A quarter of all retailers have identified omnichannel marketing as their No. 1 priority for 2018, according to Econsultancy’s “2018 Digital Trends in Retail” report. And to underline this commitment to creating experiences, only 4% of respondents said they will differentiate predominantly on price, down from 7% in the previous year’s report.
“As consumers, we’re omnichannel by default,” explained Vijay Gupta, head of go-to-market for Adobe’s Experience Cloud business. “We move from a laptop to a desktop to an app to a store, and we do that as a matter of course. We don’t think of it as changing channels.”
That also means consumers, quite reasonably, expect their experiences to remain consistent and continuous, without a thought about the mechanics that enable them. So how do you change your business to think of omnichannel as the norm?
Change Organisational Structures
E-commerce consultant Ian Rhodes is accustomed to seeing the obstacles that operational silos present for companies transitioning to an omnichannel experience. “You’d be surprised how often people in one department don’t fully understand what their colleagues in other areas of the business are doing,” he said.
Companies should aim to flow their employees’ experience from one department to another as easily as they want their customers’ shopping experience to transition from screen to store and beyond, Rhodes said.
Gupta agreed that a shift in structures is vital for the success of this digital transformation. He said he sees brands’ tendency to have different teams for CRM, online, store, and mobile as fit for only a “certain level of sophistication.”
To “stitch the customer journey across the board,” he said, businesses need a “fit-for-purpose organisation.” This means a business that is either structured as per the customer journey or with a layer that represents the customer journey.
Champion Cultural Change
Chloë Thomas, founder of eCommerce MasterPlan, is quick to point out the value provided by those who work closely with customers, as opposed to relying on top-down policy decisions. She recalled the tale of one company reviewing its conversion rate optimisation process, where the rule was not to allow any HIPOs (highly important people’s opinions) so that others could have their say.
While this was only an initial part of the process, and eventually HIPOs got their test ideas fast-tracked, it does demonstrate the kind of shift in thinking that can reap tangible rewards during a transformation to omnichannel operations.
Equally important in this cultural conversion is having a person tasked with maintaining morale and momentum. “Retailers need an internal evangelist to keep reporting the key messages and why it’s good for the business, the employees, the shareholders, and the customers,” Gupta said.
This becomes particularly important during the challenging periods that any organisational change will inevitably encounter. With some stakeholders viewing transformation as a finite task, or enthusiasm for the process occasionally waning, reminders of those key messages can help to keep everyone focused.
Deliver Consistent Content
Thinking holistically is an important part of the journey to omnichannel.
“Retailers need to stop thinking purely about channel-specific content and create assets that can be delivered across all channels,” Gupta said. Shoppers engaging with a retailer consume content about their products and offers first, he added, so serving platform-agnostic content will contribute to seamless experiences.
“Technology has a role to play because if you try to customise content for every channel, it becomes too big of a problem to solve,” Gupta said. “Hence, you utilise technology to be able to give you that personalisation and customisation for the content that your consumers will look at before they actually purchase your product.”
Look Around For Inspiration
The Econsultancy report refers to “phygital”–the blending of physical and digital. The term describes an engaging and digitally enhanced offline experience that brings the convenience, efficiency, and information-rich nature of online shopping to the in-store environment.
U.S. home improvement retailer Lowe’s, for example, created a mobile app that allows users to access real-time store inventory and has equipped staff with iPhones to help with enquiries. The retailer more recently added an in-store navigation app with augmented reality, so customers can locate their items faster.
eCommerce MasterPlan’s Thomas cited lingerie retailer Bravissimo for its seamless flow of information between the online and offline worlds. With fully integrated systems between their tills, e-commerce platform, CRM, and beyond, staff are well-equipped to answer any questions customers may have. This, she said, is particularly useful in the nuanced world of bra buying.
“You can say, ‘There’s one I really like, but I don’t know what it’s called. I’m not wearing it today, but I think you had it in blue and pink.’ You simply give them your postcode and then the sales assistant can check the system and tell you instantly which bra you’re talking about, what size you need, and that, actually, they now offer it in green as well.”
The approach of both retailers is refreshing in its simplicity, supplementing the physical retail experience with the clever use of existing data. And at no point in the process is the customer contemplating “channels.”
“I think some companies view it as something for the future, but actually it’s something they need to be doing right now,” Rhodes concluded. “It’s not part of the wish list–it’s an action point.”