By: Tony Giudici
Blending Retail is a special new series on our blog, detailing the new path to retail business success. In Part 1, you'll learn about why omnichannel isn't cutting it anymore and why retailers embracing new "Blended Retail Experience" are best set up to grow and prosper.
What is omnichannel (omni-channel, omni channel, ugh?!)?
We're going to go with omnichannel. It has been many years that retailers have been focused on how best to compete and deliver a better experience with both online and brick-and-mortar experience. You may be familiar with the buzz word "Omnichannel." What is omnichannel? How is it implemented; and what is its purpose? Omnichannel is the term retailers use to describe an experience that would deliver a seamless customer centric experience regardless of channel. The purpose was to simplify the sales process and provide a sales experience that allowed customers to have access to merchandise available either on-line or in-store; providing immediate availability to purchase, with no more out of stock or a potential loss of a sale.
Omnichannel systems make it easy for customers to buy from you, which makes it easier for you to make customers happy.
The overall goal of omnichannel is to make the experience with your brand/store as seamless and easy as possible regardless of channel. True omnichannel success requires that you use all the tools you have by blending the digital resources with brick-and-mortar, enlisting trusted associates and partners to provide and offer real solutions and services. An online example of this is by tapping into your abandoned cart information and figuring out why people are leaving when shopping online. An in-store example is not letting a customer walk out empty handed, whether you offer an incentive, digital coupon or other online or retail option.
The new customer experience
Customers today are progressively buying more experiences and less products. Many customers are beginning to abandon the online shopping cart due to lackluster offers and are looking for something beyond just a transaction. The online shopping experience has become so undifferentiated its making consumers look elsewhere. Turning the online shopping environment into an experience will be key for 2018. The need for a differentiating experience is essential to build customer and brand loyalty. The advance in technology and social media communication has paved the way to improve retail interactions and customer rapport making it easier to provide solutions and products that fulfill their needs. The convergence and blending of an updated online experience combined with new brick- and-mortar store formats that focus on an experience that correctly identifies your brand and product is essential.
Retailers are also investing in people, the trusted advisor or a 3rd party partner for recommendations to complete this new omni-experience. In a lot of ways, small businesses have an advantage here. Smaller businesses sell less items, have fewer customers, and typically have a better understanding of the products they sell. Instead of relying on an algorithm to suggest something to go with a sweater, you can just pull a skirt off the shelf. Larger retailers are moving Customer Service online and to mobile, and customers love it. For the in-store experience however; there is not a lot that beats a smile and a friendly attitude. All these interactions improve your customer rapport and overall experience greatly. These are all actions that have only been available due to the advances and seamless integration of our digital world today. Being mobile-friendly is no longer an option – it’s an imperative.
Small businesses have an advantage in this new omni-experience.
The Blended Retail Experience
As a retailer, you need to ensure that your online and blended presence fosters relationships with this enormous market of potential and existing customers. That means the digital experience in all aspects must make sure the customer journey is a smooth one. Catering to mobile customers means configuring your online presence to their needs. More and more consumers are connecting via mobile and there is no choice for retailers but to respond with enhanced access and experiences. Note: the mobile experience is both an online and in-store experience.
In 2018, the world’s largest brands will foreshadow an entirely new and revolutionary era of retail that looks like the aspects discussed above more clearly than ever before. As most brands look to leave their retailers obsolete with a direct-to-consumer only approach, the best brands will give their retailers the tools to sell more and create a better customer experience. These experiences will stand out as they cannot be produced online and will build brand loyalty by moving beyond just the transaction.
This new “Blended Retail Experience,” with the convergence of our digital tools, combined with a solutions oriented experience, delivered by a trusted associate or 3rd party partner, provides something much more than a simple transaction. This is a total solution to create a lasting relationship that will truly allow the retail experience to prosper and grow in the future.
In upcoming blogs, I look forward to following what one retailer is doing to provide solutions and services by providing an In-store Business Professional to connect with local businesses. This Big Box Retailer and its partnerships with Local Chambers of Commerce and Excelerate America is truly redefining their brand.
Tony Giudici is a Director of Market Development for Excelerate America, a community-driven business accelerator that helps small businesses excel and grow in the digital economy. You can ask him more questions on the new Blended Retail Experience anytime by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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