Marketing Manager REdEye
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Five ways to create an omnichannel shopping experience

30th May 2013
Marketing Manager REdEye
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Katie Traynier explores how some leading brands are using different types of omnichannel services to improve the customer experience. 

Omnichannel is all about improving the customer experience. Often compared to multichannel due to its nature of integrating different marketing channels (social, mobile, online, bricks and mortar); where it differs is that omnichannel does not have to be all encompassing; it just has to focus on using the right channel(s), to target the right customer(s), at the right time.

In today’s consumer world, the customer wants more. Constantly exposed to a range of media sources, consumers expect to be able to reach out to a brand in whatever ways suits them best. The key however is knowing your customers. You need to know how your customers interact with your brand; you need to know what would benefit your customers in regards to the way they shop. And then you need to make it happen.

To demonstrate how this can be achieved, below are five examples of brands taking an omnichannel approach, all optimising the customers’ shopping experience - in very different ways.

1. Waterstones' bricks & mortar ebook service

Having expanded its product line to include eBook devices, Waterstones is allowing customers to buy and download content onto an electronic device using free Wi-Fi available in its bricks and mortar stores. The strategy (introduced last year) enhances the customer experience by providing consumers with the option of purchasing an eBook, whilst physically browsing books. While many consumers are moving towards purchasing eBooks, previously the online set up meant customers missed out on the ability to flick through the book prior to purchase. The introduction of Wi-Fi allows book lovers the best of both worlds in terms of hard copy or eBook purchases. The scheme also provides eBook customers with easy access to the shop’s specialist staff, trained to provide help and guidance on any of Waterstones’ books.

2. Boots' loyalty scheme digital kiosk

Boots’ Advantage Card Loyalty scheme launched back in 1997 as part of a CRM loyalty programme. Kiosks, available in Bricks and Mortar stores, have always been used in conjunction with the cards, allowing users to print off special offer vouchers. Today, with over 16.4million cardholders currently using the loyalty card (both online and in store) the Extra Offer Kiosks enable card holders to obtain exclusive personalised offers, based on the number of points they have accumulated. The kiosks can also be used to check how many points customers have and update personal details. Whilst the Kiosks aren’t available in every boots store, customers can go online to find their nearest Kiosk store locator. Despite the fact that the kiosk and loyalty programme isn’t anything new, Boots continue to use the programme to enhance the customer experience. Points can be collected and used both online and offline and there is even an online points calculator to help users work out how much they have to spend.

3. Oasis' online shopping in-store

The introduction of iPads across Oasis’ stores enables the customer to browse online, pay online and place orders online whilst in a traditional bricks and mortar store. The scheme gives users the option to try an item on, and then order it online and have it delivered, rather than having to queue at the till to pay. Likewise, if a garment is not available in the store, the customer can order it via the iPad. Staff are armed with the iPads and can help shoppers check sizes, colours and styles that aren’t currently available in the shop. Sales assistance via the iPad is available on both the shop floor and in the changing rooms, enabling the sales team to engage with the customer at the point of decision. In the first week of the iPad ordering system opening (back in 2011), 20% of store sales were made through the iPad each day. The iPad is a great example of enhancing the customer experience, as it decreases queue times, increases product availability and improves customer service.

4. M&S' in-store experience online

The M&S ‘at home’ iPad app (launched in September 2012) is the second M&S app introduced for iPhone users. The ‘at home’ app focuses on home items from the M&S catalogue and provides a visual, digital, journey mimicking that of an ‘in store’ experience.  Free to download to an iPad, the app offers enhanced touch interaction capabilities to enable the customer to browse through the company’s homeware selection in a set up that would be found in store; interactive rooms are dressed with the company’s products to provide a more realistic view of how that product would look in your own home;  individual pages can be bookmarked for a speedy return at a later date; there is an in-app shopping basket for buying; and social features are also included allowing customers to share images or products via twitter or facebook. The app enhances the customer experience by providing customers with an easy way to browse homeware products and share items for a second opinion, before making a purchase (and that purchase itself can be made online, through the app or in store; whatever suits the customer best).

5. John Lewis' click and collect service

John Lewis first introduced a click and collect service back in 2008. Today, the strategy that allows customers to buy online and arrange collection from a local store has been extended to its sister company Waitrose and covers 300 stores. In April 2012 John Lewis reported 25% of orders made through were for click and collect. In addition to this, good Christmas business at the end of last year was also allocated to the click and collect service. While the service is nothing new, allowing online customers the option to pick up purchases in store removes the hassle of having to wait for a delivery and allows the customer to pick up an item when convenient for them. It also removes the cost of delivery charges which can put some customers off purchasing online. Simple as it sounds, giving the customer the option of how they can receive their goods is an ideal way to improve the customer experience. 

Katie Traynier is marketing manager at RedEye

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