The retail experience is changing as customers turn to their phones, tablets and laptops for their shopping needs. According to a Forrester survey, 70% of shoppers used a mobile phone to research in-store purchases; an MIT report found that 80% check prices online before buying in a store. As a result, the concept of “omni-channel” marketing has replaced more traditional one-to-many marketing techniques.
While some of the most impressive examples of omni-channel marketing are being done by larger companies, small businesses can use their lessons to improve the customer experience, build loyalty and generate more sales. In today’s post, we’ll explain what omni-channel means and how omni-channel marketing can help your small business.
Multi-channel vs Cross-Channel vs Omni-channel
You’ve probably run into a few different words that describe marketing across multiple channels: do multi-channel, cross-channel and omni-channel ring any bells? While they each have their nuances, they have one thing in common--the end goal. In today’s hyper-connected retail environment, that goal is to create a seamless, consistent and authentic customer experience wherever, whenever and however you sell.
This has given rise to what marketers call “omni-channel retail.” Omni is Latin for “all, or of all things,” and for retailers it means connecting and harmonizing information and experience across all channels in which they are present. The latest evolution in multi-channel strategies, it’s been referred to as everything from “cross-channel done right” to a new retail paradigm (some marketing experts take the idea of omni-channel even further, suggesting that the no-boundaries nature of the strategy implies a new definition of “your” customer.)
But most importantly, omni-channel implies a complete back-end integration. In practical terms, this means being able to ensure that your customer can do something like look up a product at home online, order it later via smartphone or tablet, and pick it up at a convenient store location on her way home from work.
Putting omni-channel marketing to work for ecommerce
Whether you have a 100% online business or several brick-and-mortar stores, you can put omni-channel marketing principles to work to increase visibility, generate more conversions and turn visitors into regular customers. We’ve put together some suggestions to get you started.
Add channels with purpose
It can be tempting to want to be everywhere at once, right now. Afterall, that’s what customers want right? Well, yes, but what they want even more is a great experience. To give them that, you may need to focus on building a quality presence in one or two channels at first, to justify expanding into others and to guarantee that you do so in the most effective way. Be clear about why you are entering a new channel and what your goal is. If you haven’t mastered day-to-day business on your ecommerce store, you might not be ready to open a physical store just yet.
Build trust through consistency
One of the building blocks of omni-channel marketing is consistency. Make sure that prices in your online store, across marketplaces and in your physical store (if you have one) are consistent, and that customers have access to the same discounts everywhere. If you’re using targeted discounts to drive people to a specific channel--exclusive online deals--make sure that these are clearly indicated so that people know they can trust your prices wherever they shop.
Another element of consistency is projecting a coherent brand image. This could be as simple as making sure your site design matches your flyers at the farmers market where you sell on Saturdays. Or it could mean ensuring that in-store staff have access to the same level of customer order information as online-help staff so that customers receive swift service no matter where they purchased.
Streamline with behind-the-scenes organization
Inventory is a key consideration in an omni-channel strategy. Many customers use the internet for research before heading to the store to buy; others visit stores to try on items, then go home to order them on their tablet. Be ready to serve them both! If a customer discovers your product online, you need to be sure that it will be available in-store and vice-versa.
Logistics is another area where merchants can reinforce the coherence necessary to pull off an omni-channel strategy. Ensure that customers have options: they’ll be delighted to learn they can pay online and pick up at a physical location, or browse in-store and have their purchase shipped.
Finally, customers expect a fast, simple secure checkout, no matter where they are. And they don’t want any limitations on payment options, so make sure you support everything from cash to a digital wallet, depending on your channels.
With consistency, personalization is a defining characteristic of omni-channel. Customers expect you to talk to their unique experience and needs. Small businesses have an advantage over the giants here because they tend to cater to a smaller customer niche and offer a much higher level of service. Use sales data to create tailored marketing campaigns and a personalized shopping experience with well-curated item suggestions and surprise offers.
Engage with your customers
The only way to provide a personalized experience is to get to know your customers. Use social media to listen to their needs Also, be prepared to let your customer decide how often and when they want to engage with you. Make social media and commentary easy to use; let your customers decide how often they want to receive your newsletter.
- Favor quality over quantity and enter channels with purpose
- Build trust through brand and price consistency across channels
- Streamline inventory, shipping and payment with behind-the-scenes organization
- Use customer data to create a personalized shopping experience
- Engage with your customers through social media
Omni-channel techniques aren’t just for the big guys. Small businesses can benefit from creating an integrated, consistent and personalized shopping experience for their customers. Do you have an omni-channel strategy? Share what’s working for you.
If you’re not selling online yet, check out PrestaShop’s ecommerce software to create your online shop and sell through another retail channel.