by Amber Foster
When it comes to customer engagement, retailers have more opportunities – and more challenges – than ever before. On one hand, there are more ways to engage with a new generation of mobile-first, digitally connected consumers. On the other, the ubiquity of technology in our everyday lives is blurring the lines between the physical and virtual worlds. Because of this, consumers expect brands to connect the dots across every engagement, whether they are visiting your retail store, calling your customer service desk, or interacting with your social media accounts.
The modern consumer expects today’s retailers to create an omni-channel customer experience – personalized, meaningful brand engagements that occur seamlessly across all screens and devices. Moving your customer experience (CX) strategy omni-channel isn’t just a good idea, its a MUST for retailers that wish to remain competitive in the marketplace. Failure to make this a top priority could spell big trouble for your business in the long run. Here are a few tips to help you get started with omni-channel CX.
Make Meaningful Connections Online and Offline
To understand the impact that customer experience can have on a retail brand, one needs to look no further than the Sears department store. Sears The 126-year-old retail giant held steady growth for more than a century and was once the nation’s largest retailer. Sears dominated the retail market for decades with tactics like innovative product advertising, consumer education and corporate branding, even during economic downturns. But even giants fall.
Despite having previously survived many market calamities throughout its history, Sears found itself in the throes of bankruptcy in late 2018, during a period of economic expansion. Where did the retailer go wrong and what can other companies learn from their mistakes? The downfall of Sears offers important lessons for retailers.
Sears didn’t fail because they fell behind on technology; in fact, they were one of the pioneers of the online retail space. Website functionality is certainly important for retailers, but the offline-to-online customer experience is ultimately what matters most. While Sears did a great job of staying current on technology, they did little to connect their customers online and offline customers with their value proposition.
Today’s customers expect brands to provide a personalized experience that occurs seamlessly across every channel. In today’s highly competitive market, retailers need to stand out from the crowd, meet customers where they are, and get their attention. Customers won’t be compelled to buy from you if they don’t feel a connection with your brand.
Apply People-Based Marketing
Traditional marketing uses a multi-channel approach, which segments media campaigns by channel, such as linear television and digital media. The problem with this approach is that it creates silos in which data sets are disconnected from each other.
Today’s brands must move toward a people-based marketing strategy, where the customer is the central focal point. A people-based marketing strategy moves multichannel interactions into an omni-channel focus, helping you gain a clear picture of how your customers interact with your brand across every channel. People-based marketing puts the customer at the core to ensure a completely consistent, unified experience at every touch point.
The Aberdeen Group reports that businesses with strong omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain 89 percent of their customers compared to only 33 percent for companies with weak strategies. Acting now could give you a heavy leg up on the competition. Consider these recent findings:
> By 2020, the demand for an omni-channel customer experience will be amplified by the need for nearly perfect execution.
>Just 9% of businesses have fully functioning systems that allow them to consistently engage customers across channels
>Only 26% of companies have yet to take any action regarding an omni-channel strategy.
“Businesses with strong omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain 89 percent of their customers compared to only 33 percent for companies with weak omni-channel strategies.”
Invest in the Right Marketing Technologies
Are You Using the Right Data Management Tools to Succeed?
The process of putting customer expectations first requires technologies to deliver your most relevant and consistent message across the media ecosystem. New data management systems that help connect the dots between your online and offline touch points are becoming widely available.
Selecting data management tools based on your infrastructure, sales process and business goals is key.
If your brand is in the market for a new data management system, our free evaluation checklist can help you select the best tools and platforms to succeed.
One example of a data management system is an Audience Management Platform (AMP). An AMP helps retailers connect data silos across disparate systems, and create a 360-degree view of your customers. AMPs can track customer engagements from offline to online, like in-store traffic at brick-and-mortar locations and online traffic on your e-commerce websites. These insights help retailers tailor messaging to individuals based on shopping behaviors and past purchases.
User profiles are another powerful tool for retailers looking to improve omni-channel CX. Profiles allow shoppers to take purchase and browsing history with them across channels. A user profile simplifies the process of multi-channel shopping. Customers can begin shopping online and visit brick-and-mortar stores to complete their transactions in person. Smartphone app technology can help simplify the online to offline customer experience by offering coupons and discounts, interactive in-store catalogs, and in-stock availability at brick-and-mortar locations.
While retailers like Sears are struggling to adapt to the new omni-channel CX, others are revamping their systems to stay competitive in the marketplace. Big retailers like Target and Walmart are doubling down on their investments in technology to connect CX across their brick-and-mortar shops and e-commerce stores. Their investments reflect how important it is for retailers to build seamless CX across every channel that meet increasing expectations of today’s consumers .