Autospeak-Straight Talk contains articles covering digital and social media marketing social communities and events marketing
Autospeak-Straight Talk

View All Blog Posts

Bookmark and Share

Omni-Channel Retail: Joining Up The Consumer Experience

(Posted on Jul 22, 2013 at 04:55PM )
By using an omni-channel approach, the Topshop brand has generated a year’s worth of average Facebook activity in just four days. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP The exponential growth of digital has created an environment that 20 years ago didn't exist, and even today we are still finding our way around it.

Young people have grown up in this digital environment and are unafraid to use it. What is clear is that if we want to survive and prosper in this new digital era, we need to look at not only what it can do for our brands, but also what it can't.

And the one thing that online can't reproduce is the physical interaction between your consumer and the product. Offline gives us the opportunity to fulfil other senses that are involved in making a purchase. A physical place is somewhere to return a product, to have a conversation with someone face-to-face. It's a place where an issue can be resolved immediately. Online customer service has a lot to live up to.

In a recent survey, 60% of respondents said that they expected converged retail channels to be the norm by 2014. But more than half of shoppers said that most retailers lack consistency in the way they present themselves across channels.

Your customers will trust someone who is reliable, consistent in what they say, how they say it and what they promise. But more importantly, they expect to have the same brand experience wherever and whenever they interact with your brand.

The future is omni-channel By 2014, nearly everyone in western Europe and the US will have access to a smartphone connected to the internet. The world is already populated by brand-savvy consumers who are now in control. They say where and when they want to shop, and in some cases, what they are prepared to pay for a product. Retailers can't afford to let any moment of their customer brand experience to be less than rewarding, responsive and reliable.

The future is omni-channel: a mix of all the different ways people like to shop, blended together but all saying the same things. This means in store, on the web, through mobile, TV and social media.

Global research expert Forrester has speculated that the future consumer will want not just responsive interactions but adaptive ones, with content delivered in a way that best suits them as individuals, and their particular device.

Digital experiences will need to be more contextual, possibly including location, purchase history and recommendations. Devices will sync together and with other products allowing people to order from one device and check progress of delivery from another. And information visualisation – shortened to "infovis" – will need to be mainstream.

Brands taking the leadAlthough this digital integration is still in its infancy, some brands are already beginning to adopt it, including Burberry, Topshop, Hollister and M&S. Topshop recently launched a campaign where shoppers received a free styling and make-up session and were invited to create a digital 'Wish you were at Topshop' postcard using Instagram.

Once the postcard photo had been taken, they were given a copy to take home and were also able to upload it to Facebook and the Topshop gallery. To date it has generated 640 blog posts, with a reach of 1.4 million, as well as 5.3m views on Facebook and 2,000 comments. That's a year's worth of its usual Facebook activity in just four days. And as a result, it has become the number one fashion retailer on Instagram.

Or take M&S, a stalwart of the high street, yet embracing online and offline integration with Wi-Fi in store. The brand is also investing in connecting mobile web to the in-store experience. M&S sales assistants will carry tablet devices, and touchscreen kiosks are placed throughout stores to engage shoppers and make customer service easier.

If all channels are connected, customers can start their journey on one channel and complete it on another, creating seamless experiences that increase convenience and engagement, and with consistent brand experience.

Written by Max Eaglen

DealerNet Services