Omni-channel retail: Tips to ensure successful strategy integration

     

iStock_000032837572_Large-1Customers utilize a range of avenues to connect with and make purchases from industry-leading retailers. From leveraging mobile devices and desktop computers to visiting a company's brick-and-mortar locations, consumer behavior has driven the need for an omni-channel retail approach like never before.

What makes an omni-channel strategy so important?

An omni-channel approach isn't just about providing more options for customers to find your business. It's about ensuring that your company leverages every available opportunity to forge a relationship with current and potential clients.

Consumers are already utilizing mobile platforms in addition to traditional channels to connect with retailers. Making this more streamlined across these different avenues is critical to ensuring that no matter what channel clients use, they will have a favorable experience with the brand.

John Bowden, Time Warner Cable's senior vice president of customer care, noted that omni-channel isn't just about having an online presence in addition to physical store locations - it's about viewing the experience from a consumer's point of view.

"Omni-channel anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution," Bowden said, according to Marketo. "Making these complex 'hand-offs' between channels must be fluid for the customer. Simply put, omni-channel is multi-channel done right!"

With such fierce competition in the retail and e-commerce industries, not having an adequate omni-channel strategy in place can mean considerable missed opportunities to connect with current customers and acquire new ones. For this reason, company leaders must ensure that their omni-channel approach is implemented according to certain best practices to help guarantee its success.

Top tips for deploying an omni-channel retail strategy

So how can retailers go about integrating their new omni-channel approach? Because this strategy differs from the typical multi-channel initiative, there are several new considerations that must be factored in:

  • Think from a customer's perspective: This is perhaps the most important step in the process. Considering channels and the overall experience from the point of view of the client is what sets an omni-channel strategy apart from other approaches. Taking a look at the brand's presence online, on mobile platforms and in physical locations to ensure streamlined messaging and outreach throughout is critical. But decision-makers must not think exclusively like company leaders. Instead, they must consider things as if they were customers of their brand. Edo Interactive vice president Jeff Fagel calls this an "omni-personal" approach.

    "Before you even think about channels, ask yourself, 'why would anyone care to listen?'" Fagel suggested. "[T]ry and distribute your offers in a way that shows you know your customers, returning to the one-on-one engagement of the brick-and-mortar days."
  • Leverage technology for the company's benefit: Omni-channel isn't simply smashing together an online presence with a physical infrastructure. There must be a streamlined experience where customers travel from one channel to the next. Utilizing a similar brand focus, messaging and designs from mobile to online to in-store locations can help create this feeling. Business News Daily also suggested utilizing data analytics and social listening programs to ensure that the omni-channel retail experience meets customers needs and is being received favorably. The findings gleaned from these tools can also help the brand make continual improvements to its omni-channel strategy.
  • No company is too big - or too small: Another important factor to keep in mind is that any size business - from small mom-and-pop shops to the largest big box retailers - can take advantage of an omni-channel approach.

    "[O]mni-channel is a new enough concept that small businesses can actually lead the way in the category and compete with larger brands," Business News Daily noted. 

Utilizing these tips and considerations can help ensure a streamlined customer experiencing, as well as help to guarantee that a company's omni-channel approach is implemented successfully.

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