Omnichannel retail experiences are now table stakes
COVID-19 compressed what would have been several years of digital and eCommerce growth into just a few months, with companies like Microsoft estimating that as much as two years’ worth of digital transformation happened in the span of just two months. Online retail sales grew significantly throughout 2020 and 2021, with sales expected to reach well over $500 billion in 2022 in the U.S. alone. This data points to the conclusion that digital retailing will continue to trend upward, even when the pandemic is in our rear-view mirror.
COVID-19 wasn’t just a catalyst for digital acceleration. Rather, it represents a pivotal moment in history that has resulted in a massive, permanent shift in consumer behavior. Buying behavior is now far from linear. Consumers expect to weave in and out of channels testing a product in-store or through augmented reality, researching online, buying in-store, reading reviews, using on-demand chat features, picking up curbside, and so forth. All of this points to the need to build an omnichannel approach to your retail experience.
The strongest omnichannel retailing strategies deliver a consistent, seamless, and differentiated brand experience any time and anywhere a customer interacts with your brand – whether through eCommerce, marketplaces, social media, SMS, chatbots, apps, websites, or brick-and-mortar locations. Keep in mind, consumers today expect more than basic online shopping. They are seeking out personalized, meaningful experiences in every retail interaction. The key is to meet customers where they are and enable them to easily research, transact, and communicate on their own – through whatever channel they choose.
“The best digital experiences engage and inspire customers before, during, and after the transaction. They also seamlessly integrate with the physical experience to deliver an omnichannel experience, helping customers plan for store trips, learn about products, and interact with retailer loyalty programs.”
BRIAN LANNAN – VP OF RETAIL EXPERIENCE | AVTEX
Omnichannel Retail Experiences
Meet the Customers Where They Are
Start with Your Data
Journey mapping is a critical first step toward understanding your customers’ behaviors and channel preferences. This will help you design the ideal omnichannel strategy that helps you meet your customers where they are.
Data is critical to the success of any omnichannel retail strategy, but it often exists in silos. Put data to work for your organization with a strategic plan of action and the technology to support it.
Boost Customer Engagement
Stand Out with AR and VR
One of the keys to building a true omnichannel strategy is to communicate with your customers across channels. Boost customer engagement by developing strategies for each of your channels and consider how they all come together as one unified experience for your customers.
Leveraging augmented and virtual reality can give your business the edge over your competition, and help you deliver enhanced, virtual experiences that allow your customers to experience your products and brand in a unique way.
Avtex Thoughts on Omnichannel Retail
Consumer behaviors have massively shifted – and it’s fair to assume that the customer journey will become more complex and non-linear in years to come. Put simply, your customers want to engage with your brand on their own time, and by their own terms. As such, retailers must build strong omnichannel strategies to address this trending expectation.
Consumers return to stores, but only for re-imagined and differentiated in-store experiences
Over the last couple years, we’ve seen several unexpected changes to in-store retail shopping behavior. In September 2020, only 30% of shoppers were comfortable stepping into a retail store. By contrast, in June 2021, 71% of consumers said they had no concerns shopping in-store. It’s clear that as the pandemic recedes, physical retail locations will continue having a place in the purchasing process.
However, this in-store buying behavior has drastically shifted. While consumers are returning to the stores, they are doing so for an experience that is unique and differentiated from the digital shopping experience. Going in for limited time offers, interactive displays, store-within-stores, entertainment at malls, sampling, and seasonal displays – to name a few. In other words, the in-store experience must be engaging and compelling, supported by the digital experience, and engage and inspire your customers before, during, and after their visit.
Consumers Return to Stores
Experiment and Have Some Fun
Foster In-Store Exclusivity
Experiment with in-store offerings and ideas for encouraging your shoppers to buy in new and exciting ways. AR and VR are great enhancements for the experience.
Offer in-store only limited time offers, seasonal experiences, and upscale personalized customer service that makes the experience memorable and differentiated.
Consider Creative Partnerships
Double Down on Differentiated In-Store Experiences
Target and Ulta, and Kohl’s and Sephora are commonly referenced store-within-a-store examples. Retailers should consider creative brand partnerships that enhance the in-store experience and give consumers more reason to discover and explore new products in-store.
Furniture brands like IKEA, Costco, and Casper are great examples of brands that have mastered the art of the in-store experience. You can explore what furniture feels like in a room mockup at IKEA, sample foods at Costco, and even take a nap on Casper beds before you buy.
Avtex Thoughts on Customers Returning to Stores
While brick-and-mortar retail was hit hard by the pandemic, the doors are far from closed. There are major opportunities for retailers who infuse innovation and creativity into the in-store experience, engaging and delighting consumers to incentivize foot traffic.
Personalization becomes mandatory in every retail interaction
Personalization is not a new concept, but the trend has certainly evolved from mere segmentation toward true “audience of one” experiences. In order to keep up with the pack, retailers must develop 360-degree views of their customers to be able to deliver the right message to the right customer at exactly the right time. While Amazon was the first to successfully use deep personalization, the days of simply supplying standard, transaction-based recommendations are over. Today nearly every aspect of our lives, from Google searches to Netflix streaming to social media feeds have become curated to fit our unique needs and behaviors. Consumers no longer want personalization, they expect it. This expectation has become so engrained in consumers’ minds that one study reports that as much as 80% of those who classify themselves as frequent shoppers say they only shop with brands who personalize their experience.
Personalization investments will continue to accelerate as brands find new ways to deliver valuable interactions to customers that, in turn, generate insights about what those customers want. But this level of sophistication can only happen when the right data is served up to reveal each customer’s unique buying habits, preferences, and behaviors. Incorporating strong data practices is the first step toward delivering the personalization your customers expect. With the right technology, retailers can respond to customers and personalize interactions that drive even greater loyalty down the road.
60% of consumers are more likely to become repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience with a retailer.
80% of frequent shoppers say they only shop with brands who personalize their experience.
70% of consumers say the ideal level of website personalization is 1:1.
“If you can drive seamless and personalized interactions, you can solve both a customers’ desire to engage more deeply with your brand, while gaining extra information about your customer that will help you deliver even more personalized offers, messages, and experiences.”
BRIAN LANNAN – VP OF RETAIL EXPERIENCE | AVTEX
Addressing Personalization in Retail
Focus on Customer Engagement
Build Rapport with Your Customers
Find a way to engage with your customers through social media, your loyalty app, and other interaction channels. As you offer more engaging experiences, you can simultaneously collect important customer data points to generate even more personalized experiences.
While you may not have the personalization capabilities or budget of Amazon, you can focus on utilizing the data you do have to build rapport with your customers, respond to customer feedback, and offer frictionless, more dependable customer service that still offers a human element when needed.
Aim for a 360-Degree View of Your Customer
Create Feedback Loops
Unify commerce, marketing, customer insights, and business intelligence data into a singular, adaptable platform to gain a comprehensive view of your customers and drive personalization. Leverage AI-powered data management tools like Dynamics Customer Insights to access real-time insights, automation, and application.
To understand your customers’ and employees’ priorities, experiences, and behaviors it is critically important that you consistently monitor and gather feedback. Consider implementing a voice of the customer program, and voice of the employee program to better understand customer sentiments. You can then translate this feedback into actionable information.
Avtex Thoughts on Creating Personalized Retail Experiences
The strongest, most differentiated retail experiences put the customer at the center, leveraging personal data to create 1:1 personalized experiences that include product recommendations, custom offers, and tailored communications. When you are able to deliver an experience that shows your customers you know them and value them, you’ll foster customer satisfaction and loyalty. If you fail to personalize the experience, you’ll risk losing loyal customers to competitors who are investing in personalization.
Nimble retailers develop aggressive and creative cost-cutting strategies
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a total of 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021. Compounding the issue, inflation is prominent as U.S. food prices rose 5.3% for the 12 month period ending in October 2021. The cost of computers, peripherals, and smart devices rose 8.4%, and furniture and bedding prices rose 12% in the same time period. In addition, higher wages are likely to keep labor expenses up over the long term, as many companies raise their pay in an effort to recruit more employees.
As organizations combat labor shortages and prepare to face inflation in 2022 and beyond, we expect to see many retailers deploy aggressive and creative cost-cutting strategies. Many leading brands have publicized their plans to cut costs in 2022. Amazon and Walmart are among those brands looking to cut costs, as well as Macy’s, who reported back in 2020 their plans to strip-back spending by $1.5 billion by 2022.
More retailers will look to deploy cost-saving strategies in 2022, leveraging tactics like continued emphasis on owned brands and private-label goods, investment in creative partnerships, heightened self-service and checkout capabilities, reduction of in-store hours, facility closures, and adoption of store-within-a-store concepts.
4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021 according the the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Businesses are expected to increase pay by an average of 3.9% in 2022, the fastest wage growth since 2008.
Consumer prices soared in October 2021, up 6.2% from 2020 and the fastest increase in more than 30 years.
Developing Aggressive, Creative, Cost-Cutting Strategies
Double Down on Owned Brands
Improve Productivity with Technology
Lean into and promote your owned brands as you have more control over those products, and are likely to see a higher margin.
Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence can help free your representatives from mundane tasks and improve efficiency and productivity.
Consider Store-Within-a-Store Concepts
Assess Your Hours, Locations, and Employees
Target and Ulta do this well. Both companies have reported direct benefits of their partnership, including an increased consumer base and higher sales of discretionary items.
Dig into your data to see if there are hours or locations with consistently lower activity and uncover opportunities to cut back on hours of operation, brick-and-mortar locations, and employee headcount.
Avtex Thoughts on Cost-Cutting Strategies
While some cost-cutting measures may be too aggressive, we expect to see most retailers trying their hand at a few strategies as the economy works to bounce back.
Intelligent automation shifts from cost reduction play to true service improvement
The pandemic was the catalyst that accelerated the need for intelligent automation technologies like artificial intelligence, business process management, and robotic process automation to streamline business operations and decision-making. Many CIOs credited automation as the top investment that helped them adapt to changing business conditions. However, it’s important to remember that intelligent automation is not a new concept. Retailers have been investing in intelligent automation for years in an effort to save costs, streamline operations, and respond to accelerated digital adoption. As leading retailers forge ahead, they will look beyond these simple strategies, leveraging intelligent automation as a conduit for long-term productivity, service, and experience improvement
Your employees - especially those on the frontline - should be equipped with technology and tools to deliver an optimal service experience to your customers. Easy-to-use self-service options for customers, like conversational commerce, chatbots, and other digitally driven choices, enable consumers to effectively navigate their experiences and proactively trouble-shoot for quicker resolution to issues. In 2022, intelligent automation will help retailers reduce and eliminate manual tasks, accelerate time-to-market, retain and attract customers, and redefine employee and customer experiences.
From Cost Reduction to True Service Improvement
Leverage Intelligent Automation for Inventory Management
Improve Self-Service Capabilities
AI-powered chatbots and knowledgebases are extremely useful in improving agent productivity and helping customers get their questions answered on their own time and by their own terms.
Intelligent automation solutions can analyze your sales numbers, manage inventory, and can help you better understand supply and demand.
Enable Your Employees with the Latest Technologies
Analyze Current Processes and Complete Risk Analysis
Satisfied employees are essential to the success of any retail organization in 2022, ensure your employees are productive, efficient, and satisfied by enabling them with technology and tools.
Identify and clearly define your current end-to-end customer interaction journey. Identify pain points and opportunities along the way and incorporate automation wherever possible to enhance and optimize processes.
Avtex Thoughts on Intelligent Automation
The best way to compete and grow in the rapidly evolving retail industry is by delivering differentiated, high-value, personalized experiences. With the right technology and the right partner, retailers have the power to transform their CX strategy and prioritize personalization capabilities. Avtex can help you differentiate your brand with our cutting edge, end-to-end CX design, orchestration, and consultation services. We’ve helped hundreds of retail organizations see success through CX transformation. Get in touch today.
Looking ahead to 2022, your retail organization has a unique opportunity to develop new and innovative strategies that will empower your brand to adapt to the rewritten rules of retail.
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