Most of the commentary we read about the retail sector these days talks in dichotomies: Bricks and Clicks, Online vs. Instore, Walmart vs. Amazon. The list could go on and on, but for those truly interested in building a strategy that engages customer, turns them into a repeat visitor, and eventually a brand advocate, dualistic thinking is not the most successful strategy.
Instead, retailers need to think in much bigger and broader terms; they need to think omnichannel.
According to Slice Intelligence principal analyst Ken Cassar and RetailWire BrainTrust panelists Carol Spieckerman and Lee Peterson, the ability of today’s retailers to provide a flawless omnichannel experience for customers is far more important than other strategies frequently rolled out by retailers. The three originally convened to discuss whether Amazon or Walmart will emerge victorious from the current period of disruption, but it soon became clear that while each company has their strengths, the eventual victors in the retail space will be the brands that can deliver a seamless experience between in-store, online, mobile, social, and voice environments. In other words, those brands that will thrive in retail are ones that can successfully deliver on the promise of omnichannel commerce.
In theory, and as suggested at the end of the webinar by Spieckerman, this could mean that neither of the titans will dominate with other smaller brands because their drive for innovation and nimble execution models could end up leading the way for the new age of retail. Established brands, like Walmart and Amazon have to overcome their legacy environments in order to deliver on this seamless experience.
For example, as explained in the webinar, Walmart’s first hurdle was to improve the integration of online sales into the in-store environment, so that online buyers electing to pickup products in-store were not left in line at layaway desk. Meanwhile, Amazon, which is the clear leader in online experience, has leaped ahead of the pack in terms of integrating voice-directed shopping via Alexa, has yet to master the brick-and-mortar aspects of the retail experience, including exemplary customer service.
So, how can retailers deliver on the promise of the omnichannel experience? Here are three ways:
- Build Loyalty Programs
While loyalty programs have long been used to encourage and reward customers who purchase regularly from a retailer, they can assume new significance in building a seamless experience. Using customer information, such as a phone number, instead of an old fashioned loyalty card, all customer interactions are tracked and logged within their profile. By keeping track of customer engagements the retailer can then offer them special deals or based on their browsing or shopping habits.
- Deliver Personalized Email
Personalized emails go hand-in-hand with loyalty programs or as standalone newsletter subscriptions. In either case, you can create emails that are personalized to the customer’s location in real-time, indicating special offers or in-store deals, even providing a map to find the nearest store.
- Use Beacons
Mobile shopping is quickly becoming the most popular way to purchase online and marketers can take advantage of this new platform in myriad ways. One of the smartest ways to engage with customers on a mobile platform is to use Beacons. Beacons (e.g. iBeacon or PayPal Beacon) use Bluetooth low energy technology, a technology found in most new mobile devices, which alerts a marketer when that visitor is close to, or in, a retail location and pushes out notifications of offers or special deals in store.
Even if the customer does not make a purchase during that engagement, the information from that interaction can then be deployed into a personalized email or newsletter content to continue to build engagement and develop the relationship.
Whatever tactics are used it is imperative for brands to build a single view of the customer and deliver value to the customer and develop a seamless omnichannel experience in order to thrive. In doing so, retailers will create ways to communicate with their customers no matter whom and where they are and being able to provide the right information at the right time throughout all stages of the buying process.
Learn more about leveraging valuable customer data to create a unique shopping experience tailored to their interest by downloading Pitney Bowes’ “Employing a Single Customer View.” To stay updated on the latest trends and best practices in retail technology, subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter.