Delivering the Seamless Omni-Channel Experience Your Shoppers Expect
Retail enterprises often organize management departments by channel. There’s the mobile team, the e-Commerce group, the brick-and-mortar operations department. Each department develops their own content, plans their own promotions, uses their own technology and reports to different bosses independent of each other. The trouble with this common scenario, though, is that the retailer’s shopper does not differentiate between channels. These invisible differences on the back-end do not change the shopper’s expectations of its relationship with the brand, but can disrupt the consistent experience shoppers anticipate. Consumers expect the same value, selection, quality, service and overall positive experience across all of the selling channels available to them. It is more critical than ever to deliver on your brand promise, and not just in the store. A seamless omni-channel experience rewards loyal customers and inspires confidence to shop with you again in the future. And with the unlimited choices online shoppers face with even where to shop, much less the infinite selection of product on e-tailers’ endless aisles, winning repeat business in-store, online and on mobile devices is of utmost importance to a retailer’s success. Retailers and e-tailers must think like their customer. When your customers shop with you, which channels are they shopping? What is their path to purchase—are they shopping online before or after a store visit? How near or far do online shoppers live to the closest physical location? Based on these factors, and with customers’ expectations in mind, retailers should evaluate and optimize the following areas to deliver a world class, seamless brand experience at every customer touchpoint: 1. Price and promote consistently across channels. Technology-savvy shoppers are often flummoxed when they find that the price in-store is different from that online. To save the in-store sale, retailers should implement price-matching policies with themselves—the store will match the online price. Integrating technology across different channels’ marketing and sales team can create complimentary pricing policies that reflect similar promotions. Cross-channel pricing is too complex a topic to delve into in-depth here, but it is an area the most successful omni-channel retailers have mastered, and one that all retailers should consider seriously. 2. Offer online shoppers the ability to return merchandise in-store or with a pre-paid returns shipping label for a convenient, hassle-free experience. A return is almost always an experience at least bordering on the negative—perhaps the shopper realized they cannot afford the merchandise, the product was damaged in some way or did not meet the customer’s quality expectations, or the fit was wrong. One of the best ways to deliver a seamless omni-channel experience is to integrate your backend technology and separate digital channels with your traditional brick-and-mortar stores and in-store technology. Allow online shoppers to return merchandise, even online-only merchandise, to the store, and explicitly state this in an easy-to-understand returns policy. This integrated solution would allow for instant or early credit on returned merchandise purchased online but returned in the store, so the consumer is open to buy again onsite and primed for a sales associate to upsell on the original order. An integrated system would also allow online shoppers to print a returns label in the store to send the merchandise back to warehouse. These expedited returns not only benefit customers, they also benefit the retailer by reincorporating the merchandise back into inventory, hopefully before markdowns are made, while a unified inventory system across all channels gives retailers one true version of data from which to base decisions. For the customer that wants to return from home, offer a best in class pre-paid USPS SmartLabel® for a convenient, hassle-free experience. With an intergrated eCcommerce returns label, retailers can leverage email and text notifications to communicate with customers to mimic the up-sell, cross sell and loyalty promotions that your consumers experience when interacting with in-store trained associates. Never lose the power of valuable customer interaction regardless of what channel is used to return merchandise. 3. Deliver the same level of customer service across all channels. Customers expect to be treated well no matter where or how they shopped. If you’re a retailer with a strong reputation for delivering excellent customer service in-store, do not skimp on providing the same level of service to your online, mobile and catalog shoppers. Evaluate your call center capacity and procedures—how long is the wait time? Are your in-store sales associates more knowledgeable or better trained? Is there a language barrier? How often do call center representatives issue refunds versus correct the order to save the sale and capitalize on the customer contact to up-sell? An honest evaluation of customer service across all channels can go a long way in consistently delivering on your brand’s promise. Consistency across all customer channels and touchpoints is the key to satisfying shoppers’ expectations. Positive shopping experiences can create a positive ripple effect across the enterprise, possibly resulting in new customer acquisition and customer retention, reduced call center volume, improved inventory management, better labor planning and more efficient operations, all of which reduce cost. Breaking down organization silos between sales channels not only streamlines enterprise operations, but better enables retailers and e-tailers to deliver exactly what shoppers expect—a seamless omni-channel experience.