Why Today’s Retailers Must Create an
Omni-Channel Customer Experience
When it comes to customer engagement, retailers have more opportunities – and more challenges – than ever before. On one hand, there are more ways to engage with a new generation of mobile-first, digitally connected consumers. On the other, the ubiquity of technology in our everyday lives is blurring the lines between the physical and virtual worlds. Because of this, consumers expect brands to connect the dots across every engagement, whether they are visiting your retail store, calling your customer service desk, or connecting with your social media accounts.
The modern consumer demands an omni-channel customer experience (CX) – personalized, meaningful brand engagements that occur seamlessly across all screens and devices. Omni-channel CX isn’t just a good idea, its a MUST for retailers that wish to remain competitive in the marketplace. Failure to make this a top priority could spell big trouble for your business in the long run.
When Brands Fail to Invest in the Omni-channel Customer Experience
Sears’ descent into bankruptcy shows what can happen when retailers fail to invest in omni-channel CX. The 126-year-old retail giant held steady growth for more than a century and was once the nation’s largest retailer. Sears dominated the retail market for decades with tactics like innovative product advertising, consumer education and corporate branding, even during economic downturns. But even giants fall.
Despite having previously survived many market calamities throughout its history, Sears found itself in the throes of bankruptcy in late 2018, during a period of economic expansion. Where did the retailer go wrong and what can other companies learn from their mistakes? The downfall of Sears offers three important lessons for retailers.
Remember the Golden Rule – The Customer is Always Right
Sears didn’t fail because they fell behind on technology; in fact, they were one of the pioneers of the online retail space. Website functionality is certainly important for retailers, but the offline-to-online customer experience is ultimately what matters most. In today’s highly competitive market, retailers need to meet customers where they are and get their attention. Customers won’t be compelled to buy from you if they don’t feel a connection with your brand.
In today’s highly competitive market, retailers need to meet customers where they are and get their attention.
This is where Sears failed; they did a great job of staying current on technology but did little to build relationships with their multichannel customers. Sears forgot the golden rule of retail – the customer is always right. Only your customers can tell you what they want from your brand, and what they want today is a personalized experience that occurs seamlessly across every channel.
A recent study by Washington University’s Olin Business School found that 40 percent of today’s Fortune 500 companies will be defunct in just 10 years. Staying in for the long haul requires brands to make omni-channel CX a top priority. That means knowing what your customers want before your competitors do. Acting now could give you a heavy leg up on the competition.
Consider these recent findings:
- By 2020, the demand for an omni-channel customer experience will be amplified by the need for nearly perfect execution. (PwC)
- Just 9% of businesses have fully functioning systems that allow them to engage customers across channels on a consistent basis. (DMA)
- Only 26% of companies have yet to take any action regarding an omni-channel strategy.(Rakuten)
Change the Customer Experience from Multi-channel to Omni-channel
Traditional marketing uses a multi-channel approach, which segments media campaigns by channel, such as linear television and digital media. The problem with this approach is that it creates silos in which data sets are disconnected from each other. Today’s brands must move toward a people-based marketing strategy, where the customer is the central focus.
A people-based marketing strategy requires you to first gain a clear picture of how your customers interact with your brand across each channel and touch point. You can find most of this information in your first party data, which comes directly from your customers. This type of data generally provides some of the most reliable information about your key audiences and how they engage with your brand. However, first party data is only valuable if it is reliable.
Invest in Omni-channel Marketing Technologies
The Aberdeen Group reports that businesses with strong omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain 89 percent of their customers compared to only 33 percent for companies with weak omni-channel strategies. The process of putting customer expectations first requires technologies to deliver your most relevant and consistent message across the media ecosystem. New data management systems that help connect the dots between your online and offline touch points are becoming widely available. If your brand is in the market for a new data management system, be sure to check out our free evaluation checklist to help you select the right data management tools.
One example is an Audience Management Platform (AMP). An AMP helps retailers can connect data silos across disparate systems, and create a 360-degree view of your customers. AMPs can track customer engagements from offline to online, like in-store traffic at brick-and-mortar locations and online traffic on your e-commerce websites. These insights help retailers tailor messaging to the people who matter most – your existing and potential customers.
Is Your Business Using the Data Management Tools to Succeed? Evaluate Them Now!
Businesses with strong omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain 89 percent of their customers compared to only 33 percent for companies with weak omni-channel strategies.
While Sears struggles to regain a foothold in the market, major competitors like Target and Walmart are doubling down on their investments in technology to connect CX across their brick-and-mortar shops and e-commerce stores. Their investments reflect how important it is for retailers to meet the expectation of today’s consumers who want a seamless CX across every channel.