In an ever-evolving retail marketplace, retailers must constantly pivot to ensure they are reaching customers through a variety of channels with a range of advertising strategies. Whether they are a brick-and-mortar establishment looking to move online in the face of COVID-19 or an e-commerce brand seeking to expand its reach, omnichannel retailing allows retail businesses to grow their brand presence and increase sales.
This article looks at omnichannel retailing and explains how to create an omnichannel strategy for maximum benefit.
On the path to conversion, customers are jumping around from one site to another and in and out of a retailers marketing channels before committing to buy and are therefore requiring many touchpoints before the all-important conversion takes place. This is why anyone who’s doing business today has to find a way to unite these frictions of customer experience into a fully integrated shopping experience.
What is Omni Channel Retailing?
An omnichannel retail strategy is a multi-channel approach to sales and marketing that aims to offer a seamless, fully integrated shopping experience, whether the customer is shopping on their laptop, via mobile apps, or at a storefront.
Visits to traditional retail brick and mortar stores have been declining for some time now, with the COVID-19 pandemic only serving to drive the push towards e-commerce.
For most retailers, an omnichannel marketing strategy will focus on linking the in-store and online shopping experiences for consumers, creating a streamlined shopping journey.
Every business touches and is touched by customers in different ways at different touchpoints along the customer journey. These touchpoints include human, product, service, communication, spatial, and electronic interaction, which collectively constitute the interface between an enterprise and its customers. Creating a successful omnichannel strategy means conceiving, designing, implementing and managing these touchpoints to develop a great customer experience throughout the entire business/customer relationship1.
For shoppers, this provides a more enjoyable user experience. At the same time, it allows retailers to track the customer's journey and identify points along with the shopping experience that can make the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity.
Benefits of An Omni Channel Retail Strategy
Over the past decade, retail marketers have been moving to create a seamless, omnichannel retailing experience. When the pandemic hit, the introduction of mass lockdowns and social distancing measures have accelerated this trend dramatically.
According to research by eMarketer2, 'streamlined digital transactions, click-and-collect pickup and cashier-less checkout2' have led to an increase in shopping frequency and overall sales.
Furthermore, companies with omnichannel customer engagement strategies have been shown to retain 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement3. With 56% of buyers failing to become returning customers to companies that don't have an omnichannel strategy implemented, the question for retailers may soon become, can they afford not to implement a marketing strategy that covers a range of touchpoints, both online and offline?
Ultimately, providing a streamlined customer journey across multiple touchpoints leads to a customer-centric shopping experience that is good for the customer and profitable for advertisers and retailers alike.
How To Create an Omnichannel Retail Strategy
While customers and retailers have been engaging in transactional behaviour for many centuries, the introduction of the internet radically changed how businesses dispersed these transactions across a variety of channels. COVID-19 has only further exacerbated this.
Ecommerce has become the go-to shopping channel for many customers, while social media such as Instagram and Facebook have begun deploying new commerce features to reach captive audiences.
For smart advertisers looking to compete in the new retail environment4, they can use the following insights to engage with their customers across multiple touchpoints in both the physical and online landscapes.
Meet Customers Where They Are
The first step in developing an omnichannel marketing strategy is researching your target customers and future customers as thoroughly as possible. Which platforms, mediums, and devices do they use daily? Do they prefer to shop online or in-store? What motivates them?
Analytics data like this can offer retailers valuable insights to inform their retail strategies. This data, however, is worth nothing without the right people to analyse it. Retailers must be willing to invest in hiring and training data specialists to ensure these insights can be used to meet consumers where they are.
Understanding where, when and how a customer shops means marketing efforts and promotions can be targeted to customers at the right place and at the right time, increasing the likelihood of making a sale.
Meeting customers where they are is increasingly important to consumers, with 83% of shoppers stating that convenience while shopping was more important to them than five years ago 5.
A simple way for advertisers to evaluate this is in the digital space is by looking at the Acquisition reports inside Google Analytics. This offers insight into the channels that are driving customers to the site in question.
Improve the Physical Shopping Experience with Digital
Shoppers in Australia and worldwide are becoming increasingly discerning when it comes to retail shopping. As Matt Lawson, Director of Performance Marketing at Google, states, 'Consumers move seamlessly across the physical and digital worlds—and expect businesses to do the same.' 6
They expect the retail experience to be convenient, fast-paced and offer a variety of products and value for money. These expectations have seen many shoppers purchase predominantly online.
Furthermore, 42% of in-store shoppers search for information online beforehand using their smartphones and devices7.
Therefore, retailers must offer an SEO-optimised, mobile-first, responsive website as part of their strategy.
Further to this, consumers in the new retail environment expect customer support across every channel. Retailers that offer a live chat function often have superior customer relationships leading to stronger brand trust than their competitors. A study from Zendesk found that 64% of customers expect to receive real-time assistance regardless of the customer service they are engaging with8.
This is where automation really comes into its own when it comes to building a brand's presence.
Automation can be used in the following ways to improve shoppers experience and improve digital marketing strategies:
- Create a chatbot to answer routine customer questions and concerns
- Prioritise a tech stack that supports seamless integrations, providing a real-time view of analytics data
- Set up behavioural triggers to deliver more personalised marketing across the customer journey
Make Every Touchpoint Shoppable
A significant key to creating a marketing strategy for retailers that works across all channels is to ensure every touchpoint is shoppable.
Stores don't have to be a large retailer to implement such strategies. This can be as simple as ensuring when a customer puts an item in their cart on a desktop site, it automatically appears in the correlating mobile app. When they are scrolling through Instagram, Facebook or their email, they should be presented with ads for products and stores they have previously engaged with.
Utilising technology such as Shopify Plus, advertisers can integrate their brands' stores directly with Facebook, allowing shoppers to check out natively.
With most social media platforms offering shopping integrations, the ability to make all customer touchpoints shoppable is almost limitless.
Digital Marketing Strategies for Retailers
A 2020 study by Nielsen found that omni-channel shopping grew by 50% in 2020 alone.11
For high street retailers looking to move into the digital space, there are several strategies they can implement as they begin to make the online and embrace the benefits of cross channel digital marketing.
Click and Collect
For retail brands looking to compete in the online space, offering click and collect-or Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store (BOPIS), as it is known in the US-is a relatively new and sure-fire way to increase online sales. While Click and Collect does come with its business challenges, particularly in terms of logistics and inventory, 38% of retailers11 say that it is key to bringing customers in-store when they then make further purchases.
Email should be at the core of every retail digital marketing strategy. In 2018, an average of 293.6 billion emails were sent and received every day12. With an average return of $44 for every $1 spent on email marketing13, smart retailers and advertisers should be using email to target and engage their clients with the following content:
- Free in-store gifts
- In-store events
- Bring a friend promotions
Implement Google Local Inventory Ads
Research shows that 80% of shoppers are less likely to visit a store if they can't view available inventory online in advance. This is where Google Local Inventory Ads are an invaluable instrument in any advertiser's digital marketing toolbox.
By using GPS data, these ads allow shoppers to find products they are seeking in stores near them. Once they click on the ad, users are taken to a Google-hosted e-Commerce store that details the products available, distance to the relevant stores, and the business opening hours.
Whether you are creating an advertising strategy for a brick and mortar store or an already established e-commerce site, there are many elements to think about to create a successful Omnichannel retail experience. By utilising automation, email, mobile and in-store touchpoints, advertisers and agencies can take their retail clients to the next level.
- Toward a compelling customer touchpoint architecture
- Frictionless Commerce 2020: How Coronavirus Is Accelerating Seamless
- Cybra: 10 Omnichannel Retail Statistics You Can't Avoid
- CGAP: The New Retail Revolution
- NRF: Convenience and The Consumer
- Why You Can No Longer Define Your Strategy by Channels
- Blog - Step Change - Strategy, Leadership, Digital, Creativity
- The omnichannel customer service gap: Zendesk
- Omni-channel shoppers: An emerging retail reality
- Signifyd: Risk and Reward Buy-Online-Pick-Up-In-Store (BOPIS)
- Grocery Dive: Pandemic-fueled omnichannel shopping surge here to stay: Nielsen
- Campaign Monitor: How Do You Calculate Email Marketing ROI?
- Google Merchant Centre Help: Local inventory ads policies