent customer profile across mobile, offline, and online will allow for better tracking, more data, and an easier upsell. For customers, a whole new type of convenience is born. Imagine walking into a store and being reminded of the items you checked out online last week, the size of jeans you bought last year, or having out of stock items shipped to your home directly. This is the expectation consumers are beginning to feel entitled to.
With recent advancements in retail like beacons and digital wallets, it’s difficult to understand why we’ve not yet nailed down the systems and practices required to connect all three channels together seamlessly. A report done by Forrester determined that 71% of customers expect to view in-store inventory online, and 50% expect to purchase online and pick it up in-store. The demand for this type of convenience continues to grow, while the technologies exist on their own it is the back-end infrastructure that lacks the capability.
Cohesion between a website, mobile application, and in-store POS system requires a highly intelligent back-office infrastructure. Many legacy systems didn’t have the foresight to prepare for an omnichannel retail world. Had they foreshadowed such a possibility, retailers would already be tapping into the data goldmine that the prospect of omnichannel capabilities offer. Around 1 in every 20 retail stores report they see no significant barriers to becoming an integrated omnichannel company. That means the rest consider the internal technology, and operational/organizational challenges to be significant difficulties.
It is expected that consumers will continue to drive the financial investments retailers are making, rather than their own business gain. Approximately a third of retailers have already begun to allocate some amount of budget to adhere to the ever growing demands of their customers.
Companies like Burberry have discovered a unique option through Pardot, a Salesforce acquisition. Pardot has allowed Burberry to go completely digital from one end to the other, offering a coherent and convenient customer experience.
In-store sales reps are armed with iPads in order to quickly look up customer purchase history and profile from across all available channels. Reps are then able to make informed recommendations to offer a personalized shopping experience. Research from eConsultancy shows that 66% of marketers listed improved their business by offering a personalized buyer experience.
A more interesting use of Burberry’s digital technology is their use of electronic tags inside their clothing. The tags collect data and are used to cater the visuals displayed on screens in that customers proximity while in-store. It also helps personalize their online visit after they’ve left the store. A gallant effort at connecting all channels of business, but still not a seamless solution.
Workarounds like this will only please the consumer for so long. Convenience remains the steadfast necessity and competitive advantage retailers have when looking to one-up their rivals. As legacy systems begin to be replaced, it is safe to assume retailers will adopt the necessary back-end infrastructure to accommodate the customers demands at any cost. After all the customer’s always right…right?