Can companies improve the retail customer experience by offering effective omni channel shopping options?

The early years of the 21st century witnessed the demise of once-solid retailers like Circuit City, Linens & Things, and Radio Shack. Many industry analysts have pointed to the rise of online retailers like Amazon as the cause of death to these brick-and-mortar outlets, but that explanation may not be as cut and dry as we once thought—especially when we take a look at how Apple re-imagined the retail experience.

The success of Apple’s retail stores transformed the way customers purchase by shifting the industry away from a transaction-focused model to a new browsing one.

Now the most innovative retailers are bringing together both online shopping and brick-and-mortar browsing with a bird’s-eye-look at how customers are interacting with their brand. This is what we refer to as omni channel shopping.

Providing a whole new way to shop

The principle behind an omni channel shopping experience is simple: retail brands become platform and device agnostic, where any and all touchpoints are used to create a coordinated purchasing experience. When shopping for something like a new TV, for example, a customer might research on their laptop for pricing and features, head into a store to compare image quality and chat with a sales representative, and then make the final purchase for home delivery on their smartphone.

In order for retailers to deliver the kind of shopping experiences customers are looking for, it’s imperative to get to know how and where their customers like to shop. This information can help a retailer determine how to develop apps, websites, and/or in-store experiences that will provide value at each step.

Taking advantage of a new experience

Providing an omni channel experience for customers has its perks. Retailers who adopt this approach can look forward to a number of advantages, including:

  • Collecting data and key insights
    With an omni channel approach, retailers can track data and information from web and mobile experiences. The information your business collects can offer valuable insights into customer behavior when layered over in-store purchasing.
  • Increasing revenue
    According to Think with Google, customers who purchase both online and in store have a more than 30% greater lifetime value than those who only purchase in one or the other.
  • Cultivating customer loyalty
    By providing multiple positive touch points to shoppers, retailers can build brand loyalty and increase customer retention.

Overcoming challenges

While there are a ton of reasons why retailers should offer omni channel shopping experiences, it can also be a challenge to provide them. Before changing models, businesses should consider how to address the following:

  • Managing big data
    While the ability to collect and track data through an omni channel experience is an advantage, there is also the issue of figuring out how your company will manage it. There is an enormous amount of data available for tracking shopping behavior across channels, but it requires parsing and tracking across multiple business units.
  • No more business as usual
    Corporate structure must change so that marketing and sales efforts are seamless to customers across platforms. Change must be presented and accepted by all departments.
  • The problem with “showrooming”
    There is some fear that when the final purchase is made online, retailers risk getting undercut by other brands who don’t need to pay for a brick and mortar store. This practice is known as “showrooming.” While this is a legitimate concern, it can be mediated by using a more multi-channel approach to build trust with the customer. Showrooming may happen regardless, but a customer who has already had a good brand experience may be more likely to purchase from that brand.

The best part about providing seamless omni channel shopping for your customers is that you’re giving them the type of experiences they really want. Customer buying behavior is shifting and the companies that know how to cater to this shift will be the ones with a loyal and dedicated consumer base.