Consumers use multiple devices to research and purchase everything from cars to clothes to furniture, creating numerous distinct touchpoints with retailers that may all be part of the same purchase cycle. It’s not a surprise that brick-and-mortar channels are often the weakest link in this chain. According to RetailNext, last December’s in-store foot traffic hit its lowest point of the year, dropping by 13.4 percent year-over-year.
But enhancing the in-store customer experience is expensive – especially for large chains where hundreds to thousands of stores must be retrofitted with new technologies, personnel need to be trained, and the technology needs to be maintained. This makes it harder for brick-and-mortar stores to keep up with digital retailers who can more easily deliver personalized experiences. It doesn’t help that companies like Amazon have created an expectation among customers that all brands should provide an increasingly high level of contextually relevant interactions – including in live contact center interactions. But “enlightened consumers” aren’t always enlightened about the technical challenges facing many retailers, who often struggle because of a fragmented, channel-focused approach to customer engagement. This functionally-siloed approach prevents the kind of cross-channel experiences customers expect and creates buyer attrition.
To survive in the world of the empowered customer, retail marketers must shed the fragmented, channel-focused ways of the past and adopt an omnichannel approach to engagement—including an emphasis on providing contextually relevant interactions and a consistent brand experience regardless of channel.
A successful omnichannel retail approach requires a consistent brand experience across channels, including digital and in-store. This approach is imperative when dealing with the empowered customer, especially one accustomed to the highly personalized experiences that e-commerce retailers provide. Consumers want you to know them—their needs, their history with you, their preferences—and use that information to create contextually relevant experiences regardless of channel.
A successful omnichannel retail strategy closely combines the digital and the physical, and with good reason. Digital influences 56 percent of all purchases, according to Deloitte, making it imperative to position the brand strongly in online channels. Successful omnichannel engagement also taps into mobile, which influences 37 percent of all purchases and accounted for 48.5 percent of all retail sales in 2016, according to eMarketer.
The benefits of an omnichannel retail strategy, where customers are engaged across channels, are clear. Engaged shoppers spend $373 per shopping trip, while actively disengaged shoppers spend only $289 per trip. That difference is a substantial benefit to the average retailer. Engaged shoppers even make 44 percent more store visits in a single year versus disengaged ones, which adds yet more to the bottom line.
A successful omnichannel retail strategy always starts with data; being able to connect customer data across channel-specific silos is key. Creating a single, composite view of the customer – or “golden record” – can inform retail decisions about next-best actions and enable omnichannel message orchestration or improved in-store experiences to ensure real-time, contextual (i.e., more meaningful) interactions. Retailers that leverage cross-channel insights effectively can increase their operating margin by more than 60 percent – a potent advantage in a marketplace where the customer experience is fast becoming the last battleground of substantial differentiation.
Deploying a customer engagement hub can further optimize customer data as well as help counteract a retailer’s fragmented technology stack. Customer engagement hubs take an open ecosystem view of marketing technology and are designed to create a single point of operational and data control without requiring the retailer to replace their entire marketing technology infrastructure. Taking this approach means retail marketers gain the insight and orchestration capabilities necessary to succeed at omnichannel retailing without rebuilding their entire software stack from scratch.
Building a unified customer profile is crucial to improving customer experience in-store or online. Being able to bring together cross-silo information can inform retailers about customer preference and the customer journey. It can increase customer retention and advocacy, provide better personalization, and reduce costs overall – all leading to improved share of wallet. If retail marketers understand their customers better, they can provide contextually relevant messaging at the point of interaction – whether that’s in-store, point-of-sale or online chat – and create the kind of experiences that meet customer expectations.