Today’s consumers shop via multiple channels. You probably wouldn’t hear them describe it like that, they just see it as what they do. It is normal, they don’t do it consciously, they don’t think of the alternatives.
For example, Jenny wants to make a special meal tonight, but on closely reading the recipe, realises that to make ‘zucchini spaghetti’ by hand is going to be a very fiddly business and she really needs a spiraliser.
She googles spiralisers on her smartphone, and reads up on electric vs manual, the pros and cons of different brands and consumer product reviews, and finally decides on the make she wants. But she needs it today, so can’t order online and wait for delivery. She checks the retailers’ websites for pricing and stock availability and chooses her retailer. She calls to reserve the item and drives off to the store to collect and pay for it.
She swings through the supermarket on the way home for the zucchini and her meal is a great success.
Jenny wouldn’t think there is anything unusual about shopping this way, and she’s not alone. iVend’s survey of the habits of Australian and NZ shoppers tells us that 63% of Australians and 71% of their cousins over the Tasman research a product online once or more before visiting a store to buy.
In that single transaction described above, Jenny had three ‘touchpoints’ with the retailer’s brand:
Their website for product reviews, pricing and stock availability
Touchpoint 1 – website
The local store staff by phone to reserve the item
Touchpoint 2 – local store by phone
The point of sale system and staff when she collected and paid
Touchpoint 3 – local staff in person
If Jenny had researched the item a week before, she might have ordered online and had the spiraliser delivered. 85% of Aussies and Kiwis now shop this way.
Touchpoint 4, e-commerce
She could have ordered online for collection in store
Touchpoint 5 – Click and Collect
On arriving at the store, Jenny might have asked for more information from a staff member armed with a mobile device
Touchpoint number 6 – in-store mobile POS
The point of this story is to illustrate that when we break down what are now seen as normal, everyday transactions, they include many interactions with a retailer’s brand.
But is this omnichannel shopping? Well – yes, and no. If the different channels of interaction are not connected, then this is simply multi-channel.
When the touchpoints are connected, that is where the magic happens… true omnichannel retailing. Omnichannel retail is an ecosystem, where the information from one touchpoint is available, recognised and used by the other touchpoints. Each touchpoint adds value to the others, each re-enforces the positive brand experience, each makes the customer feel that they are known and valued, each touchpoint offers them a reason to keep coming back to the brand. In practical terms, the loyalty points they earn in store are available when they shop online; the items in their online wishlist are known by staff in the store; the offers they receive are personalised and are for items they are interested in purchasing; they are sent a welcome message as they enter the store. It might be some or all of these, but none are possible unless each and every touchpoint, or channel, is connected with the others in a true omnichannel ecosystem.
Brian Walker, CEO and Found of Retail Doctor Group, Australia’s leading retail consultancy, sums it up this way: “Moving from multi-channel to omnichannel strategies is essential for ANZ retailers who want to embrace the digitisation of the retail industry, and create strong relationships with their consumers”
Omnichannel retailing offers the opportunity to deliver outstanding customer experiences. And those experiences are what drives loyalty, which in turn drives greater return visits and increased sales.
Brian Walker summarises it perfectly: “We are in an era of unlimited shopping possibilities for consumers. Retailers that understand this new paradigm and get omnichannel right have the greatest opportunities ahead of them.”