Keeping up with the omnichannel shopper

Today’s consumers have access to more channels, buying opportunities, payment types, and marketing offers than ever before. No longer tied down to one shopping method, a customer might do some research online, then head in-store to speak to a sales assistant and test out the product for themselves. They might go away to think about their purchase, and eventually purchase online, or in a completely different store, in a different city, in a different time zone.

This kind of consumer has been dubbed the “omni-shopper”, and they’re no longer the exception, but the rule. The omni-shopper doesn’t recognise a divide between physical and digital shopping experiences, because to them, it’s all one and the same.

In order to keep up, retailers must focus their efforts on creating a seamless link between their bricks-and-mortar experience and their online offering, and catering to customers who require them to do both, effortlessly. Online sites should be designed for those who want to buy in-store, and bricks-and-mortar stores should be in sync with their online counterparts.

 So what does that actually look like in practice? A truly omni-shopper experience would allow a customer to browse a product in-store, scan it with their phone and purchase it later at home in a different size. Shoppers should be able to browse a retailer’s products on Instagram and receive a voucher to redeem in their local store. If a product is out of stock in-store, customers should be able to check online availability using an in-store tablet.

How to make it work

While catering to the omni-shopper might sound like a complex task, the truth is, the technology required to make it work is already available. Today’s modern customer relationship management (CRM) tools can keep up with the ever-shifting demands of the omni-shopper. By building both online and offline views into their CRMs, retailers can finally achieve that elusive 360-view of the customer.

 While most retailers understand basic online CRM strategy, many don’t realise that the same methods can be employed offline too. QR codes, loyalty cards, coupons, and Bluetooth beacons are all great ways of improving the offline user experience, all while providing customers with tailored, customised marketing messages. In-store assistants are able to see a customer’s complete purchase history, and tailor their recommendations accordingly.

By building both offline and online data into their CRMs, retailers and marketers can start weaving the omni-shopper experience together. Suddenly, retailers are able to track customers on a personal, individual level, and offer them exactly what they need, when they need it. It’s not simply about selling more – although that is a happy side effect – but about serving your customers’ needs more effectively.

Breaking down silos

While technology is clearly important, a big part of catering to the omni-shopper is building strong communication between teams. In Australia, it’s common for retailers to have their workforce divided into two very distinct categories: the online team and the in-store team. But if customers aren’t thinking in terms of “online” and “offline”, then why should retailers?

In order to truly cater to the omni-shopper’s needs, retailers need teams designed to seamlessly serve every single channel. They should consider breaking down the online and offline team divide, or at the very least, employing some people whose job is to do both.

And it’s not just the internal team: stores must find partners who are able to exist across both in-store and online. buy now, pay later services, for example, are a great way to attract more sales in both arenas. Flexible payment options are no longer simply an afterthought at checkout, but are often the very reason a customer chooses a particular store. The right BNPL provider should be able to move seamlessly across online and offline stores, and keep up with the shifting demands of the omni-shopper just as easily as the retailer itself.

Other financial offerings, such as credit cards, are now available in a truly omni-channel format too. Take the new travel credit card, Skye Mastercard, for example. Shoppers who book in-store with Flight Centre can instantly benefit from interest-free repayments over nine months, while online shoppers can access their 24-hour online account and browse Mastercard’s Priceless Cities experiences. And data from both online and offline interactions are used to market offers to customers reactively. For example, when you book an island getaway in-store, you can receive an offer to purchase swimwear online. When retailers are searching for partners, omni-shopper integrations should be at the very top of their shopping list.

Pulling the trigger

Trigger-based marketing involves looking at all your behavioural data, and being able to predict a consumer’s next move as close to real time as possible. Whether it’s Christmas gifting, dressing for a particular event or season, or simply coinciding with an irresistible sale, trigger-based marketing is able to attract the right customer at exactly the right time.

Data is the fuel that drives trigger marketing. The more data you have on your customer, the better chance you’ll have of understanding the perfect time to hit them with a sale. Your data feeds the algorithms that predict the future purchase behaviours of your customers, and when done correctly, can be one of the most effective forms of marketing.

So where does the omni-shopper come into all of this? Well, if a retailer has been doing their homework and collecting both online and offline information on their customers, then they’re simultaneously putting themselves in the perfect position to provide excellent trigger-based marketing.

Not only do these retailers have better data, but they also have more opportunities to pull the trigger, because they’re also communicating effectively in a range of offline and online scenarios. These retailers are able to pull the trigger at the point-of-sale, in-store, while browsing online… in short: in any location, at any time.

Consider, for example, that your customer has been researching dresses for the festive season. Trigger-based marketing is the art of hitting that consumer with an offer that’s relevant them as soon as they hit the “ready to buy” stage, and predicting exactly when that moment will be.

In the world of the omni-shopper, it’s vital that the offer, deal, or extra gift is able to work in both online and offline scenarios. After all, how many of us are wary about purchasing clothing for a

special event online without being able to check if it fits first? Retailers that can learn how to combine trigger-based marketing with the desires of the omni-shopper are in the perfect position to make incredible sales.

Big purchases

When it comes to purchasing big things, the omni-shopper reveals themselves in full force. As most of us know from our own purchasing habits, when it comes to purchasing that key piece of furniture or even a car, the path to purchase can be months or even years in the making.

Customers will spend endless hours researching, testing, ordering samples, speaking to experts, watching YouTube reviews, reading blog posts and heading in-store to talk to customer service teams. They will flip between online and offline research in a seamless and seemingly unpredictable manner. In order to keep up, retailers need to understand this behaviour, be patient, and make the path to purchase almost as fun as the purchase itself.

When it comes to paying for big-ticket items, many customers seek the flexibility of a buy now, pay later service. Retailers should look for a BNPL provider that can keep up with their customers, and is always available, whatever channel they happen to be using at the time.

When catering to the demands of the omni-shopper, retailers need to focus on the end-to-end customer experience. They need to be fully able to serve the ever-shifting path to purchase, and be just as flexible as their customers. As the line between online and offline becomes more and more blurred, we know two things for certain: the shopper of the future is an omni-shopper, and the retailers that succeed will know how they tick.

Libby Minogue is the chief revenue officer at Flexigroup, the pioneer of buy-now-pay-later in Australia, and the engine behind humm. shophumm.com.au

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