Why ignoring omnichannel isn't an option

17th Jul 2013

The phrase ‘omnichannel’ may appear to be the epitome of marketing jargon, but its growing importance in an ever changing retail space cannot be ignored, as it represents the only path for brands moving forward. This evolution of multichannel retailing means that brands increasingly need to seek to engage with customers using the right engagement techniques, right content and right context. By fully understanding the various points of influence, triggers and behavioural patterns that shape the entire purchase decision journey, only then can these brands deliver a completely immersive omnichannel experience.  

What’s fast becoming apparent for brands is that, for consumers, value is rooted in so much more than just price. Rather, it’s about entire experience, from the very first impulsive desire to buy, right through to the point where the consumer has the purchased product in a bag. Retail brands must now provide an immersive customer experience regardless of channel being utilised, making sure brand messaging and to promotions aren’t channel specific and consistent across all platforms.

Consumers can be won and lost in seconds, and the latest statistics show how quickly the web has become a first port of call for research and price comparison. According to Ofcom, over half of the population own a smartphone and 19% own a tablet; figures that will only keep on increasing. Consumers don’t just use multiple devices to shop online, they often use smartphones and tablets in different ways according to where they are and what they’re doing. When brands utilise an omnichannel approach they can optimise all of these interactions from consumers on various channels throughout the day. For example, a consumer might read an email about a promotion from a brand on a smartphone on the way to work and click through to browse products, or use a work laptop to review a brand’s Facebook page during their lunch hour, and they may even use their iPad to review items at bedtime.

Brands today have to take a complete, 360 view of their audience and consumers, and seek to understand the entire customer journey from start to finish. It is imperative to ensure that mobile and online experiences are as optimised as possible being arguably the most likely initial point of direct brand and consumer contact within the purchase decision journey. However, countless high street names are still not adopting the right tools. All too often it’s frustratingly obstructive when consumers want to quickly look something up online to inform a potential purchasing decision and they can’t because the platform isn’t being utilised by a brand, breaking the journey and causing an individual’s attention to be diverted elsewhere.

The high street store is one channel battling for survival as consumers increasingly look to research the best deals online. Argos recently announced they would be looking to combat the issue of ‘showrooming’ by introducing free wifi in-store. While this may not seem like a particularly exciting innovation for a brand aiming to become a ‘digital retail leader’, particularly in a newly-4G world and soon to be 5G, it’s a move within an omnichannel offering that adds genuine value to the shopping experience in-store. Technology’s reached a point where connectivity is expected to be available universally, yet the reality hasn’t quite caught up.

The idea of confronting showrooming, however, is slightly worrisome for it suggests it poses a problem and it doesn’t have to be for brands. Showrooming is only an issue for those brands and retailers not confident in the strength of their own proposition. Beyond a mere trend, showrooming reflects a greater truth about evolving human behaviours, motivations and consumption habits.

As such, brands need to objectively consider how this relates to their own propositions and act accordingly to create positive experiences. For instance, a customer might use the free wifi to look up a promotional email they’ve been sent for a product or check their lottery numbers, but a lack of a 3g signal could then immediately turn the experience sour and drive them away from the store. Small nuances such as this can be the difference between two and twenty minutes spent in-store. Any move that encourages consumers to spend more time in a brand’s presence has to be welcomed, as it offers another touchpoint and opportunity to install key messaging.

Omnichannel isn’t just something cooked up by marketing execs to create a new buzz word, it’s an approach that will finally integrate the traditional bricks-and-mortar into an extension of the supply chain, allowing purchases to be made in-store but researched through other communication channels. Consumers are forthcoming about voicing their opinions about brands and increasingly savvy when it comes to getting the best deals for their cash, so it’s essential that brands retain the same messages, offers and experiences across all channels.

Sarah Todd is CEO at Geometry Global UK.


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