An omnichannel strategy is a cross-channel marketing strategy, which impacts the activity of a company on all levels. Studies by Business Insider and Harvard Business Review show its effectiveness which is whymore and more companies adopt an omnichannel approach. Businesses, both big and small understand that omnichannel strategy has become a must for retailers,but it requires investment and planning to get it right. We’ve gathered the best practices to help you to develop a winning strategy.
1. Take the omnichannel approach
An omnichannel strategy is completely different from the multichannel strategy, and, to get it right, you have to think omnichannel. It means anticipating customer behavior regardless of the channels that they use. You’ll have to adjust the internal processes, train your employees, and develop a different marketing strategy. That’s why it’s so important to learn to think in a new way first and to build a corporate culture aimed at the omnichannel future.
2. Plan your budget
Sad but true, the transfer to omnichannel retail can be very expensive. Be prepared for it. Take into consideration the expenses mentioned in the following best practices. These include updating the systems, arming your shop assistants with mobile technology and training them, etc. Enhancing your shops with wow-effect tech can be very efficient from the omnichannel point of view but it requires investment. Also, remember that budgets shouldn’t be siloed. Dividing the marketing budget between online and offline marketing, for example, would impede the implementation of the omnichannel strategy.
3. Adjust the internal processes
Many companies who successfully implement an omnichannel strategy, change their organization. They merge their online and offline marketing teams, and combine marketing budgets for different channels, etc. Analyze your company and think of what organizational peculiarities could impede omnichannel strategy implementation.
4. Manage human resources
You need the right people in the top management of your organization to drive meaningful change. Also, all the employees have to support the strategy and act in accordance with it. Starting from the top positions where strategy is planned, to the shop assistants who are responsible for creating the omnichannel experience in your stores, all must embrace the change. Team structures should support efficient collaboration across all channels.
5. Adjust the metrics
Old-fashioned multichannel KPIs become obsolete with an omnichannel marketing. You can’t, for example, attribute an increase in sales in-stores to a definite in-store factor. Increased sales can result from a new feature in your app or changes in online marketing. The holistic omnichannel approach to measuring success should track performance in all channels interdependently, following four stages of the customer’s buying process - awareness, engagement, conversion, and loyalty.
6. Start with channels where you already have customers
We recently wrote in an article that trying to be literally everywhere can result in over-spending for no positive outcome. It’s better start with an understanding of which platforms, mediums, and devices your customers use on a daily basis. If, for example, there are only a few of them on Instagram, or not many of them shop on eBay, why would you waste your time and budget creating a presence there?
7. Integrate key areas: sales channels, fulfillment & delivery, returns
If customers add an item to a cart on one channel it should sync and appear on another when they switch. It should also wait there for several days. It goes without saying, that it should be available for all online options, be it an app or a website. But some brands manage it even better, allowing customers to pick up where they left off across the channels, like sending the wishlist of items you found attractive in the physical shop to your email, so that you can consider buying them later from the comfort of your home.
8. Solve the physical presence dilemma
This is especially relevant for brands that start off purely e-commerce. Opening one or more brick-and-mortar stores is challenging and doesn’t always seem economically viable. But the majority of customers still prefer to try an item on before buying it and they like the personal touch and human assistance. The best solution for e-commerce companies who are planning to expand into the offline world is to build test pop-up shops or use third-party locations.
9. Arm your shop assistants with tech
Omnichannel implies you provide product information to your customers online. But it’s also important to provide them with high-quality information in-store. The employees at a physical shop may get special training but they can’t memorize everything. If you give them the right technology, like iPads or other gadgets connected to the company system, they can leverage product descriptions and availability immediately. Also, use technology to provide the shop assistants with data such as customer preferences and purchase history, and allow them to contribute to the database.
10. Use tech to create wow-effect in stores
Physical stores are now not just points of sales. Make them into flagships and brandships. They should raise interest and work for your image. Add things like scanning barcodes while shopping in-store to get detailed product information. You can also add unique innovations that draw the attention of the press and the customers. Your technologies could include personal assistance technologies, like Sephora’s Color Match that scans the customer’s complexion to provide makeup recommendations or Nike’s foot size defining feature, which is in the development process now but already anticipated and discussed in the press. It could be something like ‘Memory Mirror’ in Neiman Marcus stores, which allows you to get your 3D image in the brand’s outfits and share it on Social Media, or UGG’s “Magic Carpet” where you step onto the carpet in a pair of boots and then see related product information, video, complementary products, etc.
11. Establish a cross-channel loyalty program
Once you’ve got omnichannel, you should also make your loyalty program work seamlessly across the channels so that customers can acquire and redeem loyalty points wherever they are.
12. Analyze unified customer data
It’s important to analyze how customers behave cross-channel to understand them and adjust your strategy. That’s why it’s essential to collect and unify data on the online and offline activity of each customer.
13. Develop an omnichannel content marketing strategy
Your marketing strategy has to fit into the general omnichannel strategy. The voice and style of your message must be consistent across all channels. The packaging and the design of physical shops should match this style. Your campaigns should run simultaneously across the channels.
14. Make all touchpoints shoppable
You can sell everywhere and every time your customers interact with your brand. You should sell on Facebook and Instagram, and not only through your website or e-commerce platforms. Pay attention to Instagram shoppable posts.
15. Prepare the technical base
Your technical base should satisfy the needs of the omnichannel retail strategy. Outdated inventory management tools can cause all your efforts to fail. The customer relationship tools should support the unified profiles of your customers. All systems should be integrated. The online and offline sales channels, warehouses and fulfillment centers should connect together technically in a seamless way.
16. Work on delivery and pick-up options
An omnichannel strategy means that you are everywhere your customers need you when it comes to sales. But you should work on your delivery and fulfillment options too. You should provide your customers with a variety of options such as curbside delivery, delivery to nearest stores, lockers or pick-up points. The ‘click and collect’ option, as well as expedited shipping services, become a must-have.
17. Deliver omnichannel customer support
The same rules work for support services. In the world of omnichannel retail, the customers expect the company representatives to offer personalized assistance across the channels and to pick up where they left. They may, for example, want to contact a company via a messenger app, then receive a call-back and talk via phone, and then get detailed instructions with pictures via email. And all of this seamlessly, without explaining themselves again and again.
18. Ensure omnichannel returns
The omnichannel strategy includes taking care of returns. Your customers should be able to send items by mail, return them in a physical store or use drop off lockers. The ability to make returns easily is critical for many customers.
19. Add self-service options
Consumers have become more and more tech-savvy. Many of them would prefer to solve their problems themselves rather than accept guidance from an agent. You should include an entry point to self-service options on every channel where it is possible.
20. Focus on the customer
Last but not least, remember that the customer is the reason for your company transformation. You need the omnichannel strategy not just because it’s popular but because the customers expect it. Collect data, analyze it, personalize your proposition, improve the on and offline experience and master new channels, make the interaction seamless - all of this for your customers.
So remember that an omnichannel strategy demands consistency. Marketing, sales and customer support should all be omnichannel. The budget should support the strategy, and all the employees must understand and support the approach. All the systems, analytics, and services should be integrated. Technology plays a great role in omnichannel strategy implementation, so consider which obligatory and additional solutions you will implement. Make it easy and pleasant for a customer to interact with your company in any way and on every channel.