The consumer environment is shifting. Consumers now research your brand or products before buying and expect purchases to be conducted seamlessly, anytime, anywhere. This blog outlines how retailers can meet these shifting consumer expectations, and in turn grow their businesses, through the adoption of omni or multi-channel retail systems.

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Ecommerce trends

Gone are the silo methods of retailing. Everything now has to be integrated, seamless and cohesive. The internet and the development of mobile devices has revolutionised the retail sector, which means that consumers research before they buy and shop at their convenience, anytime, anywhere.

Retailers have to respond. Product availability, information access, promotional relevancy, ease of checkout and convenience are now key components of a differentiated retail strategy. Knowing your customer, their shopping habits, their buying patterns, their budget, and their product preferences, are paramount to retaining them as a loyal customer to your brand.

Retailers need to offer a greater product portfolio through every sales channel; they have to focus on customer retention via a good CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system and they have to offer great customer service levels from initial purchase through to delivery and management of returns.

Both the traditional retailer and the new breed of e-tailers face similar demands and issues in adopting multi-channel or omni-channel strategies.

Multi-channel strategy is where a retailer adopts two or more sales channels to engage with consumers, but where they are not focused on driving a consistent message across each sales channel. Multi-channel retailers are more focused on simply selling to their customers across multiple touch points.

Omni-channel strategy is where a retailer delivers a consistent brand experience across all sales channels to make the consumer engagement and shopping journey with the retailer completely seamless irrespective of the sales channel and/or device they use. And that includes payment systems.

How do these strategies help to grow your business?

Multi-channel gives you greater penetration to more consumers and it allows you the ability to offer a greater product portfolio. The omni-channel approach demands a seamless integration of systems at both the front end and behind the scenes. The hallmark of a successful omni-channel retail strategy should be that customers are afforded a consistent shopping experience, no matter what the touch point.

Here a few questions you need to ask yourself if you want to know if omni-channel is right for your business:

  • Can we leverage our current technology platform to enable a seamless experience for our customers?
  • Can we adopt a clear brand message across all sales channels?
  • Do we want to and can we change the dynamics of our business to adopt a more encompassing customer service approach to our customers?
  • Can we remain agile by adopting these new strategies or do they restrict us?

Omni-channel strategy

In practical terms, this means customers must be able to engage with the retailer through a variety of channels during a single purchase cycle. This could mean browsing the product on your website, in your shop or in your catalogue. It could also mean allowing customers to ask your team questions about the product and your service in-store, via Twitter or on the phone.

An enhanced omni-channel retail strategy also demands integration behind the scenes. A single view of the customer journey across all channels supports informed decision making for merchandising, stock management, pricing and marketing campaigns. The use of CRM systems to capture and store vital customer data, in a single location, is essential to omni-channel decision making. Omni-channel integration then allows businesses to optimise how the order is fulfilled or delivered, all based on a variety of strategic planning and daily operational variables.

Omni-channel can grow your business

  • You increase your customer retention and brand loyalty.
  • It can boost sales with upsells and repeat purchases.
  • It improves the profitability of your products as you do not always have to sell on price alone.
  • It allows you to profile your customers so your promotional activity can become more targeted and personal to your customers.
  • It allows you to provide improved customer service levels for your consumers.

To find out more about the future of retail and gain further industry insights from leading experts read: ‘The Sage Pay Payments Landscapes report‘ here.

This post first appeared on the Sanderson blog.