Omni-channel marketing offers a genuine pathway to Australian retail businesses rebuilding in extremely tough conditions. E-commerce is no longer just a temporary fix for the lockdown period or an extra added to the bricks-and-mortar outlet. Operating both clicks and bricks in tandem is the way to increase retail sales.

Following are some omni-channel basics, why a multi-channel strategy is essential, and how this enhanced customer service approach could inspire new ways to nurture your business.

What does omni-channel retail really mean?

Omni channel retail means using your bricks and mortar store and your online store together to provide one effective experience for the customer.

For example, a customer might learn about your brand’s line of products via Facebook on their laptop, then physically view and touch items in your bricks-and-mortar shop, follow up with additional research and price comparisons online and then make a click-and-collect purchase from your website by credit card on a mobile phone.

Although the example sale involves multiple channels – incorporating physical shopping plus various digital devices – it can be a smooth experience for the customer who browses and buys.

Customer buying patterns making an omni-channel strategy vital

The pandemic disruptions have meant consumers had to establish new daily patterns, such as working or studying from home, which disrupted old habits and allowed new shopping behaviours to be entrenched, such as buying online. The EY Future Consumer Index reported that 45% of customers “believe that how they shop will have changed permanently” once the global pandemic crisis is over.

These key consumer habit changes are impacting retail:

  • Customers are driving the disruption of traditional shopping habits, so businesses must read customer reviews and converse in person or online to understand new customer demands

  • Customers want to shop when it suits them, using their available devices

  • The use of smartphones for mobile payments is increasing

  • The volume of transactions via online payments such as ApplePay is increasing

  • If a business doesn’t cater to customers’ online habits, it will miss out on sales and revenue

  • Physical stores are still important but are a step in the customer’s journey rather than the final destination

  • Customers expect a blend of online and in-store shopping, which should be integrated for a convenient shopping experience with one retailer

  • Consumers are better informed and can do research and comparisons quickly

  • Informed consumers are more expressive and choosier about service skills, quality guarantees, value for money and a seamless shopping experience.

What can Parramatta retailers do?

Many bricks and mortar retailers in the Parramatta area have used the lockdown period to enhance their omni-channel approach. They will be at an advantage as we progress out of the lockdown period. Connecting the physical and digital experience for customers will continue to strengthen their business operations.

For hesitant business owners, remember that an omni-channel strategy involves working smarter, not harder. You don’t need a huge investment in all the latest technology to develop a great e-commerce experience for your customers. You will already have many of the tools you need.

Be strategic – map your customer journey

If you are fairly new to an omni-channel approach but appreciate the potential gains for your retail business, a worthwhile exercise is to map your current customer journey.

The customer journey exercise is all about the customer as king. Imagine how you could serve your customer better at each critical point, such as with improved products or services.

Commence the exercise by creating a ‘customer avatar’ – a fictional consumer who represents a typical customer for your business. To fully consider who interacts with your business, where and what challenges they experience, walk your customer avatar through the steps of a purchase.

Follow the avatar

  • Map each point where the avatar customer interacts with your business, starting from when they find out about the business, and covering the purchase decision, delivery and even the after-sales experience. On an average journey, there might be six touch points.
  • Review each interaction point from the customer’s perspective. What would make it easier for the customer?  

Smoothing the customer journey

After identifying the challenges your customer experiences, you and your team need to come up with solutions.

Could you add a click-and-collect option or discount home delivery? Can you streamline the experience? If you already offer them, is your delivery partner matching your service standards?

Look at the sales data you have collected (such as purchase figures and customer reviews) to identify what is most attractive to the customer. Is it the product itself or how you have presented it? Can you apply these findings to your other products? What more can you do as a creative retailer?

Apply industry best practice to enhance customer relations in interactions with your staff and systems. Would a digital loyalty program offer generate excitement? Can you mitigate long waits with increased attention to customers? Can better phone or live chat software communications reduce customer frustration? Would special customer events hosted at your physical outlet make purchasing a memorable experience rather than a transaction?

Adopt the technology that savvy retailers use to upgrade purchasing processes efficiently and economically. This includes live chatbot platforms, multiple online payments options like PayPal, Stripe, Afterpay, or Apple Pay, and a POS system that utilises devices like iPads for cash register transactions and storing customer details. Test before you invest in the technology by practising transactions on the same devices your customers will be using.

As you implement improvements, be vocal about it. Your business marketing should highlight the array of customer options and user-friendliness of new systems. Employ multiple channels, including social media, blog articles and flyers, but keep messaging consistent across all channels.

As the customer will access your business through different channels, depending on their situation and mood at a given point in time, taking a multi-pronged approach to customer communications and marketing is the best response.

Benefits to retailers

The benefits to shopfront retailers are clear: an omni-channel approach will make your business more competitive in today’s marketplace. Move beyond your storefront and your pre-pandemic workable business model. Expand your horizons and connect your physical and digital channels.

Clicks plus bricks provides a better customer experience and boosts results. Omni-channel marketing businesses have seen higher revenue and improved customer retention rates, according to recent studies.

Multiple channel commerce also allows you to collect accurate and useful sales data, especially from online transactions. This valuable information enables your business to tune into customer needs, which will pay off in increased future sales.

Realise Business can help Parramatta retail businesses plan, upgrade, implement and balance an omni-channel marketing strategy. Book in your free advisory session today