5 Ways Marketers Can Improve Omnichannel Retail Experiences

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Retailers have made great progress toward integrated customer experiences, but there's still work to do.

Exceptional omnichannel experiences remained fairly scarce in the retail sector. Many retailers are burdened by complicated processes and systems that mar the shopping experience for customers. Things are improving for sure, but the growth is slow for today's rapid-fire digital environment.

“The ‘effortless' part of the experience is missing today,” says George Skaff, CMO at engagement solutions provider TouchCommerce. “Many of the brands are pretty good at optimizing each channel, but the ability to move from device to device, from online to offline—without losing the context and without re-entering information and answering the same questions—is lacking.”

Many retailers have turned to CRM to address this issue. “Some retailers have made great strides in implementing customer CRM systems…. [Other] retailers haven't done as well,” notes Nithi Vivatrat, chief product officer at customer experience management company Clarabridge.

Improvements in areas such as CRM and e-commerce systems, however, often emphasize the more mundane aspects of the customer experience. “There are still a lot of gaps in how [the overall experience] looks from the customer's perspective,” Vivatrat explains. “The customer may be very satisfied with online, but have an awful in-store experience.”

Here, Skaff, Vivatrat, and other experts expound on the problem areas afflicting omnichannel retail and what retail marketers can do to enhance the omnichannel experience.

Improve customer service

It behooves brands to place a priority on customer service, or their marketing spend could be for naught if customers have a poor experience. In fact, customer service improvements were the single most effective tactic for improving customer lifetime value, according to research carried out by Econsultancy. “Customer service should straddle both digital and physical touchpoints in a way that is as seamless as possible,” says Linus Gregoriadis, research director at Econsultancy. “The boundaries between online and offline in the context of customer service are becoming increasingly blurred.”

Strategize from the customer's point of view

This is the linchpin of omnichannel. Marketers need only look at their own lives as customers to see how connected today's buyers are. Options abound, and it's up to marketers to ensure that their brand prioritizes and serves customers in their own context. “Brands' ability to embrace this concept, which is different than simply having a customer-focus, allows us to meet customer needs in a powerful way not only earning customer loyalty over time, but to transcend to customer advocacy,” explains Donna Pahel, director of digital marketing at software provider EPiServer. “Brands that are committed to the Customer [point of view] will thrive in this new world.”

Brands should also take care to ensure that whatever strategy they implement is agile. “Customer behavior changes and technology is emerging at an unprecedented pace. Brands that are agile will thrive consistently and continually,” Pahel adds.

Mobilize the in-store experience

The market is well past the point where retailers must grapple with the notion of a mobile or mobile-optimized website; having one is a given. Savvy retail marketers should now look toward the emerging trend of mobilizing the in-store experience. Equipping store employees with mobile technology can help retailers improve customer service and even physically realize personalization in-store. “Mobile is different than any other medium because it's omnipresent,” Vivatrat says. “There's an element of location to it and [marketers] can even use it to affect the way stores are laid out.”

 Combat showrooming through smarter promotions

Leveraging all of that CRM and customer data to implement systems that serve personalized offers could go a long way toward capturing the attention of showrooming customers.  “Retailers can combat showrooming by embracing the fact that consumers will always look for the best deals and it would benefit [retail marketers] greatly if they can promote that shoppers will get better deals when they come to the store,” TouchCommerce's Skaff explains.

Optimize the buying experience

Amazon, the scourge of many retailers, doesn't always have the cheapest price. Clearly, this doesn't discourage shoppers. “Buyers are comfortable with Amazon's buying experience,” Vivatrat says. “You have to make people want to buy from you and having a disjointed or sloppy buying experience will impede that.”
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