Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
It feels like it’s been the year where the term “omni-channel” has been thrown around a lot, due to the pandemic and its effect on consumers this past year, and going forward. From a business perspective, allowing your consumers to have the opportunity to benefit from multiple channels has become the expected and new normal for retail, these days. An omni-channel customer experiences can look like a broad range of things, including but definitely not limited to, marketing, sales, customer support, and on-site/in-store installations to better perfect one’s shopping experience – a lot goes into the pot. The difference between a multichannel retail environment and an omni-channel experience is that the level of connectivity between different customer contact channels can vary. Customers can interact with brands in several on and off-line environments, but within a multichannel, these platforms aren’t all connected, so that’s why retailers are working really diligently to maximize their omni-channel efforts now and in the future.
Right amidst the omni-channel’s surface, many retail technologists are uncovering the potential that technology can possess within the brick & mortar walls. AR and VR have been working together to assist with data collection to play vital analytic roles to help employees better perform their tasks, while paying attention to the experiences that customers really care for. Such experiences include customer engagement, picking out customer preferences and behaviors, effectivity running loyalty programs, integrating online and offline shopping methods, implementing chatbots to answer questions efficiently, garner email promotional emails, and the list could literally go on forever, because retailers continue to outdo themselves.
According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), out of 46,000 consumers, only 7% of people preferred shopping exclusively online, in-store shopping experiences recorded in at 23%, and 73% of the participants responded that they would prefer multiple channels of shopping for their choice. This study was recorded back in 2017, and with the COVID-19 Pandemic altering how people are able to shop, this metric has more than likely been severely altered to better fit the narrative. To formulate the perfect omni-channel interaction, obviously there is much that goes into painting the full picture, such as location, the quality of trending products, overall brand positioning, customer support and interactions, personalization, and the experience’s ability to successfully pull return shoppers and customer loyalty.
It’s a surefire understanding that the pandemic has heightened our need for human interaction, after being trapped inside for almost a full year now with lockdowns and business curfews/restrictions. We’ve watched as our favorite stores and restaurants have closed their doors, reverted to touch-less interactions such as curbside pickup, lockers, and even drive-thru windows, to even opening back up again, followed by a vicious cyclical wheel, due to the uncertainty that the virus has brought along. When online buying experiences were pulling in the highest numbers, many retailers were deploying their in-store associates to demonstrate products and deliver expert advice nuggets to transform how such knowledge can complement both virtual and in-store opportunities. Personalizing engagement circumstances and offering tailored services at every turn has been crucial when it comes to hoping for increased customer loyalty, especially doing a global pandemic.
When it comes to implementing retail technology resources, it could take something as little as equipping retail associates with mobile devices to have them readily able to check the availability of a stock item, if the question were to be presented. Acquiring and utilizing a 36-degree view of every customers’ experience is a pivotal point in the retail journey, allowing retailers to maximize their initiatives and supply a smoother ride for everyone involved.