The world of online retail is fast moving with huge potential for growth. Not only are consumers increasingly turning to online shopping, but they also no longer differentiate their shopping habits between different channels. These trends, coupled with online conversion rates of 3 percent and lower even for mobile, compared to 20-30 percent in store, underline the need for retailers to draw parallels between their strategies for meeting customers’ needs online, with those for their physical store. The route to success in satisfying the digital customer lies in an omni-channel approach that offers a consistent, engaging and effective buying experience, whatever the circumstances.
Best-in-class digital channels provide a superior experience
A large number of businesses have long-since set up online shopping channels, providing routes-to-buy from the desktop, but few have succeeded in recreating an experience that guides customers through arrival to purchase, as if they were in-store. For example, what happens when a customer begins browsing or looking into a certain product on a retailer’s website at home but needs more information to help them purchase? There’s no shop assistant to help them, so here, the digital world really can face a challenge.
Rather than simply abandoning shoppers on their different routes to buy, an omni-channel engagement is sympathetic to the customer’s information needs, meaning that shoppers should expect a consistent experience. Research has shown that up to 90 percent of all online shopping cart abandonments happen because customers feel they don’t have enough information. This could be combatted if the customer is able to seek - or better still, is offered at the moment of need - direct assistance or relevant information, as opposed to rummaging through website pages to find the answer. For an effective omni-channel presence, retailers need the mind-set to give their customers all the information required at the appropriate moment to make a decision to purchase – just like they do in-store.
By providing high-quality digital communication channels, such as live chat, and using intelligent data to offer this in real-time at the relevant moment, retailers can assist the journey with the subtle human touch. The expectation among consumers is now for a journey as easy and fulfilling (if not more so) than in-store. Just offering assistance to online visitors can make a big difference as shoppers often express frustration at a lack of information by abandoning their purchase. An omni-channel mind-set directly counters this.
Technology aside, omni-channel entails delivering the best of one experience – the in-store experience with all its human nuances and understanding – to the clinical and impersonal digital world.
How does it work? Develop the personal touch!
Any major retailer will tell you a more personalised experience impacts a customer’s purchase decision. This is easily achieved in physical stores by shop assistants and can be replicated online using intelligent data analysis to accelerate the journey of customers who need assistance by noticing their digital body language. While this can’t be observed online, it is possible to anticipate what the customer is looking for based on their digital behaviour. Data from their web searches and online journeys can give retailers a good idea of shoppers’ intentions, meaning that they can and should either be greeted with specific assistance or relevant information; even just a simple hello to let them know assistance is there if needed.
Retail businesses can take a careful look behind the digital scenes at their customers and their behaviour patterns, gathering and analysing data and insight so they can develop an engagement strategy across channels. Through greater focus on the individual customer, visitors can be met with a truly personalised message.
Providing the consistency and learning of an omni-channel customer is essential to execute in the highly competitive retail sector. By applying a similar approach and understanding customers’ shopping partners, including taking advantage of data, retailers can ensure a consistent and personalised shopping experience for customers, ultimately replicating the in-store experience online.