Omnichannel eCommerce — More Than a Buzzword This Holiday Season
December 21, 2021
7 minute readJake Rheude Retail
The holiday season typically generates around 25% of annual sales for major retailers and significantly more for smaller brands and eCommerce stores. You’ve got a chance to woo more customers and dollars than ever before this year, and taking an omnichannel eCommerce approach can help you reach them no matter how, when, or where they shop.
Uncertainty is in the air just as much as holiday spirit, especially after two years of pandemic concerns. Your operations can start to offset that worry by embracing omnichannel in your mobile support, pickup options, and personalization efforts. Those are just the tip of the iceberg for omnichannel eCommerce, but they represent actions you can tackle now and use to capture more holiday sales. Let’s dive into what these are and where to begin.
Defining omnichannel for eCommerce
Initially, eCommerce-focused omnichannel discussions focused on marketing. Companies wanted to reach every potential audience with a unified message. As channels grew, that meant needing more help to push messages in search results and ads, SEO work, social media, and more. Omnichannel was a response to this diversity because it became too difficult for companies to craft individual elements for each channel.
Then, with the advent of marketplaces like Amazon and the ability to sell directly within social media like Facebook and Instagram, omnichannel shifted to include sales efforts. Customer understanding and integrating CRMs and other tools make this easier, giving companies a holistic view of their customers.
The conversation has shifted again, especially during the pandemic, moving the needle on omnichannel. Now, omnichannel includes digital sales and marketing efforts and connects them to in-store retail. The goal for eCommerce is to develop an omnichannel understanding of the customer, not just an approach that combines sales channels because the customers now can interact with you in a multitude of ways and locations.
Go mobile-first in development
eCommerce efforts play an influential role in holiday spending and will likely set elevated sales levels in Q1 and beyond. Looking at 2020, some 23% of all Black Friday purchases in the U.S. happened on mobile devices. Today’s shoppers always have a mobile within reach, and now services like Apple Pay make it easy to shop and checkout without changing devices. Autofill options, especially for home addresses, also make the mobile device a better experience than in years past.
Retailers of all sizes should capitalize on this hungry market by developing your website, sales materials, and other elements with smartphones in mind. Such platforms help you reach any customer at any time, ensuring that click-throughs from ads and other efforts always work. While some retailers are developing their own apps — this can help manage loyalty programs — smaller shops only need to ensure that their website is mobile-friendly.
Another positive for assessing your site and prioritizing mobile development is that it helps you think about and create experiences, sales tools, and more for different platforms. Mobile commerce is expected to reach 15.5% of all retail sales in 2022 across websites, marketplaces, social media “buy buttons,” and apps. Many new channels, such as social selling, can leverage your mobile content, allowing you to create fewer assets.
The most significant development in the omnichannel space around mobile in 2021 has come from options after someone purchases. Chief among this is the potential to buy on a mobile device at home, then pick up the product in-store at the shopper’s convenience. However, more shoppers also want to interact with sales associates via text, requiring some mobile effort.
Can you offer BOPIS?
People are buying more, and they’re looking at your store in multiple ways. While 2020 pushed a majority of people into greater online shopping, 45% of U.S. consumers feel more comfortable shopping in-store now than they did 12 months ago, according to an eMarketer survey. People are willing to walk through your doors, and it looks like that isn’t going to stop. According to the same survey, 42% don’t plan on changing their shopping patterns even as new coronavirus variants emerge.
Retailers can meet many such customers with an omnichannel sales and service approach by enabling buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) services. These capabilities offer a mix of online and offline interactions to give your customers the easiest ways to buy, pickup, and return goods. Customers are demanding your clerks have more devices to answer questions and more options to perfect their shopping. The eMarketer data also notes that 69% of today’s shoppers want to pick up retail purchases curbside — not just foods or other traditional takeaway items.
So, BOPIS, as part of an omnichannel customer strategy, is being driven by customer demand at retailers large and small. To meet that demand, you’re going to need to check your POS and eCommerce tools. Look for options that work across in-store and online sales, plus bring together your inventory management and order management. Thankfully, many digital POS tools are adding BOPIS tools and add-ons.
If you’ve got the retail location and want to capitalize on customers coming back into stores, look to add curbside and BOPIS options. While turning that feature on quickly might be possible, don’t neglect training before it goes live. Customers are more familiar with technology, making them a little more demanding around pickup — compounded by the standard increase in demands around the holidays. Getting this right now also makes it easy to manage the increase in holiday returns expected in 2022.
Personalization and data-driven experiences
Let’s take the omnichannel discussion out of the back end. In 2021, your systems should be able to talk easily and share customer information. Now is the time to use it.
The growth in online shopping allows you to track more than ever, so consider creating experiences that follow customers based on their accounts and other details. You’re able to track the channel people find you through, how they buy, the devices they use, their location, and even retarget them if they abandon a shopping cart. All that information should inform what emails you send them or if they’ve opted into texts.
The pandemic has shown us that nearly all consumers are willing to engage with online shopping. For brick-and-mortar retailers, eCommerce expands your potential base significantly. Unfortunately, you’ve now got a lot more people to segment and understand. Take time to research your customers and get an idea of how they’re shopping and who they are.
The personalization you can do through segmentation is a long-term play. This goes beyond greeting someone by name and should consider their overall spending and preferences. For the holidays, you may not have the capacity to start segmenting everyone. Thankfully, you can start small.
Consider building pages and experiences that would mirror in-store displays. Make a page equivalent to a “gifts for him” or “gifts for her” section. Craft themes around products to target someone who might be shopping for a staycation versus a wonderland excursion. And focus on products in stock in your store and warehouses to make the most of potential holiday sales across all channels.
Give customers the choice
Omnichannel efforts are designed to give the customer the best experience, but it requires that they have control. Consider applying the eCommerce omnichannel mindset to all your efforts. Look for counterparts to your online and in-store efforts too. Help your customer have and use this control to manage their experience.
Customer control can range from adding new payment options – 69% of Millennial and 42% of Gen Z shoppers are more likely to purchase items if a buy now, pay later (BNPL) option is available – to setting unique customer appointments and creating a personalized journey. Taking an omnichannel approach here means having multiple options and being flexible, such as appointments being available in-store or via video calls and Zoom.
Offering and scheduling remote and in-person appointments through the same online platform enables customers to quickly choose and use what they prefer. It minimizes what your team needs to learn, too. This empowers customers with choice, and they’re more likely to finish that transaction.
Plus, you can use these 1:1 interactions for entirely customized proposals to deliver the perfect personal touch. Using your CRM and appointment-setting tools allows you to predict customer concerns and have answers ready. You can also offer free support and training, encouraging happy customers to shop again and to leave positive reviews.
That’s just one additional way to think about handing your customers greater control over their experience. Having an omnichannel focus means you’re treating every channel at every point — discovery, sale, payment, and pick up or delivery — the same. This approach makes it easy to let your shoppers pick what works best for them. And don’t forget to communicate this to your customers. Show them all the wonderful things they can do, and you might be surprised with how much they embrace those options and open their wallets.
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