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Customer Expectations: Why Retailers Need to Deliver an Omnichannel Experience

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“Meet your customers where they are.” 

Over the years, this advice has been passed down from retailer to retailer. It used to mean, understand your customers, anticipate their product and service needs, and create a brick-and-mortar retail experience that matches up. While all that’s still true, meeting customers where they are now encompasses e-commerce, mobile, and social media channels. And, it’s not just about showing up across different channels, it’s about seamlessly blending them to deliver a single customer shopping experience, aka omnichannel retail. 

The value of an omnichannel retail strategy was further reinforced with the recent “stay-at-home” directives as the U.S. worked to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Shoppers pivoted to digital shopping options when they were restricted from visiting stores. Retailers who could pivot to put more emphasis on their online strategies were better positioned to meet their customers where they were as the situation evolved. 

What is omnichannel retail?

While “omnichannel” gets thrown around as a bit of a buzzword, here’s what you need to know. Traditional retail strategies rely on a single access point for customers, such as a brick-and-mortar store. With the arrival of the Internet, many retailers opted for a multi-channel approach, adding e-commerce access points to their distribution mix. Now, as technology continues to evolve and become more deeply embedded in our daily lives, customers expect more than a choice of online and offline access points. 

Driven by technology that’s ever more customizable, today’s customer expectations are high. Buyers may start exploring a product on their smartphone, shift to in-person shopping, and then go back online to complete the purchase or buy additional, complementary products. They expect retailers to not just keep up with them, but to connect the dots to recognize the different interactions and bring it all together for them, whether they’re online or off. 

For retailers, managing in-person and e-commerce distributions separately won’t cut it. Not only is it inefficient, but it’s also nearly impossible to get all the data together for a holistic view of inventory or to identify trends to guide marketing and business strategies. 

Omnichannel retail is about bringing all the channels – and the corresponding customer data – together to deliver a customer-centric shopping experience. And, while the focus is on creating a seamless experience for customers, they’re not the only ones who benefit. Compared to single-channel shoppers, omnichannel customers spend up to 35 percent more per transaction and have a 30 percent higher customer lifetime value. (Source)

Checkout: A key to omnichannel success

One of the most important elements for executing an omnichannel retail strategy is the point-of-sale experience. Whether face-to-face, online, or via a mobile device, it needs to be simple and quick. At the same time, you want to collect and utilize data that will drive future purchases and long-term customer loyalty. 

Your Point of Sale (POS) system needs to step up with the capabilities and features that create a differentiated customer experience, capture the information you need, and integrate the data across channels so that it’s easily accessible for both you and your customers. Here’s a checklist of what an omnichannel retailer should expect from a POS system:

  • Simplified set-up for new customers

Ease is at the top of everyone’s list. Technology-savvy customers will abandon complicated check-out processes – online or in-person. For new customers, focus on collecting only the must-have information to make the purchase quick and easy. Then, build in ways to add to a customer’s profile over time, such as through ongoing communications inviting customers to join a loyalty program by filling in information at their convenience. 

  • Plenty of payment options

If a retailer can’t accept a customer’s preferred payment mode, they may complete the transaction, but the customer probably won’t come back. It’s estimated that 50 percent of customers will walk away from a purchase if their preferred payment option isn’t available, and the others will look elsewhere for their desired customer experience the next time. (Source) Your POS should enable flexibility, from cash to debit and credit cards, through contactless payment options like ApplePay and Google Wallet.

Along with accepting a range of payment types, make sure your POS system enables mobile point-of-sale transactions to enhance the in-store customer experience. This gives retailers the ability to answer customer questions and complete purchases anywhere in the store. 

  • Full-on integration

Look for a POS system that provides an integrated view of all sales, inventory, and customer data from both online and offline sources. With one consolidated resource, you can effectively track and manage inventory in real-time across physical locations and online. And, you’ll have easy access to integrated customer insights and reports to help identify and optimize buying trends.

  • Ability to get personalized

In addition to helping you see the big picture, your POS system must also bring together each customer’s details – and put them at your fingertips. You should be able to easily access customer profiles that tell you when customers made their very first purchases, what they bought most recently – and everything in between. A good POS system will also make it easy to fill in customer profiles over time with information like birthdays, favorite brands and styles, hobbies, or even their pet’s name. This type of data access is powerful. Not only can salespeople leverage it in real-time to enhance an in-store experience, but you can also use it to personalize online shopping, marketing messages, and customer loyalty programs.

  • Ongoing marketing outreach

Marketing is an essential element within omnichannel retail. When selecting a POS system, make sure it offers simple integrations that pair the system’s data with the social media and email marketing tools you’ll need to create a customer community that keeps your brand and promotions in front of customers. In addition to social media and email outreach, your POS system needs to support gift cards and loyalty programs that further enhance your omnichannel customer experience. When you partner with POSIM as your point-of-sale system, you gain all these capabilities and then some. To explore options for expanding your omnichannel retail strategies, contact us for a demo to see what POSIM can do for your business. 

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