Customer needs vs omnichannel

The harsh reality for today’s retailers is that one negative experience is enough to make a loyal customer abandon their shopping cart and move directly to a competitor. In their future of CX reportPwC surveyed 15,000 consumers and found that 1 in 3 customers will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience.

Driven by technology and an on-demand culture, the modern consumer now expects quick, easy services at the touch of a button. It’s no surprise that the Amazon effect of same-day delivery, free returns, low prices and ‘Prime’ subscription services all serve to create higher customer expectations unlike we’ve yet to experience.

The environment that retailers now operate in is one of huge complexity and stiff competition. The past few years have been brutal for retailers, with many well-respected brands shutting stores or closing for business completely. In September 2019, store sales fell to their lowest decline since 2011 as shoppers awaited for clarity on Brexit (BDO High Street Sales Tracker).

The current political and economic uncertainty is having a detrimental effect on consumer confidence, with more and more consumers reluctant to spend money on discretionary goods (BRC KPMG report). Retailers are feeling the pinch and as in-store sales growth continues to fall, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to survive on the high street. As businesses struggle to adapt and keep up with competitors, it’s important to balance the need to follow technology trends with the need to have a seamless business strategy. Doing too much can sometimes be just as harmful as doing too little.

The rise in omnichannel strategies

While physical stores struggle, online sales are growing. This is likely to continue with recent reports from analysts at Retail Economics indicating that eCommerce will become the predominant channel for retail spend within the next 10 years. Despite spending habits continuing to change and customers preferring to do their shopping online - not every high-street retailer is struggling in the age of eCommerce. A few notable brands, such as Nike and Oasis, have successfully managed to navigate the transition of the digital era relatively well, and this has largely been done by employing omnichannel strategies.

Omnichannel retail acknowledges that many customers shop across a range of channels, often starting on one, and eventually completing their order on another. A successful omnichannel experience is made up of individual customer touch points, that allows users to move from one channel to the next seamlessly, whilst maintaining a continuous thread of communication.

The focus shouldn’t be on ‘omni’ or even the type of channel, rather as much as it should be on standing out and being relevant where your customer needs you to be. Omnichannel risks delivering the same customer experience across all channels, rather than tailoring each experience to align with the customer behaviour based on the respective channel.

We now live in a world where the boundaries between online and offline have become blurred and many high-street retailers are facing the predicament of ‘eat or be eaten’. As a result, retailers have begun to listen and many are ramping up their investments in omnichannel to deliver the experiences customers now demand.

An omnichannel strategy only works as long as the foundation that supports it is strong; all strategies must be based around consumer needs. Knowing and understanding your customers, then, is key.

Understanding the core needs of your customer

At the core of a strong omnichannel strategy is a diligent and well-thought out plan. Brands are recognising the central role technology continues to play, and the importance of moving in-line with new disruptive technologies both in-store and online to enhance the customer experience. This doesn’t have to involve flashy, expensive innovations such as augmented reality changing rooms; it can be as simple as equipping in-store staff with tablets or mobile devices and, ensuring their awareness of the brand’s online experience is as in-depth as their offline knowledge.

Rather than rushing to implement emerging technologies to disrupt the market, more can be said for taking a step back and truly evaluating what the customer needs. Omnichannel is as much about what to avoid, as it is what to include. Rather than attempting to do too much, too quickly, out of fear of being left behind by the competition – success lies in knowing your customer and always having their core needs at the heart of any omnichannel strategy. 

A successful retailer understands that a seamless presence across multiple touch points is essential to providing the highest level of customer service. Whilst differentiating your brand within a highly saturated eCommerce environment can be challenging, even for well-established brands, it’s crucial for retailers to strike the right balance between moving in-line with technological advancements, while also preserving a consistent brand image across all platforms.