Omnichannel

Here’s what it takes to build an omnichannel retail strategy that actually converts


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    Meg Buchanan
  • Sep 13, 2021
TLDR

To create an effective omnichannel approach, retailers must consider these four integral pillars across every aspect of their strategy. 

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Creating a cohesive customer experience on and offline is the future of retail. After COVID-19, retailers can no longer afford to put all of their sales resources into an exclusively brick and mortar model.

We’re already seeing this shift with as many as 46 percent of retail executives saying they’ll increase investment in omnichannel, as opposed to their investment planning prior to the pandemic. 

With many companies rushing during COVID-19 to have an online presence across their customers' preferred digital channels, businesses are now realizing new problems with silos between their channels—which is impacting their overall customer experience.

An omnichannel retail strategy can help alleviate the silos that come with a multi-channel presence. Synchronizing both in-person and digital sales channels into a connected seamless experience is the key to helping retailers optimize for future growth and better prepare for more workforce agility into the future.

To create an effective omnichannel strategy, however, retailers must consider every aspect of their strategy across their sales, marketing, operations, and fulfillment channels—the four pillars of omnichannel success. Doing so will drive convenience and personalization for their customers, two factors that also influence their buying decisions. Here’s how to build an omnichannel strategy that converts. 

Pillar I: Establishing your sales channels

Your sales channels must make it very easy for your customers to find what they need from you. 

Just because a channel exists doesn’t make it useful, or even usable. Launching campaigns on every possible channel to reach your customers shows a lack of strategy about who your customer is and where they prefer to shop. On the other hand, putting all your resources into one channel isn’t a great strategy either in case that channel becomes unavailable (such as store closures during the pandemic).

Analyzing the data at your disposal and doing research around where your sales come from and who your audience is will give you a good idea of where you should be focusing your efforts in reaching your customers. A sales channel can be anywhere a shopper interacts with your business from in-person stores to social media ads. 

The ideal omnichannel sales strategy will look different for each retailer depending on their target market, but the goal should be to determine the best channels for your customer to find you in order to optimize for traffic, sales, loyalty, and lifetime value (LTV).

Pillar II: Marketing that matters

Of course, it’s not enough to know and be on the sales channels that your customers are shopping on. You also must market to them correctly to drive that revenue on those channels. 

The channels you choose to be on also must drive action at each stage of the marketing funnel, from awareness to conversion, to customer retention. 

This means making sure you’re showing your customers your business in the right place at the right time with the right message. Facebook ads to television commercials, making your money count by being aware of where your audience is, and marketing correctly on each channel, will either help or hinder your audience in getting through your marketing funnel. 

The point isn’t to advertise everywhere (we all know companies who just are adding noise to every channel) but rather to develop a marketing strategy that meets the needs of the specific audience you're targeting. For example, if you’re a hotel, you may share that you have a free continental breakfast on a billboard on the side of a highway, but focus your social media ads on sitting by the pool during an upcoming spring break. 

Once again, knowing your audience, and why and how they shop, is a core component of delivering messaging that drives awareness, engagement, and conversion. When you consider adding new marketing channels, ask who you’re reaching and why you’re reaching them—as opposed to just thinking you need to be on the latest and greatest platform. 

Finally, connecting internally to synchronize messaging is also important to your strategy. If certain teams manage certain channels (for example, marketing handles email campaigns, while social media is handled by social strategy teams) the result can be confusing, ambiguous messaging leaving a customer to wonder what a brand really stands for.

Pillar III: Retail operations at scale

Something that hit particularly close to home for most retailers during COVID-19 was the lack of clarity between actual available inventory and what was listed as available online. 

This is where an omnichannel strategy is particularly important for existing customers. It is not a great customer experience to find out that the item you just ordered is not only out of stock but out of stock indefinitely. 

In this way, it’s critical for channels to also serve as a way to keep customers in the loop about important information on their orders, inventory availability, and more. The most current available inventory in your physical store should match what’s on your third-party app channel, which should match what’s on your website. 

When you have silos brought on by a disconnected multi-channel strategy, you run the risk of the data on each platform being out of sync with each other. With each new channel you bring on, the goal should always be to have updated inventory availability, the location of that inventory, an estimate of when it will be delivered, and how much it will cost to do so.

This is also where having a customizable platform that allows you to build in new channels as you see fit is incredibly useful, helping automate and optimize the sales process for both your customers and your employees. A good omnichannel operations strategy and the technology that supports it should allow you to work smarter, not harder. 

Pillar IV: A retail fulfillment strategy that delivers

All of this leads us into our fourth omnichannel pillar, which is often where the biggest bottleneck and headache occurs for both retailers and customers alike. It’s also a huge opportunity to really (pun intended) deliver a quality ending to your customer’s experience. 

A strong omnichannel strategy for fulfillment can help ensure that the last mile of your delivery to your customer is seamless and effective as well as increase operational efficiency by using new channels to mobilize workers faster. Such a strategy involves technology such as AI self-service features on your site and/or app, allowing your customers to check in on their orders through their channels of choosing, and even employing a full-service programmable contact center so your employees can help your customers faster with the order they are looking into.

This also requires a new level-setting with the current supply chain situation brought on by the pandemic and the ups and downs around it, but by managing customer expectations about delivery times ahead of their order, you also can alleviate your customer service from an onslaught of angry emails/phone calls if a customer’s order is delayed.  

Taking the time to find a platform that lets you integrate shipping software that pairs with all your channels and can provide reasonable estimates around shipping times is crucial in this regard.

Grow your retail strategy from a strong omnichannel foundation

A strong omnichannel strategy can make a difference in delivering a smooth, consistent experience for both your customers and the employees who support their journey. As you make decisions around expanding into new channels, considering your sales, marketing, operations, and fulfillment options for each are integral to the success of the said channel. 

Customers expect consistent experiences across all touch-points and retailers must adapt accordingly to accommodate this. Learn more about how to develop your omnichannel strategy here

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Meg Buchanan

Meg Buchanan is a Colorado native, a Kansas Jayhawk, and a proud multi-tasking millennial. As Twilio's Content Marketing Manager, she has more than seven years of experience writing for both agencies and in-house brands on topics from healthcare to hospitality.