When it comes to using the latest strategies to address customer needs, it's imperative that brands don't fall behind others in the marketplace. In order to stay on the cutting edge, as well as on the minds of customers, your brand must remain aware and vigilant while keeping pace with the latest innovations.
While omnichannel may have been considered a buzzword at one point, this approach is now the new normal for today's merchants. This is crucial for a number of reasons, the most important of which is that customers now expect this level of service.
Is your company prepared to deliver an omnichannel experience to your consumers?
Be in the know: What to understand about omnichannel
To best determine your brand's ability to compete in an omnichannel marketplace, you must first understand what omnichannel actually means, and how it impacts the service your company delivers.
"Omnichannel is now the new normal within the retail industry."
As SEMrush contributor Liza Perstneva pointed out, it's important to understand that omnichannel is not the same thing as multichannel. Multichannel strategies first emerged a few years ago, and involved the use of several, separated channels to provide information, services and merchandise for customers. But simply having a website, blog and social media in place doesn't automatically mean your brand has an omnichannel presence.
In order to qualify as truly omnichannel, these platforms must be well-connected and provide a seamless experience for customers no matter which channel they use or which channel they might switch to throughout their journey.
"[C]ompanies that apply an omnichannel approach try to create a unified user experience, because they understand that today's consumers use a wide variety of channels to interact with businesses, and they often do so simultaneously," Perstneva wrote. "If these channels don't work together, it's not an omnichannel approach."
What's more, this level of interconnected presence across a multitude of channels is now the new normal within the retail industry. This means that brands without the ability to provide this type of service will eventually fall far behind their competitors.
"Today's always-connected consumers can shop anywhere, at any time, so a seamless shopping experience is no longer demanded - it's simply expected," LS Retail noted.
Be prepared: What you need to support omnichannel
Defining omnichannel is just step one. Your brand must also understand the capabilities and features that support a winning omnichannel experience for your customers. What do you need to be prepared for omnichannel? Let's take a look at a few of the key aspects to consider:
- Linked channels: As noted, the critical difference between omnichannel and multichannel is the fact that customer-facing platforms are linked within an omnichannel strategy. In this way, clients can always pick up where they left off, regardless of which channel they elect to use and where they are in their journey. Making a purchase should be simple and seamless, and linked channels ensures that this is the case for your customers.
- A belief that customers are now in charge: The phrase "the customer is always right," has never been more relevant. Omnichannel is all about providing clients with the capabilities they demand, and in this spirit, it's important to understand that customers are now in charge, and your brand must provide for their preferences. As Retail Customer Experience contributor Chris Petersen pointed out, this means you should have a deep understanding of where and when customers make a purchase, how they have these items delivered and how they might use a return service. Taking these items into account can help ensure that your omnichannel resources provide for these specific needs.
- In-store omnichannel capabilities: If your company sells via brick-and-mortar stores as well as online channels, your omnichannel strategy should include these locations as well. As LS Retail noted, this means providing your in-store staff with access to your online channels and enabling customers to make exchanges or returns no matter where or how they originally purchased.
"It's also about giving your team quick access to customer information across all your channels, so they have the information they need to make the right recommendations," LS Retail stated. "Without connected e-commerce and in-store POS systems, your sales associates won't be equipped to convert returns into sales."
- A focus on personalization: One of the best things a brand can do for its customers is to take omnichannel a step further with a custom shopping experience. This includes providing recommendations based on past purchases or interest in specific merchandise, as well as ensuring that customers know when something they've looked at has gone on sale. This level of personalization is critical and can help differentiate your brand in the marketplace.
Omnichannel is now the new norm, and with the right level of knowledge, focus and capability, your brand will be ready to deliver for your consumer audience.