Omni-channelling: Be crystal clear

Written April 11, 2016 • Steve Perry

Omni-channelling isn’t a New Age spiritualistic ritual, though it does sound like it, but you will still need to be open to receiving messages from entities. These entities are tangible as they are your potential consumers, and it is you and your brand that will serve as the medium for your target audience to reach the end goal.

Omni-channelling (or cross-channelling) is a sales approach that’s all about ensuring there is a seamless experience through the various stages, whether that be browsing online on a laptop, making an enquiry by telephone, wish-listing items on a mobile device, or trying items on in the store. For many brands this is a convoluted process, as each point is often treated as a separate approach, which creates more than a few headaches for the customer. You may have multi-channel systems in place that mean each individual channel operates well solo but, in the eyes of your customer, this often isn’t good enough.

InternetRetailing UK Top500 2016 lists one of the key features for being voted highly as having “reliably swift customer service”, which is the case with retailers such as TK Maxx and John Lewis, who earned spots in the top 500. These resolutions could be made through email, social media, or the phone. The researchers note some brands fail to recognise that customers often don’t view separate channels as different, they just use the route that’s easiest for them and expect a response. The most successful brands have taken into account things such as page load speeds and consumer experiences via the various channels, and continue to update and amend based on the ever changing metrics.

Clothing and homeware retailer Next also found a spot amongst the 500, in part due to ensuring both deliveries and returns were convenient and easy, as well as integrating well with in-store processes. The various options for delivery times, as well as charge and no-charge options, made specific retailers more attractive, with a 58% rise in the number of stores that offer in-store collection options when ordered online. For customers, this makes shopping easier as it ensures the product they want is available in the store that’s local to them, with an option to try on in-store, if they so wish. Retailers like Next are also able to check stock levels in all branches and online which can be requested for delivery to the store, home or work address, if the item is available.

The take home from this is that all processes should be centred on them – your customer…

As part of the omni-channel experience, it’s important not to forget how individuals use the website. Merchandise should be presented in a well-designed package with good images and be easy to navigate. InternetRetailing’s research demonstrates the importance of social share options, relevant search results, and also recommended products similar to previously purchased items (or currently sitting in their basket) with 34% of the Top 500 having alternative products if there are no results from a product search. Having a clear understanding of what the UX (User Experience) of your website is will determine what changes you may need to make, but these can certainly be discussed with your developer as you begin to link the various avenues your customer uses. The take home from this is that all processes should be centred on them – your customer – and how you can get them from start to finish thoroughly happy with both your brand and their experience with it. This is what leads to sales, as well as your customer potentially becoming your brand advocate.

When research shows that consumers want apps, it’s important that you ensure they work well!

The rankings in the Top 500 have House of Fraser coming out top at seamlessly integrating mobile and other channels, with their app being cited as what gives them the advantage over their competitors, as it works well both online and in-store. Importantly, the research found that many retailers recognise the need for online integration, but fail to develop apps that actually work well, with almost 50% having apps that perform badly. When research shows that consumers want apps, it’s important that you ensure they work well!

The omni-channel research concludes that the most effective retailers are ones that can consistently present their brand across various channels, and also have them working well together. To neglect one avenue could potentially jeopardise the sales conversion and the trust of your customer.

If you want to discuss improving your e-commerce site, my contact details are here and I’m happy to hear your comments or questions about Magento design and development.