Today’s omnichannel retail world places increasing pressure on brands to create a seamless customer experience at every possible touchpoint. Life used to be relatively simple for retail brands – carry the right merchandize, display it creatively, provide a positive in-store experience and service the customer post sale.
However, consider these staggering statistics. According to Forrester Research total e-commerce sales are expected to hit $434.2 billion by 2017, up from $258.9 billion in 2013, and then estimated to grow to $523 billion by 2020. That’s more than a 105% increase in just eight years. Gartner predicts that in 2017 U.S. mobile commerce will account for 50% of total digital revenue, up from 15% just five years ago.
The omnichannel experience is rapidly transitioning from a fashionable buzzword to the essential means of commercial engagement for brands. From a brand’s website to its social media channels to the actual brick and mortar stores, the consumer buying experience must be delivered personally, powerfully, emotionally, and consistently across multiple channels.
And how valuable is this experience? Gartner reports that 64% of consumers think that the customer experience is more important than price when choosing a brand.
Increasingly, customers use multiple screens and physical locations to make and complete a purchase. They may see a product on Etsy, Pintrest or on a social media app on their smartphone, later look up the price on their computer and then ultimately complete the transaction on a tablet or at a retail location. The customer experience, including everything from the expression of the brand promise, product design and retail presentation to ordering and returning and yes, paid, earned and owned communication, must be consistent across all these channels in order to maximize purchase behavior.
Soon, brands may have access to “purchase now” buttons on social media sites such as Facebook and on TV streaming services so consumers will not have to stop what they’re doing to buy something on a brand’s website.
The need to capture consumers’ attention across all channels extends into retail stores themselves. In a 2015 research report InReality found that 75% of shoppers are using their mobile device in store to research products or talk with friends about their purchases.
In response, beacon technology, which uses Bluetooth devices installed in stores to connect with customer’s smartphones, is increasingly being implemented by brands around the world. It could ultimately prove essential to differentiating a brand’s in-store experience by eliminating lines, tracking customer data to facilitate purchasing decisions or sending a customer a personalized product offer.
Beyond the confines of retail outlets, companies like Lowe’s are utilizing Virtual Reality by allowing customers to visualize their completed DIY projects. Other brands are exploring integrating VR with platforms like Amazon Fire to create “virtual fitting rooms,” giving consumers the opportunity to “try on” clothes at home before making their purchases.
With consumers placing increasing emphasis on “experiences” as an essential part of their purchasing decisions and buying process, successful brands must maximize the potential of this omnichannel world by creating personalized, one-of-a-kind interactions with each customer that ultimately drives purchase and loyalty.