Thanks to an explosion in the use of mobile devices and PCs connected to the Internet, consumers are more connected to one another and to the sources of information they need to make truly informed purchasing decisions. The same technology and retail channels are revolutionizing not only how we buy items and share details about them, but also how businesses can market them more effectively.
After all, the more information you can get about your current and potential customers, the better off your business prospects will be. In order to get a “360-degree” view of consumers, many organizations are revamping their operations, going from the multi-channel retail model and adopting an omni-channel approach.
To put it simply, in multi-channel retailing, companies give customers a choice of independent sales channels through which to purchase items and services, including brick-and-mortar establishments, catalog sales, e-commerce, calls to contact centers and orders made via mobile devices. In omni-channel retail, a company gives customers more opportunities to interact with them to boost brand awareness and fuel the growth of operations.
For example, the restaurant chain Chipotle lets customers place orders online from any computer and then come to the nearest location to pick up their meal, or even order food on the go using a smartphone app. Starbucks has mastered omni-channel retailing, letting customers top off their Starbucks card balance with a mobile device, computer or inside any store, and their records will be updated across all devices automatically.
How is Omni-channel Different from Multi-channel Retail?
Each channel is considered a touch point where consumers interact with your brand. People can reach and experience your company in a variety of ways, ranging from your website, the mobile version of the site, the physical store, a print or online catalog, an online mall and all the different social networks where your organization has accounts.
In the multi-channel approach, consumers use any of these channels to research, do comparison-shopping and make purchases, but the channels are disconnected, keeping retailers from getting crucial information and insight into shoppers.
With an omni-channel approach, customers have a seamless experience and can transition from one channel to the next with zero interruption. You’ll see a customer getting advice from friends through social media, make a purchase with a smartphone app and then have it delivered to the office the next day. Upon finding out that the item is not satisfactory, the customer can bring it into a brick-and-mortar store for a refund or exchange.
What Should We Do About It?
The most important thing a company can do about omni-channel retail is to think like the customer. You need to see how your customers are interacting with your brand and what will make it easiest for them in terms of touch points.
Develop an app for customers to use on smartphones and tablets, for example, and make sure that you have a mobile-friendly version of your company’s website. Increase your use of social media so that you can meet customers where they are.
Pay attention to the overall customer service experience and you will be well on your way toward optimizing all retail channels into a more useful omni-channel experience.
Beacons Show the Path
Having a bell sound every time a customer enters the store is the old-fashioned way of alerting owners to new business opportunities. Now, beacons from PayPal and Apple are making news, showing retailers more information about customers as they walk into the building.
Beacons rely on Bluetooth Low Energy to establish zones in the store. When a customer walks through a zone while carrying a smartphone, the system sends a message to the mobile device. Customers receive promotional messages that are context-sensitive, such as announcing a bargain on items only as the customer walks through a particular aisle.
The professionally trained developers at OpenXcell can help your company take advantage of the power of omni-channel retailing. We have experience creating customized, branded mobile apps and websites for businesses and our marketing experts will work with you to get the best return on your investment. For details, please contact OpenXcell today.