Consumers are using more channels to interact with retail brands than ever before. 73 percent of shoppers use multiple channels, and they have an average of nine to choose from when making a purchase (a number predicted to grow to 11 in 2018). Shoppers aren’t the only ones benefiting: Retailers with two marketplaces generate almost twice as much revenue than those with just one.
Today’s customers are having more online and “real life” interactions with brands. Despite this, much of that opportunity goes unrealized, and retailers are coming up short in delivering a synonymous omnichannel customer experience. In fact, 87 percent of consumers think brands need to do a better job. Here’s how:
Identify the Brand Experience
If you want to create a seamless brand experience online and in real life, the best place to start is with identifying what that experience is going to be. It’s essential to have one that supports your brand identity and sets you apart from your competition. Differentiation is becoming more important than ever, especially as it relates to online/offline synergy: Almost 90 percent of companies plan to compete mostly on customer experience alone — so there’s likely to be some stiff competition.
If you’re unsure of what that brand experience should be, look to your brand identity and why your most loyal customers love you. Is it because of an aspiration that you represent? A common point-of-view? Consistently low prices, great customer service, quick deliveries, or something else?
Look at beauty brand L’OCCITANE, for example. They recently opened a few concept stores that create a “multi-sensory experience.” Their brand identity has become synonymous with sophistication and elegance. They’ve not only created a space that delivers sophisticated customer service and elegant product displays, but also integrated a gastronomy angle with bites that match their identity. Serving upscale macarons and other sweet treats has transformed the store into an entire indulgent customer experience. A peak at their website and social media channels instantly brings that experience to digital life, using a consistent visual identity and brand voice.
Once you’ve identified the experience, document it. You’ll want to get the entire team on board to help you bring the experience to life for every customer, through every touchpoint. This way, your online and offline teams can establish consistency in the experience.
Consider the Customer Journey
You might be will attuned to your brand identity and experience at this point. But you also have to consider how that brand experience not only works with but enhances the customer journey. Every brand has different customers, and every customer journey is different. It’s up to you to analyze the information you have available and craft a brand experience that meets the customer at every point through their buying journey.
What’s Happening Online?
Six out of ten online shoppers make 21 percent or more of their total purchases online, but that’s not all they’re doing there:
- Research: 81 percent of consumers research online before making a purchase, and one-third of shoppers consider sizing, product finders and customer tools to be very important. Many retail brands seem to have fallen short in delivering that information on their sites: More than half of online shoppers expect to get more comprehensive product information on manufacturer websites.
- Price comparison: Part of that online research process involves price comparison shopping. Half of consumers compare prices online before making an in-store purchase. More than half of online shoppers go to brand manufacturer websites for better pricing than multi-brand retailer sites.
- Social media: 80 percent of consumers use social media to reach out to brands, usually for support. But Twitter is the most popular customer support avenue, whereas other channels can serve as relationship-building and brand awareness tools. Plus, retailers can sell directly from social media now, another avenue for customers to purchase.
- Email: Similar to social media, 53 percent of consumers turn to email to get in touch with customer service. Offer a customer service-dedicated email address and respond to issues in a timely manner to avoid unhappy customers. Remember, the customer journey extends to the post-purchase period, and great customer support can breed lifelong customers.
- Discovery and search: Consumers find on-site search and navigation to be the most important website features. Search is becoming more dynamic for the user experience too, as visual search is used on half of ecommerce sites. Consider implementing it on your site to more visually captivate website traffic.
What’s Happening in Real Life?
Though eCommerce is growing, 90 percent of total retail sales still happen in brick-and-mortar stores. And there are other ways that consumers are interacting with brands “in real life:”
- In-store research: More than three-quarters of consumers prefer to shop in-store. The main reasons? To try on, touch, and test merchandise, plus 65 percent head in-store to avoid delivery fees, and 60 percent like having the item immediately.
- Product delivery: Both in-store and online shoppers have purchased products delivered directly to their home. 41 percent of consumers like to have same-day delivery from physical stores.
- Packaging: 52 percent of consumers will make repeat purchases if you have premium product packaging. Unboxing is part of the customer experience, and impressionable packaging can also amplify your brand: Approximately 40 percent of consumers would share an image of your product on social media if it has unique packaging.
- Inventory availability: 46 percent of shoppers believe associates should be able to access inventory from multiple store location. Without an effective inventory management system in place, associates may not be able to meet these customer expectations.
Where Do the Experiences Meet?
The short answer to that question is to say that the digital and the real-life experiences meet at several points throughout the journey. Here are some examples, backed by data:
- In-store mobile browsing: 90 percent of shoppers use their mobile phones while in store, which means it’s essential to make sure your site is not only mobile-responsive but also mobile-optimized. Consider location-based technology, such as in-store beacons, to send relevant notifications and messaging to shoppers’ mobile devices.
- Buy online, pick up in store: The BOPIS trend is growing. 30 percent of customers purchase online and pick up in-store, so it’s essential for retailers to make the experience synonymous through fulfillment.
- Locating products: More than half of retail websites have a product locator feature for customers to find where they can find their products in-store. However, only two of three sites show inventory, geolocation, and mapping, which means there’s a big opportunity to deliver that functionality on your site especially if your competitors don’t.
But the connections don’t stop there, and to consider the holistic brand experience, it’s helpful to look at the purchase process. This is different for every retailer.
Bring the Experience to Life
73 percent of retailers say multichannel is important to them — despite less than 40 percent making it beyond the beginning phases of creating that experience. The most important key is consistency.
Regardless of the channel, the experience should be consistent. Everything from your logo, fonts, colors, and messaging to the level of customer service and the amount product information you share with customers. Employees must also be trained — including sales, support, fulfillment, and marketing teams — so they can understand how their role supports creating this experience.
After implementation, analysis and optimization are also important. Almost three-quarters of organizations don’t even collect data, let alone review it. Your own data is the most insightful information you can have to learn about your business and your customers. Without it, it’s difficult to determine success and progress.
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