As digital continues to touch every step of the customer journey, businesses who operate both e-commerce and in-store channels are having to take note. Who is the omni-channel shopper and what does their behaviour mean for businesses?

Retail marketing is changing.

Today, companies have to be everywhere at once. Customers have more avenues for them to connect with and they’ve also become accustomed to using multiple devices and online sources to buy products and interact with companies.

71% of consumers who use their mobile phones for product research in-store even say that it’s become an important part of the experience. It seems that smartphones are fast becoming the new and improved personal shopping assistant for people once they’re inside a store.

It’s for these reasons retailers are having to change their marketing strategies so they are geared towards converting consumers on any channel. Recent studies show that those who buy from retailers in-store and online are the most valuable.

But how can retailers attract and connect with these highly desirable consumers?

Consistency

Technology is ever-changing and is always evolving, so it’s critical that a retailer’s brand and messaging strategy always remains consistent for all channels.
A consumer expects the same experience, service and information across every interaction with a company. When consistency is lacking, credibility may suffer, and it’s likely consumers will abandon their shopping bag.

Personalisation

Every customer is unique and retailers need to treat each one differently. Tailoring the buying preferences of individual customers is a great way of providing a personalised omni-channel experience. Consumers want real-time interaction that is best suited to their browsing habits and transaction history. Websites that dynamically change to display relevant “You may also be interested in…” sections are good examples of this.

Seamlessness

With omni-channel, the same information should be available across all channels so customers can pause an activity and resume it late from an alternative touchpoint. This includes information such as basket data, inventory, promotions, customer account information and purchase history. This seamlessness between channels requires a holistic, real-time view of the customer and back-end integration between all channels. There are many great examples, including Starbucks’ loyalty card (listed below), who successfully managed to blur the line between the digital and physical world.

Market

As this is still a relatively new emerging concept, there’s still time to start small and expand in the future. In the meantime, there are some great examples of omnichannel retailing by some big players out there, done right:

1) Oasis
The UK fashion retailer successfully combines their e-commerce, mobile app and physical stores to give their customers a great shopping experience.
In-store, their sales associates are supplied with iPads. This enables them to give shoppers on-the-spot information on product availability, but it also allows the staff to ring up customers anywhere on the shop floor and place orders for items that aren’t in stock.
For online shoppers, a similar service is available whereby they can search retail stores for unavailable products, which are then shipped to the customers directly. Oasis sends an email to notify shoppers, allowing them to track their goods. Pretty cool.

2) Starbucks
The Starbuck’s reward app is definitely worth a mention as it’s considered one of the top omni-channel experiences out there.
Customers can check and update their card balance through their smartphone, the Starbucks website, or even while they’re in-store. Any balance or profile changes are also updated in real-time, across all channels. Plus, any earned rewards are automatically reflected in the account without any action on the user’s part.

3) Disney
Saving the personal best for last. These folk get omni-channel right, down to the tiniest of details, and it all starts with an initial experience on Disney’s beautiful, mobile-responsive website.
Once the trip is booked, the ‘My Disney Experience’ tool allows customers to plan their entire trip, from which restaurant to dine at, to securing their Fast Pass for the park. Once inside, consumers can use the Disney mobile app to locate the attractions they want to see and view the estimated queue time for each of them.
The release of its Magic Band takes great customer experience one step further. While unassuming in appearance, these wristbands act as hotel room keys, photo storage devices for any pictures taken with Disney characters, and a food ordering tool. Plus, it even has Fast Pass integration. MagicBands turn the park into a powerful computer designed to anticipate visitor’s desires. They completely engineer away the friction of a Disney visit. Just like magic.

Disney Magicbands

New technology is transforming the retail landscape, blurring the line between retailers’ digital and in-store offerings. Omni-channel is about true continuity of your experience. It should aim to provide 360-degree engagement between brands and their customers across all channels and touch-points. While it’s true that many stand-alone websites, social media pages and apps are strong by themselves, we must remember that a true omni-channel experience needs to be designed around customers and their needs.

Images by Hernán Piñera, Xiaojun Deng, chris.alcoran on Flickr