20 Best Practices on effective Omnichannel Strategy

Omnichannel Strategy

The omnichannel strategy serves to optimize key metrics by creating a seamless shopping experience across all channels. If you examine the experience of various successful omnichannel brands, you’ll see that each of them has developed the perfect strategy to achieve their business goals. These omnichannel strategy examples share common points, their best practices. Why reinvent the wheel? You can use these best practices developing an omnichannel strategy for your brand.

1. Focus on the customer experience

Omnichannel strategy is characterized by a customer that is central to the strategy. When you market via many channels but focus on the brand, you’re following a multichannel rather than an omnichannel marketing approach. You can’t deliver a truly seamless experience without adopting a customer-centric approach.

Omnichannel brands engage in a kind of dialog with their customers. They place the customer at the center of their strategy, identify the most appropriate channels to deliver true customer value, and then work on the customer experience.

2. Work on omnichannel fulfillment strategies

High-level, well-planned fulfillment is the basis for a successful omnichannel strategy. Information about store inventory must cross all channels. Your customers should be able to check in-store availability of items online, as they can with the big brands like Nike, Walgreens, and other successful omnichannel brands.

You should offer your customers a range of delivery options. An omnichannel strategy implies that your customers can buy online and pickup in-store, or, vice versa, buy in-store and have the items delivered to their homes. Most brands also offer same-day shipment and curbside pickup. Many of them, like Zumiez, turn their shops into high-class fulfillment centers.

3. Identify your customers

This is an important step in providing an omnichannel experience because to create a seamless customer experience, you must identify each of your customers. You must associate each consumer’s data with their profile (unified across channels) and have the ability to access these data when the customer interacts with you via any channel. Only in this way can you provide the many features characteristic of an omnichannel martketing strategy.

Collecting the required data can get challenging because many customers won’t want to share their personal data and will expect their favourite brands to know magically who they are and what they want. They may not see why subscribing to the brand’s newsletter or downloading an app may be of any value to them. So you’ll have to add value if you want to get to know your audience better.

4. Know, segment and target your audience

You should know who your customers are and where and how they prefer to shop. AI-powered segmentation can help to uncover smaller target audiences using geolocation, subscription status, customer journey phase, and even current weather conditions to deliver a tailor-made experience across digital channels. You can choose the channels where your presence is most relevant. For example, after thorough audience research, Burberry found that its customers mostly used Instagram. So, the brand partnered with the networking service to launch Instagram Checkout. They also created B Series - the drops of limited edition products available on social platforms, for restricted time periods only. This strongly resonated with its customers.

5. Unify customers’ data

Unifying customers’ data is a challenging task but it is a necessary step on the route to omnichannel marketing. The data on customer behavior and purchase history should be collected across channels and devices and stored on a single system. For example, in the Oasis Fashion shops, the shop assistants can access these data using iPads connected to the company’s system. They get information about customers’ preferences and requirements and also add details about their offline behavior which allows them to see the whole picture. Because they collect and consolidate customers’ data, omnichannel brands provide their customers with relevant, personalized service.

6. Integrate channels in the backend

Integrate inventory and central fulfillment so that they can operate as a whole. Nike is a perfect example of a brand with a great backend management system supporting the omnichannel strategy. When they started to implement the omnichannel approach, they faced a challenge with controlling a large assortment of products. As a result, there were shipment issues and, often, stores received an incorrect number of items. So the company re-arranged the inventory and warehouse system to provide products quickly, ensuring a seamless experience for their customers.

Some companies focus on the external parts of the strategy, like sales and the customer experience. They don’t pay enough attention to the backend until they pick up problems caused by a lack of integration of the internal processes. Don’t make the same mistake.

7. Deliver a consistent brand message across the channels

Communication is usually adjusted to each channel’s style, capabilities, and audience. But you must maintain the consistency and tone of the brand message, or your customers will get confused. They must perceive a holistic, reliable and cohesive brand.

Create and follow branding guidelines on all the channels, including packaging in the fulfillment centers. Create a focused content strategy and a unified voice and keep it consistent throughout the organization. It is not only marketing that must support this unified brand message but also customer support representatives and shop assistants. Make sure you listen to your customers and respond accordingly.

8. Producing and sharing user-generated content

UGC is a powerful tool that can enhance your omnichannel strategy and allow your brand to speak your customers’ language. It helps brands to build an enduring relationship with existing customers and gain the trust of new audiences.

Here are a few tips for the best result. Shoppers are often asked to write reviews but it’s much simpler and a lot more fun for them to produce visual content. Often, brands prompt consumers to create content as a part of a marketing campaign. But starting and stopping such promotions can take a lot of effort so try making user-generated content an always-on initiative.

Lids sportswear retailer provides a great example of UGC usage. It invites customers to share their photos wearing Lids’ merchandise. Weekly, it chooses one of these pictures to repost on the company’s feed, with products tagged for shopping. Ikea also prompts users to share their videos and photos featuring Ikea products in its app. These true stories increase trust and strengthen relationships with the brand.

9. Experiment with physical locations

Though e-commerce seems to be taking over the market, the majority of consumers still want to feel and touch items before buying them. For example, ThirdLove, a successful online bra startup, understood from its customers’ feedback that it was time to open a brick-and-mortar touchpoint. Barkshop, an innovative online brand of dog food and toys, uses pop-up stores to get in touch with its customers, and even Amazon builds a physical presence.

But today, offline stores are not just places where you sell your products. They are places where you establish relationships with your customers. Both brands we mentioned, ThirdLove and Barkshop, have created a memorable experience. ThirdLove offers unusual interior design and innovative fitting rooms. Barkshop’s pop-up stores are dog-centered. The brand invites dogs to play with toys and then creates wish lists for their owners. Larger brands, such as Nike or Neiman Marcus, invest enormous amounts in the provision of memorable offline shopping experiences.

10. Use tech in your offline stores

As we mentioned above, it’s important to provide your customer with a personalized experience - so, the shop assistants should have real-time access to customers’ data. Customers also like to get detailed product information whether they’re shopping offline or on.

There are two ways to accomplish easily accessible data. You can arm your associates with mobile tech so that they can immediately access accurate and detailed product information and check availability. This is how Neiman Marcus and Walgreens have solved this problem. Or you can offer self-service, and offer customers all the information they need on in-store tablets and other, even more sophisticated technologies.

That’s how UGG does it, with its Magic Carpet tech that shows detailed information on- screen as soon as a customer steps onto a special carpet wearing a pair of UGG footwear. R.E.I. outdoor retail is another example. R.E.I. allows customers to read reviews on their app when they scan a barcode in-store.

11. Make video a part of your omnichannel strategy

Video content has been on the rise for some time. For many brands, it’s an essential part of their digital marketing. But video has proven equally effective in a physical store. You can, for example, run commercials in-store to inspire your customers to make purchases.

One of the most creative uses of in-store video is the “Memory Mirror” at Neiman Marcus. Using in-store tech, visitors can record a 360-degree video of themselves trying on clothing and then save it. Later, they can share the video with friends and decide whether to make a purchase, either online or in-store.

Another case is the Nordstrom fashion brand. Its customers appreciate the brand’s associate expert style advice. Nordstrom recreates this effect online, creating video guides on how to design stylish looks. In the final call to action, the customers are invited to come to the store and talk to a personal style expert.

12. Use Youtube as a channel

YouTube is a great channel to build awareness and create an engaged community. Figure out what content your customers want - this could be webinars, user-generated product reviews, entertaining sketches. Once you’ve worked out what they want, serve it to them.

Fietsenwinkel.nl, large omnichannel bicycle retailers in the Netherlands, found that YouTube campaigns not only increased brand awareness and ad recall, but also drove the direct response.

Another brand we can learn from is Lego, with its 6M+ Youtube subscribers. Lego videos promote Lego universe or new products and they regularly receive up to 1M views.

13. Use Pinterest as a channel

People use Pinterest to find inspiration for their everyday lives. It is an especially efficient channel for homeware and fashion brands.

IKEA drives in-store purchases with the help of Pinterest. For example, in 2018, it targeted students shopping for dorm room decor using keyword targeting and Promoted Pins.

In 2017, Pinterest released a Pincode feature that allowed shoppers to scan a code and then they’d be directed to a Pinterest board. The fashion retailer Nordstrom has integrated Pinterest directly into its stores. While shopping in-store, customers can scan a Pincode and enter a curated board of gifts for under $100.

14. Sell on social media

Effectively used, Instagram's Shoppable Posts and Facebook e-commerce are both very efficient channels. They’re especially relevant for fashion and furniture brands. Often, people turn to Instagram for inspiration, and find the opportunity to immediately and conveniently shop for products, collections, or looks. For example, Nordstrom uses shoppable social posts so that its customers can seamlessly proceed from inspiration to information to purchase. In this way, the brand drives online sales.

15. Provide convenient pick-up options

Not so long ago, the grocery giant Walmart installed automated pickup kiosks called Pickup Towers, and they’re growing in number. A Pickup Tower looks like a 16-foot vending machine. When customers order on Walmart’s website and choose the Pickup option at checkout, the items are delivered to the local stores and loaded into the Tower. The customer arrives and scans a barcode to retrieve their order. Shops who can’t build robotic kiosks for now can nonetheless provide their customers with convenient click-and-collect options.

16. Enable omnichannel returns

Consumers have become used to the“buy and try” approach, and now they expect to make returns as easily and conveniently as store-bought items. Most customers check the return policy before buying online. It’s profitable to offer not only traditional returns via mail but also in-store options, as customers often continue to shop long after they’ve made an in-store return. Amazon also allows customers to return certain packages at Amazon Hub Lockers drop-off locations.

17. Provide omnichannel customer support

When customers buy and return items online, they expect personalized support to work seamlessly across the channels. Nothing irritates people more than having to explain their problem again and again as they switch across channels and devices. So you must coordinate your customer service efforts across multiple channels including phone calls, social, email and instant messaging.

18. Pay attention to self-service options

According to Harvard Business Review, 81% of all customers attempt to solve problems themselves before they contact a live representative. Elaborate omnichannel online knowledge bases, FAQs and communities will allow people to get information easily, without frustration. It will also reduce the workload of your support team.

Consider using AI solutions to improve the self-service experience. AI can help to define the type of information your consumers would prefer and in which format.

Even if the customers still have to contact a human agent after they have done their own research, they will reach you better informed, which will reduce the overall time required to explain and to solve their problem. This, in turn, will increase their satisfaction with your service.

19. Adjust your loyalty programs

The most cited example of successful loyalty programs is Starbucks. When customers pay using a registered Starbucks card, they get stars (reward points) that they can redeem for free coffee and treats. They can reload their cards on the app, on the website, in-store and on the phone. Though, Starbucks customers get plus-ups for their stars only in Starbucks shops. If you sell in the omnichannel way, it’s important that your customers can earn and consistently redeem their reward points both offline and on.

Use your reward program to prompt users to create content and promote your brand on social media. For example, UGG footwear brand allows its customers to earn points by sharing and writing product reviews, not only for making a purchase. The Tarte beauty brand gives loyalty points to customers for making purchases, sharing content on social media, checking emails, and referring friends. The Walgreens’ loyalty program uses geofencing in their app to remind customers of their remaining loyalty points when they’re close to the shop.

20. Let your mobile app glue it

Through all these best practices you may have noticed how brands use their mobile apps to connect customers’ off and online experiences. R.E.I. provides reviews after you scan a barcode in-store, Ikea prompts users to share their content, Walgreens uses their loyalty program.

In-app reward programs or even special apps for reward programs are characteristic of omnichannel brands (like Sephora Beauty Insider and Starbucks app). Nike also uses its app to connect omnichannel digital and retail experiences. Users can check whether the item in the correct size and color is available at their local Nike store and reserve it through the app. They can also do many other things.

The Kroger grocery chain’s mobile app contains localized shopping lists, store search functions, and a “Scan, Bag, Go” feature. The latter is used in-store: you scan barcodes to read detailed product information. The app also keeps a total of the selected items, simplifying checkout.

Conclusion

To go omnichannel, you need to collect, unify and analyze customers’ data to provide them the best experience across all relevant channels. Your strategy should include not only omnichannel sales but also customer service, returns, and rewards programs operating across channels and devices.

Consider Youtube and Pinterest marketing opportunities and pay attention to user-generated content. The backend integration of distribution channels is a must. Enhancing your physical stores with tech and connecting the off and online services with a mobile app will enable your brand to provide a seamless buying experience.


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