January 8, 2018
I have one big prediction for 2018. (Yes, I know the year has already begun, but I can almost guarantee many of you haven’t laid out your plans for 2018 either.) I predict that omnichannel will become more than just something you hear about at a conference or something a brand spent way too much money trying to get off the ground. This will be the year that it finally take off and we start to see real, compelling omnichannel experiences that put the customer where he or she belongs: at the center and in control.
Technology use is changing fast, and our shopping habits are evolving alongside. Every day we wake up, grab our phones and check our email, social media, daily schedule, and more. For most people, mobile phones have also become a primary shopping tool: it’s not uncommon for my wife or me to be at a store and share a quick pic of a product, just to make sure its the right one. The ability to use a mobile device to leverage information while in-store, whether it’s reviews or even inventory status, can often turn a likely unsuccessful shopping experience into a fruitful one.
This change is one of the biggest reasons that the importance of omnichannel experiences can no longer be ignored. Many retailers have taken the first step by adding in-store wifi access, but the true leaders are doing far more, combining the digital and physical world in a way that enhances the overall experience. Better customer experiences ultimately translate to more sales and more loyal shoppers.
The transactional mindset must die.
Managing your business one transaction at a time is completely missing the point. As marketers, we need to move beyond our focus on limited metrics like conversion rate. We have known for years that customers who come to our sites are statistically very unlikely to convert. They still have meaningful experiences there all the time. It’s time to take a step back and think about the on-site experience as more than just a route to conversion, but as an opportunity to offer a valuable interaction to a potential customer. If a visitor is engaged and uses the website to explore products, but makes the purchase in-store instead of online, then what does it matter that they didn’t convert in that session? And, on the flip side, if a visitor never makes it past your homepage because you never engaged them or got a compelling product in front of them, not only will they not convert, but the likelihood that they will walk into your store goes dramatically down as well.
Getting your customers to behave differently is really hard.
Many customers come to your site with no intention to make a purchase. We are kidding ourselves if we think anything less than stellar experiences have a shot at transforming that passive visitor into a paying customer. When you run simple tests and don’t see meaningful results this is why; changing a button color is not going to suddenly convince someone to reach for their credit card and make a purchase. But a change like helping someone find out that the product they want is available at a local store for immediate pickup? That can get a customer to behave differently.
Laying the groundwork
Step one is understanding your customers’ behavior. Does your website influence a high percentage of in-store behavior? Are your customers frustrated because they feel like the brand should know them, yet you give them a generic experience? Once you have an understanding of how your customers already interact with your brand in different spaces, you’ll be able to pinpoint the areas where a layered multi-channel experience will have the biggest impact. And that’s where you should focus your omnichannel efforts.
The hardest part
It’s no longer possible to blame technology if you’re lagging behind your omnichannel vision. Vendors big and small have built the foundational technologies that allow businesses to observe customer behavior and deliver exceptional experiences in any venue, digital or physical. You can’t even point your finger at the data: there are plenty of ways to use what you have to better understand your customers and act on it. The missing piece, and the hardest part is getting organizations to wrap their heads around the concept and go all in. The only way to influence customer behavior on a meaningful scale that will impact your bottom line is to move beyond the mentality of individual transactions, and give them a tremendous omnichannel experience.