The experience of omnichannel explained
“Omni” means “everywhere.” And the omnichannel retail experience goes everywhere a shopper goes. It’s not just multichannel. It’s the experience of seamless shopping via all channels, from smartphone to brick-and-mortar store to desktop. However, with ongoing advancements in technology and business innovation, omnichannel (aka onicommerce) is developing into so much more.
Today, omnichannel shopping is a customer experience that could include mobile ordering and onsite pickup, mobile wallet payments, digital loyalty programs, inventory checks before shopping at a store, mobile apps, product reviews, product comparisons, online returns, shopping cart “wish lists”––and that’s where omnichannel begins.
Stores everywhere and of every size and type are getting creative to deliver a consistent, integrated, convenient shopping experience. And customers, particularly Millennials, expect to flow seamlessly from one device to another, and from one location to another. They expect to have answers and information at their fingertips, and to have it all without a hitch.
Omnichannel is the experience of seamless shopping via all channels, from smartphone to brick-and-mortar store to desktop. Add in new technology and business innovations, and omnichannel is being lifted to a whole new level.
A story of the omnichannel shopping experience
Layla is shopping for some new running shoes. She checks on her mobile device and, after browsing online reviews, finds that her favorite shoe store carries the three pairs that she likes best. There’s a store across town, but do they carry all of the shoes in Layla’s size? She goes onto the store’s app and sees that, yes, that store does have her size in stock.
Layla drives to the store, tries on the shoes, and selects two pairs for purchase. She remembers she has a loyalty coupon from the store saved in the app. Layla pulls it up, and the cashier waves the code near the POS, automatically discounting her shoes. Then Layla uses her phone to access her mobile wallet, and, with another wave near the store’s POS, she pays for her shoes and receives additional loyalty rewards.
Once Layla gets the shoes home, she decides she’d like to return a pair. Rather than drive all the way across town to the store, Layla goes to her desktop and visits the online store, prints out a free return label and drops off her package at the nearby post office. Layla then taps on the shoe store’s mobile app and reviews them for their seamless, easy buying experience––five stars!
5 things a small business can do to elevate the omnichannel experience
For the sake of discussion, let’s assume you have a brick-and-mortar location, as well as an online store. If yours is a small business, you may not have your inventory available for your customers to view, and you may not have your own mobile app.
But, there are a number of things small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can incorporate into the browsing and buying experience that will keep customers coming back. Here are five:
1) Mobile site optimization
Online shopping continues to take over the market share of purchases, and mobile purchases are growing rapidly. Customers expect the desktop and mobile experiences to be the same or similar. So, if you haven’t already, it’s time to optimize how your customers experience your website on a mobile device. Then, integrate your business’s mobile and desktop experience with the instore experience, and you’re on your way to omnichannel retailing.
2) Mobile buy, onsite pick up
A customer may be sitting at a coffee shop when they buy an item from your online store, and they may want that item immediately. If you can have the item ready for that customer when he or she arrives, and top it off with curbside delivery, you may have just won a customer for life.
3) Easy returns
Customers are more likely to buy online if free delivery and free returns are a part of the deal. They also want returns to be easy, and they want options. If customers can choose to print a return shipping label or return at the store with ease, you’ve just given them the benefit of choice and convenience. And who doesn’t want that?
4) Digital wallet payments
If you have a newer EMV chip card POS, you likely have near field communication (NFC) also built into your device. NFC allows you to accept payments from digital wallets, such as Apple Pay, Google Android Pay, Samsung Pay and others. A simple wave of a smartphone near your POS device is about all it takes for your customers to make a purchase with a digital wallet. In addition, Apple Pay can also be used with a simple click on the new MacBook Pro. In-store or online, accepting digital wallet payments makes life easy for everybody––your business included.
5) Digital loyalty program
Keep customers returning to your website and your store with loyalty rewards. Long gone are those dog-eared punch cards, though. Customers expect to be rewarded through an app, by email, by text, or on your website. With every purchase, you may offer them points toward an eventual discount. But get innovative. There are all kinds of rewards you can give customers to entice them to your store––even in real time. If you know a customer is nearby through the location of his or her mobile device, you can send that person a reward coupon for stopping in to your store right now.
Whether you call it omnichannel retailing or omnicommerce, the basic point to keep in mind is that your store goes everywhere your customer goes. The goal is to connect all of your customers’ touch points with your business in order to provide an exceptional shopping experience.