The dos and don’ts of omnichannel retail

Nima-Yassini-omnichannel-retail-advice

New Republique co-founder Nima Yassini. Source: supplied.

The response to COVID-19 has forced many businesses that previously relied on physical stores to become digital-first.

For the most part, e-commerce has helped many brands survive and some have even won new customers from the shift.

Now that Australia has started to open up, retailers need to invest in their omnichannel experience to ensure they satisfy both types of customer. 

Don’t rely on ad spend

Buying traffic has become expensive because the brands forced online have become reliant on services such as Google, affiliates such as iSelect and social media platforms, which has increased the cost-per-visit of each customer.

However, bringing traffic to your site is only the first step of a successful e-commerce strategy. 

If you fail to retain or engage visitors, then buying traffic is near worthless.

The most effective strategy is to focus on experience and conversion, which increases your relevance and reduces your cost-per-click.

Focus on a balance of buying traffic and engagement, including creating targeted landing pages and creating a clear customer journey.

Understand the customer experience

The online version of a customer experience is not a replica of a physical store, but there are a few ways to attain the functionality of a store with the utility of a website.

Firstly, make sure your website branding aligns with your physical branding to assure customers that they have come to the right place.

Don’t, however, make your website a brochure for your brand.

The customer is already there for a reason, and the website should help them find what they are looking for, whether that’s more information on a product or a way to browse for or purchase an item they want.

Website features such as a search bar and visual filters can accelerate customers through the funnel.

Through our experimentation work with various retailers, we’ve found that a customer who uses visual filters is more likely to look at a product page and, eventually, make a purchase.

Why? Visual filters help customers reduce choice and that action has a high correspondence with a purchase.

Similarly, having a prominent search bar also helps the customer narrow their choices and gives you an indication of what they seek.

There are also a number of psychological tricks you can employ to assist with and influence decision-making.

Choice architecture — where you give your customers options but design the selection in a way that favours a particular choice — is a favourite, and can be used effectively online.

Sales tactics such as showing social proof (other people buying the product or rating the product), scarcity (‘only [numnber] left’ or ‘sale ends soon’) or providing incentives to buy (‘gift with purchase’ or ‘free shipping over $100’) can be somewhat easier online than in-store, with live updates of inventory or time-sensitive deals.

Connect the channels

Ensure the transition between channels is as seamless as possible.

Customer journey-mapping will show how customers interact with your brand both off and online and how they move between them.

A true omnichannel approach requires knowing the impact of each device and how they connect.

A click-and-collect service, for example, is an important transitional experience that offers the convenience of shopping online and also allows the customer to experience the brand in-store when they collect their order. How seamless this experience is differentiates a good experience from a bad one.

Don’t forget to transition the other way as well.

In-store retail is better at creating emotional connection than e-commerce, which leans towards functionality.

Using limbic mapping techniques, we can create the emotional resonance of a store experience using behavioural cues in the online experience.

The assistant’s dual role

Most retailers know that an e-commerce website is a sales tool, but you also need customer service.

Webchat is a useful way to employ the dual sales and customer service function for e-commerce.

Through experimentation, you’ll discover when to approach a website visitor and the effectiveness of different scripts, which can lead to increased sales, cart value and/or customer satisfaction.

It can also lead to cost-saving, for example, by helping customers with sizing to prevent the expense of handling returns.

Consider connecting the chat and in-store experience by using transcripts to better inform in-store staff of customer sentiment and demand online and test to see if they have the same result.

Invest in customer retention

A good omnichannel approach to unite your view of the customer is to offer a membership program.

Online, create a members’ area where customers are given features such as wishlists, can see their purchase history and store their info for easy purchasing next time.

Make sure they can use this membership online and in-store so you can see their behaviour across both channels.

Replicating your physical store online is not a matter of copy-and-paste.

The elements that make the in-store retail experience strong — from branding and layout to customer service and sales functionality — need to be present, but understanding how to funnel traffic, create an effective customer experience and use website tools to assist with sales will make a huge difference to ensuring leads become profitable.

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