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Omnichannel: the secret to meeting consumer expectations

Growth Secrets|06.09.2016

It’s a given that the customer should be at the heart of any retailer’s business strategy. After all, what is the point of running a brick-and- mortar or eCommerce business if you can't meet your customers' needs and grow your bottom line?

Customer-centricity; however, requires a deep understanding of consumer behaviour patterns and preferences, both of which are highly influenced by technological innovation, amongst other things.

Take a look around you. Mobile technology has advanced at lightening speed in the last decade, and its impact can be felt in all aspects of our lives. It’s changed the way we communicate, learn, seek entertainment, and by extension, the way we shop.

Today, consumers want to browse and buy on their own terms, whether in a physical store or online; from their smartphone, tablet, computers or a combination of the three; at all hours of the day or night. It doesn’t end there. Shoppers expect a consistent experience across a variety of different sales channels and platforms to such an extent that they require the same level of service wherever they choose to interact with your business.

Essentially, the modern-day shopper demands what the industry has come to refer to as the “omnichannel retail experience”.

What is omnichannel retail?

No longer an ambiguous buzzword, “omnichannel” is a concept that has completely reshaped the retail landscape as we’ve come to know it, forcing retailers to rethink the way they run their businesses. 

Omnichannel retail is an approach that involves fusing online and in-store sales channels to form an all-in-one shopping platform. This integration of channels creates a unified operation, which offers the customer a seamless experience and provides the retailer with a single platform from which to manage all facets of their business. 

Who is the omnichannel customer?

The rise in popularity of omnichannel retailing is a direct response to consumer expectations. No longer devoted to a single path to purchase, omnichannel customers want to research products at home or on the go, yet also want to be able to touch, test-drive or try them out in-store. They want to buy items online and pick them up just as much as they want to make in-store purchases and have them shipped to their door. 

The omnichannel customer is the modern-day shopper. It’s someone who jumps from one medium or platform to the next without thinking; someone who, as they move from channel to channel, expects a consistent experience — from basic branding to product offering and service quality. The omnichannel customer demands the power to choose how, when and where they interact with your brand. 

Now that you know who the omnichannel customer is, you need to figure out how to meet their expectations, because if you don’t, these shoppers are bound to find a retailer that will. 

How can you meet omnichannel shoppers’ expectations?

Providing an omnichannel experience goes above and beyond maintaining a digital and physical presence. It also requires more than simply matching colours, themes, language and products across channels. 

Retailers must develop a deep understanding of how their shoppers think as well as what they really want. They need tools that enable them to follow shoppers as they flow from their websites, into their physical stores, onto their social media pages and back again. They must have access to data that sheds light on specific consumer behaviour and preferences. The more refined the data, the more personalised the experience a retailer can offer and the stronger the loyalty they can build amongst shoppers.

An omnichannel solution merges brick-and-mortar and eCommerce operations, allowing retailers to reap the benefits of a single business management platform. By providing retailers with a single source of data spanning multiple channels, this solution paints a comprehensive picture of their business and offers a wealth of customer data, which can be used to drive sales and build stronger relationships. Equipped with information such as brand or shipping preferences, sizing details, birthdays and location, retailers are better able to target their customers with relevant information that is more likely to elicit some form of conversion.

What does omnichannel success look like?

Lightspeed customer Ashley Meier, owner of Ashley Meier Linens | Interiors, is a perfect example of omnichannel retailing done right. Though she opened her brick-and-mortar in early 2015; she had always aspired to sell online in the hopes of reaching a wider customer base. That her retail EPOS system could integrate with Lightspeed’s eCommerce platform meant she would be able to depend on one solution to help her expand to into the world of eCommerce. 

Since taking on an omnichannel approach, Ashley has enjoyed a number of benefits. First, she’s managed to save a ton of time with regard to inventory management. Her physical and digital shops now share a single inventory, allowing her to automate her stock management process while limiting the number of out-of-stock notifications her online customers receive. She has also gained a much more thorough understanding of her business. From inventory levels to product and channel performance, the reports she gets take into consideration both her online and physical operations, enabling her to make more educated decisions. By providing her customers shopping (online and in-store), pick-up and shipping options, she’s attracted a loyal following; accommodating their every need regardless of where they are located. As for her profits? She’s open for business 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. Not only is she providing her customers with the flexibility to choose what time to shop with her; she is literally making sales while she sleeps!

As evidenced by Ashley, omnichannel success involves connecting with customers at the right time and via the right channel. It requires retailers to meet shoppers in-store and online, on any device and at all hours. To become a successful omnichannel retailer, you need to understand what makes your customers tick and target them with relevant messages based on hard data. To do so effectively requires a retail management platform that takes into consideration all aspects of your business.

Though the shift towards omnichannel is still in the process of playing itself out, retailers who refuse to adapt and accommodate omnichannel customers are putting the longevity and overall success of their business at risk.

Find out more about a single solution for your ecommerce and brick-and-mortar store or creating a more consistent, omnichannel experience for your customers, head over to www.lightspeedhq.co.uk

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