On the road to omnichannel: How are you linking online to offline?

By Anne-Marie Raynor
on 8/12/17

Omnichannel is all about implementing the best of both worlds. The customer experience should be effortless, creating a strong resemblance between the brand’s physical and online presence whilst remembering data and allowing the customer to transition mediums effortlessly.

Although omnichannel is becoming increasingly expected of retailers, customers are still heavily influenced by physical experience and touch. Because of this, most sales still happen in physical stores. To start as online-only or just a brick-and-mortar store in 2017 is becoming increasingly risky.

The most successful omnichannel strategies today understand and adapt to the customer’s decision-making process by collecting relevant data, helping them to understand the tactics and messaging to use at which point to trigger a purchase. Other successful strategies offer incentives to purchase - such as discounts via email or free gifts. However, in doing so, retailers need to make sure they deliver information on the specific products their customers are interested in.

In this blog, we’ll be looking at three very different but equally successful omnichannel strategies implemented by Oasis, Starbucks and Glade. We’ll explore how and why they work, and what you can learn from them.

What is omnichannel?

Omnichannel is about enabling customers to shop (and to continue their shopping) anywhere – from browsing at their desktop on their lunchbreak to completing a purchase on a mobile app on the bus ride home. It helps brands to deliver a consistent experience for customers across multiple channels – increasing convenience, trust and loyalty.

By learning from customer interactions, brands can modify their omnichannel strategies accordingly to target a type of customer. For example; if a potential customer is searching for a certain type of product and receives recommendations, they may be more likely to consider them, potentially increasing basket size. Incentives such as discounts, free gifts and personalised emails also target customers by pushing promotions to a specific audience.

Why is omnichannel important?

Technology is everywhere – from contactless payments to mobile banking, tech is constantly striving to simplify our everyday lives. Because of this, customers expect a lot more from their everyday interactions. The key to omnichannel is realising that it’s not about channels, but about the user. Customers today not only seek multiple channels to shop across, but also increasingly value product surveys and feedback on social media platforms. This is why a well-developed social media strategy is such an integral part of any omnichannel approach.

Many customers prefer an online experience as it is more convenient for them, but for the retailer, analysing this means avoiding misuse of resources on less-effective platforms whilst prioritising the channels through which more customers arrive.

However, it is also important for retailers to remember that their in-store efforts should run smoothly alongside other channels.

Companies that employ omnichannel effectively & why:

Because of the speed and convenience customers now enjoy online, many expect the in-store experience to match. Some stores, like Oasis, are creating apps that help their employees accomplish these things with customers in-store. Other brands are using apps to deliver laser-targeted discounts and offers to customers on the go.

Another reason for retailers not to neglect their in-store efforts is that their brick-and-mortar stores can work alongside digital channels by fulfilling orders for the store’s online counterparts, as seen in our first example…

Oasis Seek & Send

Image courtesy of Oasis Stores

Oasis has an ecommerce site, a mobile app, and brick-and-mortar locations that work closely together to give people a great shopping experience.

In-store staff are armed with iPads to provide shoppers with on-the-spot information about the availability of products and to allow customers to pay for their purchases anywhere in the store.

Oasis were arguably the first retail brand to successfully implement a ‘seek and send’ service - if an item is out of stock, staff can use the iPads to locate the item in another store and have it sent to the customer’s house. Many shops now offer a similar service, allowing them to check if an item is in stock online and letting customers either have it sent to their address or to a local store.

Like many other brands, Oasis also provides convenient (and free) returns online. Collect+ is the service preferred by clothing merchants, allowing shoppers to return purchases through a network of over 5,500 drop-off points in local stores. This encourages customers to use the retailer’s online channels, as they feel that there is less of a risk.

Starbucks Rewards App

Image courtesy of Starbucks

The Starbucks rewards app frequently crops up in ‘top’ lists of omnichannel efforts - and for good reason. Since the app launched in 2011, customers have had the option to check and reload their Starbucks card balance through various channels; their phone, the Starbucks website, or when they’re in-store. Any changes are updated in real-time, across all channels and devices.

Each purchase at Starbucks earns you ‘stars’ within the app. When you reach a certain amount, Starbucks rewards you with a free drink. The app also allows users exclusive early access to Starbucks’ newest products, adding another incentive to its users.

When it comes to payments, customers can either pay with their rewards card or by using the app on their phone. Many companies are following suit by creating their own rewards apps, and we can see why. As far as convenience goes, this is a stroke of omnichannel genius.

Glade

Image courtesy of Radical Media

A collaboration between Glade and Radical Media called ‘The Museum of Feelings’ proved that in-store / traditional experiences aren’t redundant in the modern age.

The pop-up installation was housed in a portable 5,300-square-foot building in Manhattan’s Financial District. The outside of the building changed colours based on the ‘mood’ of the city, which was correlated from trending social media, local weather and stock market data.

The installation featured an in-store / app connection, allowing visitors to explore the app and link emotions to feelings as they navigated several rooms that used touch, sound, visuals and smell.

In the final room, visitors were guided to a ‘smelling table’ featuring Glade scents they had encountered in The Feelings Museum. The wall was designed to catch impulse shoppers whilst they were still wrapped up in the experience. It proved extremely successful, as the campaign won four awards at the 2016 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

See how an omnichannel approach can benefit your company - contact Return today

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