Can retailers focus on customers across channels?
Online retail is an increasingly central part of the industry as more consumers shop on the web. But even today’s ecommerce merchants must go from simply offering their goods on a website to becoming cross-touchpoint services that focus on what their consumers need and expect.
Creating a holistic consumer experience means that sales go beyond a single visit or channel, producing repeat customers and loyal brand followers.
In 2019, online retailers need to focus on creating a better overall journey for their consumers, shifting the scope toward providing far more than a simple catalog of products.
Here are some of the best ways to tackle the omnichannel customer experience challenge.
Unify your omnichannel strategy
Omnichannel is the shape of things to come for retailers who must deal with consumers spread across social and shopping platforms.
Many companies are currently fixated on opening new social media, email and web avenues to reach consumers. However, simply opening more channels doesn’t do much for customer nurture or retention if there is no overarching structure, and a lack of coordination between these channels can make it harder to scale.
Instead, omnichannel strategies place customer experience (CX) front and center, creating a unified approach that streamlines the journey from browsing to purchase. To do it right, you’ll need a coordinated strategy that creates a cohesive CX and drives revenues and longer customer lifecycles.
Richard Kelsey is the owner of Beer Cartel, an ecommerce company with one brick-and-mortar location in Sydney. He told BigCommerce that his brand’s next big rollout will be “a fully-integrated omnichannel experience for our shoppers which will consolidate our inventory, loyalty programs, and customer purchasing experiences.”
Beer Cartel is doubling down on strategic omnichannel, because since 2015, the company’s sales have increased 300% year-over-year, with search, social and email providing the lion’s share of activity.
Create a deliberate journey for consumers
While Amazon is still a major draw because of its massive catalog, shoppers visit specialized or niche websites expecting a different experience. No matter what the size of the business, websites should be designed to guide users through the shopping process and come out with a sale in the end.
It’s important to consider how each piece of the customer journey contributes to the final result. User experience (UX) is a vital part of the ecommerce journey, as UXstudio demonstrated in their process of redesigning fashion brand Société’s online shop last year.
For the website, UXstudio ensured that shoppers were considered at every step of the design and development journey, engaging with focus groups using index cards as representations of different content elements. “The user tests resulted in a lot of information, including valuable insights on how to solve users’ problems,” recalls designer Zsolt Szilvai.
When it came time to actually lay out page prototypes, Szilvai and team opted for minimalist, mobile-first designs that were later reconfigured for desktop as well. Given the rise of mobile shopping, the mobile-first approach was important.
Indeed, without catering to mobile, customer journeys are doomed to fail almost as soon as they’ve begun. According to one survey, 61% of customers are prone to leaving a website upon discovering that it isn’t mobile-friendly. In other words, users who can’t navigate a website will simply visit another one that does work on whatever medium they need.
Aim for synergy between your channels
When people shop in stores, they’re increasingly likely to use their mobile devices for research and other purposes, with 84% of consumers already using smartphones at physical locations to help them shop.
Creating a user experience that connects across devices and helps enhance each individual part is critical for companies that are serious about implementing an omnichannel solution. When properly executed, omnichannel strategies build systems that not only guide users across platforms but add value.
One global company that has long been a CX innovator is Nike. The company has credited their new Nike Customer Experience (NCX) strategy with driving its overall growth in 2018. A key component of this strategy is the Nike app, which seamlessly blends online and offline shopping experiences.
Among the apps’ many perks, members can use the app to discover which nearby store has items they want in their size, to reserve them and receive notifications about when the item is ready for pickup—without ever having to involve an associate. Nike’s ability to harmonize digital and physical shopping in real time places them at the forefront of omnichannel success.
Make feedback easy – and listen to it
More and more consumers are willing to tell anyone exactly what they think of a company. From social media to review sites like Yelp and video platforms like YouTube, users have a more powerful voice than ever. These opinions can have a real impact on companies’ brand image and sales.
The technological advantages of an omnichannel approach can only take a company so far if there isn’t a stellar customer service approach powering it. As companies take on new marketing channels, offering customer support within each platform, and across touchpoints, is all the more important. Being truly customer-centric requires making it simple for customers to make their needs known.
On-site, in-app and social live chat is one way that omnichannel companies are forging immediate connections between customers and support teams. Customers not only appreciate but expect companies to respond quickly on social media, and companies that fail to do so risk losing customer interest or vocal customer complaints.
“It’s key that we make it as frictionless as possible for our customers to contact us,” says Maja Wikke, the customer care lead at Miinto, a marketplace where over 1000 fashion boutiques sell their products.
Wikke’s team of 30 fields hundreds of queries across channels per day in four languages. “It needs to be easy, and they need to reach us in whatever channel they prefer. Whether that’s by phone, email, chat or on social media.”
Omnichannel for the customer-centric win
Consumers are the core of your business, so treating them as a low priority will lead to predictable results. In an age where consumers expect an experience more than a shopping cart, focusing on the people buying your products is likely to be your best bet.
Pivoting to omnichannel is no small undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be accomplished all in one go. By adopting omnichannel practices, companies can build the agile technological system needed to support and shape better customer experiences.
Lori Wagoner is an independent content strategist who gives online marketing advice to small businesses. Lori has blogged at Tweak Your Biz, Customer Think, Business2Community, and many other business and tech blogs. Feel free to send her a friend request on Facebook :)