by Sherry Smith
Today’s customers are tech savvy and multi-channel customers. Even though the majority of sales takes place in brick & mortar, online channels and social media have a dramatic impact on customer behavior. Customers demand an integrated, seamless experience across all channels. This means that this new class of customers must be able to transition from their smartphone to their personal computer to your physical store.
In order to ensure retail success, a retailer should have a well-planned omnichannel strategy that will seamlessly integrate social media and commerce. It goes beyond just the physical store or pure online business. For example, Amazon, an online behemoth, is planning to open its second physical store in November in San Diego. According to Amanda Nicholson, professor of retail practice at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, online retail sales are about 9% of all retail sales and it could reach 20% by 2020. “There is still reason for people to go out and look at things and touch things,” she said. “Online strategy has not single-handedly destroyed people’s need (to do so).”
At a recent conference, Macy’s noted that when they close a location, their online business from that area drops as well. This can be attributed, in part, to customers’ shopping behavior and the fact that they demand easy transitions between physical and online stores. Customers might buy the product online and return it in the physical location or vice-versa. Make sure your online store personalizes the customer experience by utilizing live chat platforms that allow customers to connect with product experts or sales executives directly from the website.
One of the strongest influences in retail, in both online and physicall, is social media – especially social media review platforms. Retailers are all too familiar with Yelp, where a bad or poor review can lead to long lasting negative effects. Customers who seek multiple channels to shop, value product reviews and feedback, especially from their peers.
Retailers should map their customers’ purchase behavior. Where are the purchases made – in the store, at home, in the car? When are the purchases are made – morning, noon or night? What kind of products are purchased or most popular? What is the frequency of the purchases? Finally, how are purchases made – by smartphone, tablet, personal computer or in the store? This helps define the customer’s journey. Understanding the customer decision-making process is key in your omnichannel development.
Understanding your customer’s purchasing behavior will help you set up relevant triggers across channels. The goal of these triggers is to maximize customer engagement and drive sales. Triggers include boosting customer engagement by initiating conversations in active dialogue on social media platforms. This strategy also helps to boost brand value. Send reminders about offers or discounts and integrate with social media to enhance the in-store experience. Have screens or a wall to relay live social media feed. Include images, videos and tweets to further drive the customer engagement.
Notifications regarding loyalty point,s or rewards, can act as a trigger for making purchases. Be sure you have a unified loyalty program that integrates the customer journey across online and physical platforms. Rewarding customers for their online involvement can be very effective in growing your online customer base. Barney’s New York uses data, from their customer’s online journeys, to send personalized notifications and product recommendations when their customer is in the store. These notifications are based on products in the customers’ online shopping bags, wish list and the customer’s browsing patterns.
Customers are highly informed and expect exceptional experiences on every platform. Every day, more and more retailers realize they can no longer operate in a silo. The retail norm will include digital and physical commerce. Retailers will have to leverage new technologies and realign processes in order to create impactful and valuable retail experiences.