Going omnichannel for an eCommerce retailer may be a living dream but there's the harsh reality of 64% of businesses admiting that lack of investment and resources is the number one obstacle to building an successful omnichannel strategy.
Here is a guide that will help you overcome the obstacle. In this post, we'll be covering:
- 8 strategies to help you build an omnichannel strategy on a budget
- Takeaways from 4 brands that have aced omnichannel
1. Ensure uniform personalization across all channels
Creating channel-specific content is at the heart of the omnichannel strategy. There is a popular belief that personalization of content means creating separate content for each channel.
Which is totally wrong!
The objective must be to get the messaging right rather than treating them as a mere distribution medium.
For instance, while long text works on Facebook, the same does not work on Twitter due to the character limit.
Here’s a detailed overview of how each channel works
Emails use behavioral data based on the user’s activity on the website.
From product discovery to product recommendations and cart recovery, there are different types of behavioral emails that are part of your omnipresent strategy.
Brooks Running sends a product discovery email based on the user’s browsing behavior. It uses a shoe finder which is a form of a guided selling enabling product discovery.
It also gives an option for users to try products in the physical store. This brings the cross-channel, online-to-offline engagement for customers.
Adding a store finder is brilliant to build omnichannel engagement with customers. It has been observed that when customers are driven using an omnichannel approach, store purchases increased by 4% and while online spending marked a 10% increase.
Create emails that customers love to read. Check out 20 email personalization templates (examples from great brands)
b) Push Notifications
Mobile users form an important audience for an omnichannel strategy. Users who interact with your website on phones can be targeted with segmented push notifications. In fact, 57.42% of users find push notifications useful. While segmented push notifications can have a 21% higher CTR.
Push Notifications can be sent each time a user takes a specific action on your mobile or desktop website. Here is a list of actions that can ask users to opt-in for push notifications —
- Viewed a Product: When a user has viewed a product, they have made a significant interaction with your website. This can be a nudge tactic to draw new customers.
- Avg session duration: When a user has a significant amount of time, let's say 30 minutes. They certainly know the value of your products and your push notifications.
Here is an example of a push notification that has a short message and CTA. Using the space constraint to craft the message is key to creating high-converting push notifications.
Here’s a pro tip to help you increase your push notification open rates. Using emojis in your push notifications can improve open rates by 20x while industry-popular send times can mark a 40x increase.
2. Make offline returns possible for online purchases
Omnichannel isn’t limited to online. The more channels the customers use, the more valuable they become that includes offline.
In an HBR study, it was found that customers who researched a retailer’s site or other competitors spent 13% more spending in-store among the omnichannel.
In the case of returns, 62% of customers are more likely to buy online if they can make an in-store return.
Interestingly, 30% of products are returned online while only 8.83% of products are returned in-store.
The reason is pretty simple. Convenience.
Staples partnered with Happy Returns by Paypal where customers can make in-store returns easily without any box or return label. This facility is available at its 1000 outlets across America.
The process is easy — The customers need to begin the return process using their phone or desktop and log in to Staples website or Happy Returns official website and will receive a QR code. All of this can be done at home.
The next step is to walk into the Staples store and process the return. The entire process finishes in a minute with the refunds and exchanges happening instantly.
You will love reading 9 Proven Ways to "Prevent" eCommerce Returns (+ Smart Handling ideas)
3. Use in-store kiosks to enable product discovery
Given the confused state of mind, customers may not always know what to buy. With under-positioned staff, it makes it difficult to cater to each customer.
Using in-store kiosks prompts self service and guided selling in order to find products that solve their problems.
The inherent benefit of retail kiosks is heuristics. By viewing products on the kiosk, customers tend to form mental shortcuts enabling quick resolution to problems.
One way to ensure customers transition to omnichannel is to scan the QR code for product details, price, availability, shipping, etc.
While some retail stores require customers to download apps, first-time customers may not necessarily participate.
While kiosks occupy less space, they also allow you to have a bigger digital catalog. When you don’t have products on display in your store, using a kiosk to display the product can help capitalize on another wise lost opportunity.
Don't forget to read eCommerce Product Discovery: 3 proven strategies (+ great examples)
4. Relook at customer behavior mapping to leverage existing channels
To make sure your omnichannel aspirations are headed in the right direction, you need to evaluate the customer behavior mapping in your existing channels.
Here’s a three-step process to help you started —
a)Build a unified customer view
A unified customer view can help you centralize your data that is otherwise in silos. Having a unified customer view provides a holistic view of how your customer views your business. It helps find answers on what device most users come to your website, desktop, mobile, or tablet.
This will help in optimizing your eCommerce site for conversions.
b) Recreate the customer journeys to fill the gaps in the omnichannel customer experience
Enough of the guesswork. Get down to business and start recreating the common touch points the user interacts with your business. This helps in bridging the service gaps.
For example, a customer trying to checkout doesn’t have the option to save details to come back later and complete the purchase.
A person trying to checkout is unable to do it on mobile but can make the payment on desktop.
Since social media is a major channel for product discovery, there aren’t being led to the product page.
Further, there is no express checkout or BNPL options. These service gaps are costing revenue leaks. Fixing this can help you provide a seamless omnichannel experience.
c) Focus on customer-led personalization
Your existing channels may not have lived up to their potential. The focus must be to leverage your existing data and create campaigns that will provide exposure to your first-time site visitors.
Your existing customers can best help in driving personalization in your omnichannel content.
Make sure to read The Founder's Guide to Customer Journey Map (eCommerce)
5. Audit existing channels and find ways to build more success into what’s working
Your existing channels need to be critically evaluated to see if they are performing well.
The first exercise is to find out the LTV for all the channels. Here is a list of questions you need to be ask —
- What’s the LTV for email marketing? Is the ROI justified?
- Are the display ads delivering a positive ROAS? What’s the CAC?
- What’s the open rates, CTR, and ROI for push notifications?
- Which channel has the highest engagement and which has the least?
- Which channel has worked well in terms of brand advocacy?
- Which mobile device: iOS or Android has the highest numbers of customers?
- Which devices and channels have high cart abandonment rates and no checkout rates?
While AOV is a metric that can be looked into, it measures short-term growth. While it is good for a specific measurement of campaign performance, it is purely a transactional metric that measures the number of orders.
Since LTV is primarily a long-term growth metric, it can be measured if you are on an acquisition spree.
So, measure both LTV and AOV, and come up with actionable insights.
6. Find ways to make purchases faster across channels
The major impediment for customers making purchases across channels is checkout.
The objective must be to adopt frictionless payment where there is no zero wait time in queues, no interactions with cashiers, and scanning.
In-store checkout can be improved by using kiosks for payments, scan and pay, etc.
And, there isn’t any rule which forbids using the online payments for in-store purchases, here’s how using online checkout options can help
a) Express checkout on desktop/mobile/in-store
With mobile usage on the rise, customers find it more convenient to make purchases and payments using their smartphones.
With 1-click payments emerging, 37% of customers are using them either once a month or more frequently.
While 31% of Gen Z customers are using one-click payment either weekly or more.
With PayPal One Touch payment, customers can quickly make payments as 21 million customers have opted for express checkout using PayPal.
The goal should be easier and faster payment irrespective of the channels. There should be no friction when it comes to payment methods.
b) Guest checkout
For users who don’t prefer using express checkout, a guest checkout can compel them to pay. The one caveat you need to follow is to have fewer form fields.
As a matter of fact, 11% of US customers abandon their purchases because the site was asking for too much information[Forrester].
A guest checkout option conveys greater trust signals and customer satisfaction. As many as 43% of customers prefer guest checkout.
The checkout experience must be the same across all devices. A customer placing the order on the desktop must be able to complete the purchase on the phone.
While BNPL options emerged on the eCommerce scene, it is fast making its way to brick-and-mortar stores.
With BNPL companies like Klarna and Sezzle offering physical and virtual cards respectively, customers will now be able to pay in interest-free payments in their favorite physical stores.
If you’re still not leveraging BNPL payments, here’s an eye-opener.
Retailers who offer BNPL services have a 2.1% higher conversion rate on average.
7. Work with UGC in smart ways to reduce advertising spends
With advertising costs increasing manifold, a reduction in digital ad spending is inevitable.
Using UGC in your omnichannel helps carry the brand advocacy in various channels and touchpoints, specifically the ones which are highly regulated.
For instance, social media algorithms can be pretty tricky to understand. UGC is the highest form of social proof as it comes from existing customers.
Here is a tweet on Twitter in appreciation of Chewy’s customer service.
90% of customers find user-generated content more authentic than promotional and advertising content.
Interestingly, many brands have experienced a 50% increase in their ad CTR on Instagram and Facebook with a 5x increase in ROAS.
Adding UGC content to your email marketing campaigns can increase conversion rates. It gives them a reason to take action and not leave.
Booty Band includes a customer testimonial in its emails.
This conveys trust signals and authenticity reducing the perceived risk of the product.
Including video testimonials in your emails reinforces the messaging and trust of your prospective customers.
8. Invest in cross-channel experiences
A customer may choose different touchpoints and channels to buy a product. A linear path is far from obvious.
For example, a customer who reaches a retail brand’s site via Facebook may not find the particular product. It could either be a broken link or redirecting error.
Having cross-channel support means the social media support team will assist the customer and avoid loss in conversions.
Likewise, your omnichannel system must identify that the site visitor made the first interaction through social media. This should translate into providing product recommendations on social media on mobile, desktop, or even tablets.
Remember, when the customer journey has gaps that go unresolved, the CAC increases while the LTV diminishes drastically. The goal must be to achieve a 3:1 LTV/CAC ratio.
Takeaways from 4 brands that aced omnichannel
1. ULTA: Using AI and AR to create personalized experiences
ULTA introduced a virtual try-on experience in its app which lets users try numerous products like lipsticks, eyeliners, and foundations. It created a 3D makeup look powered by Google Cloud.
It is using AR and AI services to enable customers to find the right foundation, AI-based skin analysis, and product recommendations.
ULTA aims to lessen the gap between digital discovery and physical commerce.
With its Ultimate rewards loyalty program, the beauty retailer aims to enhance the digital experience by marrying data with personalization. It digs data based on sales, interactions, product reviews, and engagement.
By partnering with Google Cloud, the firm intends to combine cloud-based analytics with ML to refine, organize and process this information into actionable insights.
The efforts have borne fruits as 95% of its sales, both online and offline come from its mammoth user base of 38.2+ million users.
2. Nordstrom: Prioritize collective experience instead of channels
Nordstrom nails the omnichannel experience since it believes that customers value experiences and channels.
As a part of the omnichannel experience, it works on creating a loyalty program that enables customers to build points irrespective of an online or online purchase.
What’s more interesting is that the brand has made it easy for customers to shop and track from any geographical location. Access to the loyalty program is available through the mobile number.
That’s convenience 101 there.
More importantly, customers can pay using their preferred payment method and gain rewards and loyalty points.
Second, Instagram and Pinterest have been a channel generating huge traffic over the years. However, customers were not able to buy products right away. By joining hands with Like2Buy, Instagram shopping is easier for customers.
The luxury store chain features pinned items on Pinterest to its brick-and-mortar stores. This makes the shopping experience constant over online and offline channels.
3. Benefit Cosmetics: Understanding customer sentiment for better customer experience
Benefit Cosmetics rolled out the Mirror Mirror program in 32 of its stores. The store managers can now understand the customer sentiments and draw insights into their NPS.
This exercise seemed to have paid off since the store managers acted on the post-purchase feedback and implemented it quickly. It further allows them to connect with the customers and review the changes.
In just 9 months the NPS saw an increase of 5.8 points.
4. Lego: Prioritize product innovation and digital transformation
Lego has always prioritized product innovation and backend operations to provide the best experience to customers.
With its recent upgrade to a supply chain to cater to online demand, it has prioritized offline and online sales equally. It is understood early that customers will visit the online store to access information and buy from offline stores to do a trial and feel the product.
With the plans for expansion taking shape, 80 stores will be opened in China alone. Interestingly, the eCommerce site saw 100 million visitors in the first half of the year while over 2 million visitors downloaded the instruction manual.
Embracing an online presence for convenience and physical storefront for scrutiny, Lego has adopted omnichannel commerce with greater ease.
How omnichannel commerce works
Omnichannel Commerce integrates all channels offline and online such as brick-and-mortar stores, eCommerce stores, digital marketplaces, mobile apps, social media, SMS, etc
But, omnichannel Commerce is often confused with multichannel which is a misconception.
Multichannel vs Omnichannel: What’s the difference?
Multichannel commerce includes selling products through different channels while omnichannel does the same while integrating all the channels through a centralized data management system. It connects all the touchpoints seamlessly providing the best experience to the customers.
For example, a protein supplement brand sells its products on its store and distributes its products to various online retailers like Bodybuilding.com, and Amazon, while advertising on Google Shopping Ads and Facebook.
This is an example of multichannel eCommerce.
A brick-and-mortar store using a kiosk to look up products that are simply too large is an example of omnichannel commerce. This can work if the product is currently out of stock.
Customers can try the display product and then receive a home delivery or in-store pickup at a later date.
Another omnichannel commerce strategy is the Buy Online, Pick up in-store option.
Customers can buy products online and opt for picking them up at the nearest store. This ensures convenience and saves shipping costs plus time. A win-win for both the customer and the retailer.
What does it take for Omnichannel to work?
Omnichannel, though integrates multiple channels, does it only on the surface aka frontend.
Unified commerce or unified experience collates all the backend systems with the customer-facing channels through a single platform.
Take, for example, a customer looking for a product on the mobile app may decide to buy it at the physical store. The transaction must be present in the mobile app to serve as proof of purchase marked correspondingly.
Another scenario is the processing of a return online by a customer while making the return in-store.
Simply put, when your customer experience (front end) effortlessly blends with the data crunching for data analysis (back end), you have a unified experience.
1. How can an omnichannel help during a downturn?
An omnichannel strategy allows you the autonomy to control your costs. Here are 3 ways an omnichannel can benefit you during a recession —
a) Shift inventory to channels as per demand
Omnichannel commerce allows the flexibility to move inventory from one channel to another gauging customer demand.
Splitting the inventory to multiple channels distributes the costs and will help sell slow-moving products. Shipping internationally can also help clear your inventory if there is a demand in a particular geography.
b) Start marketing on an economical budget
You can invest a portion of your budget in marketing online. From running email campaigns to leveraging UGC on social media and paid advertising campaigns, you have plenty of options available.
Push notifications are a great marketing channel to drive conversions. Creating highly targeted push notification campaigns can improve your CTR by 30%.
You can also extract data from your loyalty program and use it to consolidate your marketing campaigns.
b) Escalate the time to market for products
Omnichannel allows you to experiment by selling new products in newer channels. It allows you to fail while minimizing the risks and losses.
You can partner with third-party vendor sites such as Amazon, eBay, Walmart, etc. to sell your products online.
2.What are the common mistakes in omnichannel marketing?
The failure of omnichannel marketing is always attributed to these mistakes —
a) Distorted brand voice
Your brand voice is a part of the brand identity and conveys the differentiation between your products and those of your competitors.
When going omnichannel, the brand voice needs to be consistent. A customer buying in store must be able to see the invoice in the shopping app. This is a distorted brand voice and messaging that needs to be fixed.
b) Irrelevant content
While there’s no dearth of content, eCommerce brands send content that is of no use to customers.
It’s important to align your content to each of the customer journeys. The pain points, motivations, and concerns vary in each step of the buyer's journey.
c) Failure to quantify cross-channel performance and ROI
Most marketing leaders express their inability to measure cross-channel performance. Due to this, the ROI and the insights that bind to channels together is missed.
When touchpoints are seamlessly integrated between channels, the customer data can be used in intent marketing.
3. What omnichannel budgeting mistakes need to be avoided?
Omnichannel budgeting mistakes that are common among eCommerce brands include —
a) Not factoring in the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
eCommerce retailers scratch the surface and don’t consider factors like —
- What’s it going to cost to implement the Omnichannel Management System(OMS)? How prepared to do what’s required?
- How much would the hardware cost? Who would install it?
- Are you going to outsource the handling or train in-house employees?
- What are the kinds of integrations and APIs available for each solution? Will it cost a fortune to set up an integration or are they readily available which can be deployed at a lower cost?
b) Disregarding the ease of integration
Given the erratic nature of the eCommerce business, it becomes tough to manage integrations. Look for APIs and vendors that have them and open for review on a public developer platform.
From payment gateways, POS, fraud tools to email service providers, you will need tons of integrations later.
It's better to be wise now than to repent later.
c) Underestimating the ease of use
While your OMS software might fit your budget and have the features you need, have you ever wondered if it's user-friendly?
Unless your in-store employees find it easy to operate, the OMS doesn’t mean much. With simple navigation and smooth UX, the omnichannel strategy will work just fine.
Think about it, an uber cool software that’s hard to use will only increase training costs, high employee turnover, and hiring costs.
Invest in an OMS that won’t have your employees running around looking for a technical person.