Omni Channel: Fusing the Dimensions
Posted by Matthew Craig on
As our shopping patterns become more sophisticated and we as customers become more demanding, how are retailers supposed to keep up with our new expectations?
Welcome to 2019. Technology continues to surge forwards, retailers which were once leaders are closing their physical doors and consumers have developed an insatiable demand for immediate satisfaction.
Brands which took the first foray into eCommerce have quickly learned that the digital world is a juggernaut of constantly evolving development. You offered your customers express shipping? Great, but they actually want their parcel tomorrow not within three working days. You upped the ante and offered next-day shipping to metro areas? Brilliant, but now they want it at their office within 3 hours because they need to wear that dress for a dinner tonight which they forgot about. Oh, and they want a twilight service to be delivered to their home once they get back from work too. It’s never ending because as long as you give, they will take and they will want something faster and something better and you can bet if it’s no good it will be all over the social media stratosphere within moments.
How can you even begin to contend with this level of demand and expectation?
We are experiencing a new frontier of commerce, once which transcends everything you thought you knew about how customers want to shop. It’s becoming increasingly clear that brands which exist solely in one dimension will be the ones to fall first. To cater to the needs of your customer database, you have to be where they are.
For arguments sake, let’s say your customer is a female, she works in an office in the city centre and she commutes using public transport every day. She’s in her late 20s, she uses social media and she shops online but likes to see a more expensive item in person before she buys it.
Her shopping journey covers three crucial areas: online, boutiques and social media and your presence in those dimensions will determine whether or not she makes her purchase.
Offering your customers a strong online user experience is quite straightforward, if you have the right approach. Make sure your products are easy to find on your website by leveraging functionality like search, filters and sorting. Remember, your mobile experience has to be just as strong as your desktop one.
Don’t confuse her once she’s there, make sure the product images are clear and show the item from all angles. Tell her what the product is made from and how she can wash it. Show her the available sizing options. Make sure your Add to Cart button is there and clearly positioned (if you’re ahead of the curve, you’ll also have a PayPal Express Checkout button here too so she can bypass the normal checkout process and expedite her purchase).
Image is courtesy of The Iconic
Once your customer is in the checkout, make sure she can log into her account and use her saved address to save her time entering that for the 10th time. Offer payment options which you know she wants to use. Buy Now Pay Later Options like zipPay and Afterpay are now just as stock standard as Credit Card and PayPal so make sure you’re in tune with what your target demographic is using.
Once PAY NOW is clicked and the order is processed, you have the opportunity to connect with your customer in a more personal way. Ask your dispatch team to start writing notes and popping them in the order boxes as they pack. If this isn’t possible due to order volumes, you can think about having small note cards printed in bulk with a personalised message thanking your customer for shopping with you that your dispatch team member can sign.
During that end-to-end user journey, there are a few key areas where your customer could lose interest and drop off your online channel. However, you can use your other platforms (social channels and boutiques) to mitigate the risk of losing your customer.
Maybe her phone rang and she closed the tab on her browser accidentally. No problem, you can use re-targeting by leveraging the data you gathered from her session. Clever re-targeting will remind your customer what they were looking at as they continue to browse the internet and their social feeds and help you regain your lost sessions. If you find that isn’t working, try including a cheeky coupon code in your re-targeting adverts. (Hint: make sure this coupon is unique so you can track the success of your re-targeting campaigns.)
Maybe her size is out of stock online? This is where the true omni channel experience begins for most customers. If you use an ERP to manage your inventory company-wide, why not show your customer where her size is available? Using GEO IP will allow your site to detect where your customer is, where her nearest boutique is and then with the help of some extra functionality show her that “Your size is available in our Sydney CBD store. Click here to call the store and reserve it now.”
Think of your social channels as less of a shopping experience and more as a brand experience. These channels are your platform to communicate with your customer and your potential customers in a more personal way. It’s common knowledge now that the majority of consumers want to shop with brands they relate to, so this is your chance to really tell your customers who you are. Social media is an engagement tool, a way for your customers to interact with your posts by tagging their friends and sharing on their own feeds. Encouraging your audience to tag your brand in posts will heighten engagement and will also mean your posts are less likely to be lost in the ever changing algorithms.
As we see more and more data being shared and analysed, it’s easier to dissect which platforms are beneficial for which strategies. Instagram remains the place to be for brands, accounting for over 50% of their posts whereas Facebook reports a higher engagement rate for reading longer posts and linked articles. Twitter seems to be the platform for customers to send quick-fire Tweets asking for order updates, returns enquiries and website issues and video platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram Stories are skewed more towards “how to” customer enquiries and friendly questions. If you have the staffing resources, look to ASOS for inspiration and open a Twitter account dedicated to Customer Service (check out @ASOS_HeretoHelp for inspiration).
Use these statistics to strategically place your content on the most relevant channel. Beautifully styled product images are perfect for Instagram whereas new blog posts or educational captions are better for your Facebook audience. Video content is also an incredible way to talk to your customers – show them the behind the scenes (#BTS) of your latest campaign shoot, a quick stop-motion of your accessory line or if you have the resources and if it’s on-brand, a mini film à la Chanel’s famous No5 video. Video content can also be tagged with your products and then shared via Snapchat, Instagram Stories of YouTube with the former’s relevance becoming arguably less than the latter.
Depending on your price point and brand voice, your strategy for social channels with vary. High end brands tend to focus on a more image-orientated platform like Instagram and post aspirational, lifestyle images on their own feed or via influencers. Fast-fashion brands might choose to ride the meme wave and use platforms like Facebook to encourage customers to tag, share and comment to create brand awareness. Through using content scheduler tools like HubSpot, HootSuite or Buffer, you can plan your platform-specific posts ahead of time.
It’s important to make sure your product feed is linked to your social channels to create a seamless experience for your customer if she does want to shop the product in your Facebook or Instagram post. Equally, your boutique details and opening times should be included on your pages keeping in mind that for higher price point items, customers may prefer to visit a physical outlet to experience your brand first-hand. Bridging this gap between your Social and Online dimensions allows your customer to enjoy an omni-channel experience and will reassure her that your brand has consistency and customer experience in mind at all times.
The final dimension this post will explore is your brands’ physical presence.
For pure-play eCommerce stores it’s important to explore the use of a physical outlet as a marketing and engagement tool. If your website is your revenue generator and your digital marketing strategy of social media posts, influencer engagement and AdWords is no longer converting as much as it used or showing the same amount of ROI, leveraging a physical experience could be a great way to reach out to your customers and explore the benefits of omni-channel.
Pure play eCommerce businesses should now begin to think outside the box as the market perspective shifts towards sustainability and longevity they will begin to find themselves in an unfavourable position unless they find a new way to connect with a larger customer base. Distrust of fast-fashion typically stems from a lack of faith in the product quality so the best way to combat this is by putting the product in front of your customers with no upfront cost. Think about the way luxury brands showcase their new collections. How they create hype around a store launch or a runway show. There’s no reason these experiences can’t be adapted to suit a fast-fashion brand and transformed into a marketing initiative. If your buying team is investing heavily in tropical prints, think about a launch party in the Botanical Gardens. If you’re pushing your new swimwear collection, create an activation for your customers at Bondi Icebergs’ famous swim club. If denim is your main offering, why not give your customers a showroom where they can try before they buy? Think about ways to get your physical product in front of your customers and immerse them in the experience you’ve created and if this is purely a marketing tool, create a channel for the customer to complete the sale.
In 2016, Nike commissioned a retail activation made from shipping containers to promote the introduction of its new delivery to Canada service
For luxury brands, your Boutique experience should be the crown jewel of your brands’ offering. From the moment a customer steps into your Boutique, they should have a sense of your brand and your values as a company. To ensure the first impression is the one you wanted them to have, there are a few key aspects to consider. Of paramount importance is your retail team. They should be representative of your brand, well versed in your collection, fabrics and styling as well as impeccably trained in customer service. Also think about your environment. Music, temperature, layout and lighting are all key elements which were explored first in 1973 by Philip Kotler who believed that the retail environment you create has a direct impact on your customers’ shopping behaviour.
To create an omni channel experience in a physical environment is more challenging than in the other two dimensions. With case studies like Farfetch’s Store of the Future and Rebecca Minkoff’s trailblazing in-store technology it can feel like quite an intimidating foray to make. To start off slowly, equip your retail team with iPads to show them the latest campaign videos on your website or to help them check to see if their size is available via the online store if it’s sold out in the boutique. Use the iPad as a data capture point which customers can fill out while you process their sale at the till, or fix it on a wall so they can tap their details in while they browse the store. Implementing a company-wide ERP system to manage your orders, inventory and customers will make an omni-channel strategy much easier to manage as the technology will tie all the stores, digital and physical, together for you creating a smooth transition into loyalty programs, sales tracking and recommended products.
Farfetch’s Store of the Future Vision, an incredible fusion of technology and retail to create the ultimate user journey
For more help creating consistency between your brands’ platforms, get in touch with MindArc today.