Imagine you walk into a store, and after a bit of shopping, you find a jacket and pair of jeans you like. You scan them into the store’s app with your phone and complete your purchase right there. Just like that, you’re good to go.
Or, perhaps, you don’t want to browse the entire store, so maybe you do the shopping on your couch using your laptop. After finding the clothes you want, you pay online and go to the store to pick them up.
These situations are simple examples of omnichannel retail shopping. Omnichannel is shopping that combines both the physical and digital experience with new ways of marketing to provide a seamless customer experience with connective tissue running through all marketing efforts, fully encircling the potential customer. If done well, it ensures brick-and-mortar stores maximize every square foot of space.
If you polled the public, the consensus might be that retail shopping is transitioning into a more online-exclusive experience, this is not the case. Instead, omnichannel retail shopping is an opportunity for brick-and-mortar stores to get the most out of their storefront in exciting new ways. It’s a more cohesive shopping experience that uses all the channels—as “omni” suggests.
The latest episode of Anstandig on the Future discusses how omnichannel shopping ultimately provides new potential for innovative businesses and a more convenient shopping environment for customers.
Brick and mortar shopping is not transitioning into a future of online-only sales. It’s evolving, improving, and becoming more customer-centric as digital marketing campaigns not only drive awareness of brands, but also educate consumers about the brands as well through socials, videos, and even blog posts. When mastered, this can turn a brick-and-mortar store seeking foot traffic into a retail superhero.
As online shopping has increased in popularity, consumers are more frequently exhibiting one of two behaviors when it comes to researching a product before purchasing.
The first is “showrooming.” This consists of an individual testing a product within a physical store but then proceeding to purchase the product online. The other behavior, “webrooming,” is the opposite. The individual will research a product digitally, then go and purchase it in a physical location. Without an omnichannel presence, there would be no shifting between the digital and physical, meaning these consumers are more likely to purchase a product because of the two interactive spaces.
This interaction between physical and digital when purchasing a product may seem abnormal at first, but according to Harvard Business Review, consumers who used more channels when deciding on their purchase were more likely to be loyal customers. Additionally, individuals who had interacted with both physical and digital locations spent four percent more in-store and ten percent more online when compared to single-channel consumers.
This provides a visible example of how the omnichannel approach can be effective.
As a result of the pandemic, companies such as Walmart and Best Buy started converting sections of their physical stores into fulfillment centers. Kroger is touting the strength of its omnichannel shopping ecosystem as part of its recent earnings results, and Target is talking about the future of the omnichannel customer experience.
Another example is a startup by the name of Alert Innovation, which has designed a futuristic model for a grocery store. In this design, the customer only physically gathers fresh market goods, while a robot collects the packaged items that the customer had electronically communicated.
Ultimately, we can see that even in the rise of digital abilities regarding consumption, it would still potentially involve a strong omnichannel approach.
Individuals shop at a retail store for several reasons – some of which online shopping will never be able to imitate.
For example, there’s a sense of destination when it comes to brick-and-mortar shopping. Consumers are taking an excursion out of their house, going on an adventure to seek unexpected bargains, buys, and loot from their favorite stores. This is experiential shopping unlike anything a web browser can provide… and when customers go, they also spend more!
Another strength of physical stores is that they offer more personalization to individuals. Many of the brick-and-mortar stores with the most foot traffic are the ones offering more personalization in the shopping experience and therefore playing on a natural human desire.
As technology improves, so does a store’s ability to combine personalization and advertising more and more simply. In the future, companies will be catering to individual customers. In other words, retail is going to be solely about you!
A current example of this is online simulators using face recognition to show how you’d look in specific clothing items.
Here are a few different ways the omnichannel shopping experience will continue to evolve in the future.
1. METHODICALLY DESIGNED VIRTUAL EXPERIENCE OF PHYSICAL STORES. Retailers create a VR tour of their physical store. There are resources such as Obsess that make it simple to build. This allows consumers to roam the store virtually.
2. STRATEGIC DATA GATHERING ON CUSTOMERS. Many SMBs are already using services like Shopify, which allows you to log an individual’s information and streamline the process while building a database.
3. THE POWER OF LOYALTY PROGRAMS. Retailers will invest in loyalty programs or leverage products like Smile.io, which provides customer loyalty programs both online and in-store.
4. CONVERTING DIGITAL BROWSING TO IN-STORE VISITS. A new metric of success: how many digital browsers showed up in the store? There are already technologies designed to accelerate conversion, like Hero, which encourages customers to browse physical stores digitally while also giving them the ability to set up appointments to buy products in person or remotely.
5. RATING AND REVIEW MANAGEMENT: Over half of consumers read at least four reviews before buying a product, and half of internet users post reviews at least once a month. In other words, customers are more likely to trust a shop and buy from it if reviews are present, so review and brand management are crucial.
6. CONNECTING IN NEW WAYS. Well-placed influencer reviews and physical ads are essential to becoming an omnichannel operation. While happy customers will always be loyal customers, retail marketers will constantly have to learn new ways of connecting with customers as we evolve.
The omnichannel will not only change shopping… it will improve it. If you’re interested in learning more, give the episode a listen, and be sure to check out all the other episodes of Anstandig on the Future.