As we’ve highlighted in previous articles in this series, the evolution towards omnichannel business is a complex process, and in some cases true omnichannel remains out of reach.
By blending bricks-and-mortar stores, mobile and online, organisations are increasingly delivering the omnichannel retail experience that many modern customers desire.
At the same time, organisations are embracing delivery and return strategies that support the channel-hopping consumer, with the likes of drop shipping, click-and-collect, reserve-and-collect and same-day delivery all proliferating as business services.
Meanwhile, brands are increasingly exploring how they can deliver a more interactive and personalized experience through multiple channels as part of their marketing strategies.
Omnichannel service represents the biggest challenge of all – but even then, contact centres are working towards full-channel integration, and for the time being customer-centric organisations are able to tailor their support to their customers by providing the best possible mix of self-service, phone service and assisted service.
Against this backdrop of general progress, let’s take a look at three brands that are really standing out from the crowd when it comes to their omnichannel models - and explore what we can learn from their successes.
Disney is in the business of delivering magical memories. But anyone who has spent a not-inconsiderable sum of money to visit one of Disney’s theme parks only to spend hours queuing for rides can tell you how unmagical the experience can seem. For this reason, Disney introduced its MagicBands.
After buying their tickets online, guests then have the option to plan their day, including which shows they will attend, what rides they want to go on, and when and where they want to eat. Then Disney delivers a MagicBand – a wristband that serves as a hotel room key, photo storage device and, most valuable of all, your Fast Pass.
This allows customers to enjoy the magic of Disney World with none of the queuing – allowing them to arrive at shows with seconds to spare and still have seats, and able to bypass lines at your favourite rides as they have booked a pre-selected time to ride. Customers can also buy souvenirs, merchandise and food with a wave of their hand as the MagicBand is linked to their credit card.
“If you’re going to be noticed, then you need to be useful or delightful,” says James Deeley, creative strategy director at Amaze. “It comes as no surprise that Disney is widely recognised as being at the forefront of the sophistication of omnichannel consumer experience and strategy. For a brand built on the vision of its founder, it has simplicity in its message and adoption, but with a huge amount of intelligence and smart technology, in order to provide a singular brand experience across all areas.
“From theme park booking and wristband payment systems, to apps, films and hotels, Disney’s approach is consistent but subtle in its adaption of how and where consumers are interacting with the brand. The technology never gets in the way of the magic - it instead facilitates and connects but all around the customer journey and brand experience. Everything rings true to a simple and exciting message that the brand has been delivering for decades.”
So what can we learn from the way that Disney delivers its omnichannel experience?
“Unrivalled attention to detail and building on simple brand values that do not change,” says Deeley. “The Disney brand has always understood its customer, how they live their lives, what they want an experience to feel like and how to convey simple messages. Each and every touch point is meticulous in its planning, experience and how it will connect and create harmony with the next.
“Furthermore, organisations should not put barriers up. By creating a simple to learn and even simpler to use system, customers will be provided with a positive and repeatable experience, which should in turn, result in them becoming loyal and engaged. By simplifying the interaction, Disney’s commercial entities raise more opportunities in commerce and incremental purchases; recently seen through their theme park payment wristband and mobile apps.”
John Lewis has been pioneering new retail services for years, having rolled out click-and-collect from its stores in 2009, before subsequently expanding collection options to Waitrose stores (their sister company) and thousands of local neighbourhood shops through Collect+. Click-and-collect now accounts for 45% of all John Lewis’s online orders.
Having discovered that almost two out of three of its customer journeys involve both in-store and online, John Lewis officially launched an omnichannel strategy in 2012, opening its first omnichannel store format in October of that year, in Exeter. The retailer has subsequently built a reputation as one of the leading omnichannel brands.
“John Lewis [is] one of the pioneers of seamless customer care, who is now operating both online and offline channels through the same unit,” says Giulio Montemagno, SVP and general manager at RetailMeNot. “The brand provides a great shopping experience for the customer irrespective of what channel they’re using and they’re doing this incredibly well. John Lewis puts the consumer in the centre of their innovation, therefore it is not surprising they have been voted as the “Nation’s favourite retailer” on more than one occasion.”
The key takeaway from the John Lewis example is that beneath the retailer's front-end omnichannel service is an advanced system of back-end operations - something that should not be overlooked.
As noted in PwC’s Global Omnichannel Retail Index: “The branch stores have replaced central warehouses, and when a customer buys online the order is fulfilled from the nearest physical John Lewis store. The purpose of this approach is to ensure that customers get their deliveries in a timely fashion, that local inventory matches local preferences as much as possible, and that customers can physically view items that they would like to purchase in the store if they choose.”
US department store Macy’s has been described as the “omnichannel poster child”, having had an omnichannel strategy in place since 2008. With a dedicated chief omnichannel officer in place has integrated its digital and bricks-and-mortar operations to deliver a consistent customer experience.
In the following video, from Google, Macy's executives explain how they moved from two separate budgets and siloed departments to complete integration.
A key lesson from Macy's is the importance in ensuring that the business is busting down all siloes that exist between digital and bricks-and-mortar, right down to separate budgeting.
“Macy's is using the best of both worlds, both virtual and actual to drive business," Colin Shaw, CEO of Beyond Philosophy, notes. "They learned that Macy’s.com was driving the total of their business. They learned that for every $1 they invested in search, they got $6 of business in store. So they combined budgets and marketing teams to create one team that did it all together.”
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 20 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined MyCustomer in 2007.