Tackling multi-channel retail in 2019

Retail's biggest challenge today is keeping customers interacting and transacting on any and all touchpoints they like while maintaining the same standard of service across all channels


As technology continues to expand and people connect with businesses across a diversifying array of platforms, e-commerce marketers are struggling to keep up.

The challenge today is to keep customers interacting and transacting on any and all touchpoints they like, all while maintaining the same standard of service, regardless of channel.

With omnichannel, marketers and merchants aim to give customers seamless and delightful shopping experience, whether they're shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, over the telephone, in a brick-and-mortar store, on social media, a third-party marketplace or via a dedicated storefront app.

The 2019 Omni-Channel Retail Report, a new survey of 2000 customers from BigCommerce, includes some surprising insights into cross-channel consumer patterns. Here are three key takeaways from the report.

Consider generational differences in your audience

The days where people must see a product in-person, so they can feel it or try it on, are quickly drawing to a close. But that doesn't mean sellers shouldn't aim to give customers the option when possible – especially if you're targeting customers across multiple generations.

Gen Z are well on their way towards full-on comfort with e-commerce. They buy on new platforms, engage with ads, spend more of their discretionary income and favor brands with values that align with their personalities. Gen Z also holds a lot of influence over the purchasing decisions of family members in older generations.

While you should know your target audience's age range, also take time to consider which generation they fall into and how differences on that level can affect their response to your marketing efforts.

Generational differences also impact where people shop the most. According to BigCommerce's data, less than 10% of Gen Z report buying items in a physical store, compared to 31% of Millennials, 31.9% of Baby Boomers and 27.5% of Gen Xers. What's more, Gen Z doesn't often buy products that they discover via Facebook as compared to the other generations. Along with Millennials, Gen Z tends to spend the majority of their money on products they find on Snapchat and Instagram.

Be present where your customers want you to be

If you want to succeed in today's retail climate, you must be online – there's no doubt about it. But having your own website where people can purchase products and services isn't enough. Some 63% of consumers expect brands to offer customer service through social media channels, and 90% of social media users have already used those channels to communicate with a business.

It's worth noting, however, that 96% of people who discuss brands online don't follow those brands' official profiles, so companies must go beyond their own channels to monitor conversations for insights and brand health management.

This means brands need to have a social media presence on the channels that their audience uses most often. Facebook is a given since it is the most popular social network, but other channels, such as Instagram and Snapchat, depend largely on your target demographic. If you're dealing solely with Baby Boomers, you won't find them using Snapchat.

No matter what channels you favor, though, keep in mind why people spend time shopping where they do. In some ways, digital channels will never be able to out-perform physical retail, which is faster and more convenient. BigCommerce's study found that the inability to touch products is what deters older shoppers from e-commerce most.

Create a seamless brand experience

People want their individual needs addressed, and that means focusing on providing a positive experience throughout the entire customer journey, no matter where it takes them. Someone could start online researching a product, then decide to go in-store to make the purchase. Or, they could order online for in-store pickup. Or, they could start the process in-store, go home to think about the purchase or research more about the product online, before deciding when, where, and how to make the purchase. Regardless of the path they take, the experience must be stellar throughout.

That's why you'll need to use data to make decisions about how to maximize customer experience at every stage of the game. Segment your audience, map their journeys and aim to personalize the process where you can, because 63% of customers want a personalized experience. BigCommerce's report has found that many shoppers (nearly 50% of Baby Boomers but many from younger generations as well) prefer not to share personal information with sellers, but by finding the right incentives, it's often an acceptable request.

Take, for example, Chipotle, which offers both an online ordering system and a mobile app that lets you place an order wherever you are. If you need a faster way to order, you can sign up for an account to save your favorite orders to make the process even faster and create a seamless experience. If you want to order for everyone in your office, you can place an online order for the whole team and have it ready by the time you arrive in-store. At its core, omnichannel is about flexibility and empowering the buyer.

Develop a strategy before diving in

To have the greatest chance at omnichannel retail marketing success, your strategy must be well-planned. Simply diving in head first with what you think may work won't bode well for your ROI. Instead, take time to compile data from as many of your available sources as possible.

Track conversions and focus on targeting your messaging. Look at your current customer experience and ways to improve it. Explore automation to make managing the strategy more feasible. Decide on the channels you'll use, how you'll use them and how they will all work together. Then, allocate the necessary resources.

Remember, the conversion is the first step – not the end goal. You must continue to deliver a good experience before, during and after the sale if you want to foster customer loyalty and create brand ambassadors.

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