If there’s one thing most retailers will claim to do well, or better than anybody else, it’s being able to service the needs of the customer. More often than not, however, the greater the lengths at which retailers will go to provide an ideal shopping experience for absolutely everyone, the greater the likelihood of a tradeoff as result – and that tradeoff is effective management. According to a recently published document by Upstream Works Software, one of the biggest initiatives in customer service that continues to arise is the need for a multichannel strategy in retail. If retailers want to be successful in today’s marketplace, they need to be able to merge eCommerce with in-store solutions and provide a consistent experience across both.
We’ve already seen plenty of examples where high-street retailers are having to increase their marketing channels in order to compete with online rivals, that’s not exactly new. But when it comes to implementing multichannel marketing – across multiple customer touch points including in-store, the retailer’s website, Amazon Marketplace, eBay, etc – effectively managing your business across all areas and operations can be easily jeopardised.
David Atherton, Business Development Manager at NoBlue, works with companies in a variety of sectors who are seeking to streamline their business processes, provide excellent customer service, and ultimately grow their business.
His experience in working with retailers has allowed him to identify the factors that are vital to success in today’s always-connected, multichannel, customer-empowered world.
The complexities of multichannel commerce and the omnichannel solution
Let’s rewind the clocks back a few months. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the run up to Christmas all presented retailers with a very real, very urgent need to provide customers (all types of customers) with an entirely personalised shopping experience in order to maximise success during this busy period. This meant giving consumers access to preferential products, brands, and services via the individual’s preferred method of browsing and buying.
Why multichannel commerce is so important
It’s not enough to simply offer customers the option of shopping offline or online anymore, as the shopping experience is quickly fractured when there’s a lack of continuity across all channels of marketing. And as technology continues to advance, the number of channels to satisfy customer needs only looks to increase.
Now consumers can learn of a new product in an email or through a social media post, as well as traditional forms of advertisement, then explore more about that product on the retailer’s website or through an in-store visit, and ultimately use their desktop, mobile device, or smart television to make a purchase.
More options mean more opportunities for marketers to connect with and engage their markets, but it also means a great deal more complexity. Keeping interactions consistent across multiple channels and ensuring a seamless experience for consumers is the new challenge – the answer to which is an omnichannel solution.
Omnichannel is about true continuity
The endless combination of customer actions and possible sales outcomes across these many channels can lead to any number of continuity errors. An example that shoppers frequently experience is a disparity in promotion, price, and inventory between in-store and website offerings. Stepping into a shop to discover that a product you earlier browsed on the retailer’s website is currently out of stock is certainly frustrating enough; but learning that an in-store purchase is cheaper – perhaps because of a sales promotion on the day – and that the sales rep cannot process your order at this lower price – perhaps because the online sales rep is unaware of such a sales promotion – is more than just an inconvenience; it’s a poor shopping experience.
This kind of discordance is usually down to the retailer focusing on each channel individually; each with their own reporting structure and revenue goals. The result of which generates friction and misaligned incentives. Even when retailers claim to have omniscient control of these multiple channels, that’s not really the case when point solutions are standalone and channel-specific.
At the core of each channel is data pertaining to key business areas, from finance and inventory to customer relationship management. And it’s only when systems are unified through a single commerce platform that information can be shared across multiple channels in real-time, enabling staff to effectively manage business processes, and ultimately enhance the shopping experience for the consumer.
Omnichannel and your marketing strategy – 3 elements to remember for success
Eliminate channel silos
“Eliminate technology islands. Use a consistent, integrated set of management tools for every channel.”
With legacy infrastructures, it becomes cumbersome to add a new channel. Besides, the expense of adding a new silo to support a single new channel is often dwarfed by the expense of trying to operate it properly, often resulting in duplicated work efforts across disparate systems.
Long-term omnichannel and multichannel strategies – exemplified in a single cloud-based commerce platform – allow new channels to be supported quickly and effectively, preventing inconsistencies across different channels. Performance can then be viewed in terms of real value and newly added channels can be assessed in terms of their cost-effectiveness. Do they generate revenue? What are the key indicators for optimal performance? These are the types of questions retailers will be able to answer for themselves and use to their advantage.
Collate everything your customers have done
“42% of customers report being frustrated at repeating information when they contact a business.” (Source. Upstream Works Software)
Customer service involves understanding not only who your customers are but also what they want and what they’ve done.
Having consistent information available on every interaction across channels allows you to create live customer histories, showing all customer activities with your company to any salesperson, customer service representative, or marketing manager who deals with that individual. This will then enable that member of staff to provide a service tailored to the customer, whilst streamlining the process and removing any barriers and discordance.
Separate the channel from the process
“Normalise interactions and use consistent processes, with consistent information, across channels.”
Separating the ‘channel’ and the actual business ‘interaction’ allows your company to normalise every customer issue across every channel for a consistent view of performance.
This separation allows the number of processes, systems, and effort used to be reduced and simplified. When a set of processes is used to handle a customer inquiry on the phone but requires an email to be sent overnight, inconsistencies in service levels will result, if the inherent capabilities and limitation of each channel is not considered.