What does an omnichannel retail experience actually look like?

| February 16, 2018 | By

As retailers grapple to create an omnichannel strategy that actually works, how can such different online, mobile and in-store channels be successfully integrated to create a truly consistent retail experience? Yoyo’s head of technology, Ali Minaei, says retailers shouldn’t attempt to replicate the irreplicable – the answer lies in aligned functionality…

What does an omnichannel retail experience actually look like?

Omnichannel is a term being bandied around a lot at the moment. In retail, it is a selling approach that aims to provide a seamless and integrated shopping experience for customers, whether through desktop, tablet, mobile, telephone or in a bricks and mortar store.

Most established retailers currently offer a multichannel experience, with customers provided with the choice to search, compare and purchase online, to click and collect, or to simply walk into the high street store, browse and buy.

However, these separate shopping channels bare little in relation when it comes to experience, and a multichannel strategy fails to take into account the combined on and offline shopping experience that consumers now desire (36% of consumers are actually put off by brands that deliver an inconsistent experience across online, mobile and in-store, according to Salesforce).

An omnichannel experience comes about when these separate shopping channels that customers use to engage with your brand begin to talk to each other.

Easier said than done, I hear you say. After all, there are fundamental differences in how customers shop through these channels.

The current shopping channel scenarios

When shopping in store, you choose your items, you queue, you pay through cash, card or mobile, you leave.

When shopping through desktop or tablet, you scroll through items, fill online baskets, you’re presented with similar choices others have went on to buy, you provide a delivery address and select a shipping method/option.

You have the option of several digital payment methods, your billing address is verified, and you receive confirmation of how you will obtain your goods.

When shopping through mobile, you interact with a smaller screen, are more in control of what you do and don’t see, often deal with less form entries (many of which will be pre-populated for convenience), and, similar to online, have the option of several payment methods (ApplePay, PayPal etc).

As for shopping over the telephone, most of the above experiences are unavailable. There are fewer ways to enhance the shopping experience and it’s mainly used as another layer of security or when something has failed during the online or mobile experience.

There is no exact same shopping experience across these different channels, and retailers have to consider the following when endeavouring to tackle their omnichannel retail strategy:

Do you aim to replicate the exact same experience regardless of channel or should the experience be optimised based on the individual channel?

Don’t replicate the irreplicable

Attempting to replicate one or all of these channels will never deliver a truly integrated experience – at least not until goods can instantly be teleported to a customer’s location (one day!).

The answer to a real omnichannel retail experience must lie in providing the same functionalities across all shopping channels.

Here’s what I told one of our clients the other day…

“If your customers have the option to split a bill, use multiple payment methods during one transaction, collect loyalty points and redeem a voucher when in-store, a successful omnichannel strategy will deliver the exact same options to customers on their desktops or tablets, as well as a mobile-friendly experience to those using their phone on the move.”

Closing the online to offline circle in retail

Creating a ubiquitous brand experience doesn’t just improve customer satisfaction – aligned functionality across all channels provides substantial returns to the retailer.

Since the awesome rise of online shopping, e-commerce channels have allowed retailers to capture tons of data about their customers, including names, emails, addresses, time of purchase, previous spending habits, etc.

Using this data correctly, online retailers have connected their customers to preferences and behaviours on an individual level, and then targeted them with specific offers and marketing activity.

This is why the shopping experience is more personalised online compared to the physical high street experience.

For years, high street stores have used traditional marketing and loyalty strategies in an attempt to better identify, engage and retain their customers, but until recently the personalised experience found online has eluded bricks and mortar retail.

An omnichannel strategy centred around aligned functionality can deliver individual customer data insight to a retailer, whether their customers shop on or offline.

It’s self explanatory how this data is captured online.

When it comes to the high street, by tapping into the point-of-sale through a simple transaction API, retailers can gain the same level of basket data from their in-store customers, revealing who they are, what they’re buying and when.

This combined data extraction strategy finally close the online to offline circle in retail, with the ability to create fully integrated marketing strategies, intelligent loyalty programmes and enhanced customer retention, regardless of the shopping channel.

The challenge lies in retailers currently using different tools and systems to measure different channels, whether it’s their POS provider, online payments system, in store payments provider or loyalty platform.

The omnichannel solution

A truly integrated omnichannel solution will be one that offers a seamless experience to both customers and merchants! As an engineer, I would also argue that it should be as seamless as possible for developers to integrate this omnichannel solution across different shopping channels.

And that’s what we’re working on at Yoyo. Our omnichannel solution is enabling our retail partners to receive the same customer data insights, both online and in store.

We’re helping retailers finally link up in store and online – providing the same shopping experience to all customers regardless of the channel they choose to engage with. And for developers, we offer APIs and native SDKs that work the same across different platforms.

Now that’s what I call an omnichannel retail strategy!