The IssueThe journey used to be about the path people followed in a brick and mortar store. Lean and linear, we relied on very specific promotional tactics (hello the 4 P's!) to pad their shopping basket with both what they came in for as well as a few impulse items. Those were the good old days for sure. Now, they move fluidly across many channels and devices to get their missions met, often creating a new path every time based on whatever is happening at that very moment. Sometimes it's quick and 'one click', other times drawn out and multiple steps. Regardless, they expect retailers to be right their with them, supporting their every need and expectation in a way that feels personal, supported and frictionless.
A lot of retailers don’t understand what omnichannel really means to shoppers today. Often, they think that if they have a brick and mortar store and a website, they’re all set! It’s much bigger than that. Think about yourself…how often do you see something on a social feed, hear a friend raving about a great new find or see something in a store that you make note of but aren’t quite ready to buy? Then follow up on it later?
Fact is, we get interested in things in many ways–sometimes out of need and sometimes out of desire–and how we ultimately buy it happens in what looks more like a scatter diagram than a path!
Here are a few questions to ask yourself.
Are you REALLY omnichannel?
Can you support mobile shopping and commerce? Text-based service, support and fulfillment? Multiple delivery channels such as ebay, Amazon and 3PL? Inventory insight from all points?
Are you copying your CX strategy across channels? Or complimenting them?
Are you using the same engagement approach in both your brick and mortar and your website? Mobile and social as well? Or is your customer engagement strategy contextually nuanced for each channel? What data is informing your decisions? Your experiences CAN’t be copied between channels…they need to be complimentary!
Do you have ‘one clear view’ of your customer’s activities and information across all touchpoints?
If a customer comes in the store, do you know what they bought, where, how, and when so that you can service them properly with little-to-no data digging? Do you have a good grasp on their preferences? Or are you winging it?
Yes, you need to be omnichannel. But if you’re going to do it, do it right and make sure it’s unified.
Ultimately, this entire topic ladders up to two things: (1) giving your customers a great customer experience and (2) doing it in a way that saves you time, hassle and cost. To deliver on the dream, however, you need to morph your mindset beyond omnichannel and squarely into one that’s ‘unified’.
Unpacking this, Unified Commerce, unlike Omnichannel, creates a seamless, consistent experience for customers across all channels by connecting all the data dots tied to each and every unique customer. This means harmonizing all channels, payment systems, products, and customer data so that you can provide every single person with a totally integrated, measurable, and frictionless experience. The process puts the consumer smack in the middle of a holistic CX that unifies their purchase journey, the customer service you provide, fulfillment, returns & refunds and more.
When you can connect all of your back end systems with customer-facing channels in a single platform, the upsides are awesome: better data insights, a simplified commerce ecosystem and a consistent brand experience for customers. You end up with a flexible, powerful retail platform that operates from one common ‘hub’ and provides all the ‘spokes’ that you may need to run your retail business. Then, as changes or surprises show up, you can pivot fairly painlessly. This is what we call ‘elastic commerce’, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to retail!
Tips From the Trenches
As the industry morphed from one channel to a proliferation of choices, we’ve stayed one step ahead of the curve. Here’s the most important nuggets of wisdom we have to share about unifying your customer channels.
√ If you have disparate systems, don’t be afraid. It’s not as difficult or expensive as you think to make this vision a reality.
Many times you won’t have to change all. Also, with a TAAS model, it can often be achieved with no upfront capital–meaning ROI neutral on the monthly.
√ Don’t buy into every SaaS pitch you hear…the magic is connecting the proper the platforms to deliver on experience.
Teams that are solutions neutral regarding software–while also being hardware agnostic–are the best resources to guide you. Only chase the ‘shiny new toys’ if your team knows they can deliver the operational results you desire and can be integrated into your existing systems easily.
√ Connect the customer data dots to make the experience as personal as possible
Consumers are trained to expect retailers to know their tastes and preferences, and they notice when the ball is dropped in between channels. To ensure that there are no dropped data points, choose the right retail system–which means it can support whatever scenario you dream up.
√ You may not need an entirely new system.
You may have 80% of what you need but simply need add some new ‘connective tissue.’ However, you’ll need a navigator to help guide you through what to keep, what to pitch, what to buy and, most importantly, can map out the reality of what’s possible to make all of it work together. Better to know this before you start fitting square pegs into round holes after the fact!
√ If you’ve read through this and aren’t there yet, we can give you best practices to avoid the big pitfalls.
Don’t be afraid to reach out. One of the biggest and least recognized advantages of working with All Point Retail is that we touch hundreds of different retail operators every year in every vertical of retail. We see what tech works, what doesn’t, and who plays well together. We also know which software platforms and hardware tech actually delivers on the operational needs of the retailer. We’re happy to pass that knowledge on to you and your organization as you are planning your growth for 2023.
Why Is This Worth Your Time?
Retail is not going to go back to where it was pre-2020–we’ve all moved on, and the new tricks we’ve learned to power up our shopping chops have created a new set of expectations. Unified Commerce creates a seamless, consistent experience for customers across all channels, integrating and harmonizing them with payment systems, products, and customer data. It helps you deliver a totally integrated, measurable, and frictionless experience. It also helps your associates provide better shopping experiences, which enables you to keep them happy, incentivized and armed to sell more and snag more share of those wallets!
If you’re interested in taking the next step to support your customers at ‘all points’ and want to know the best-in-class options to make it happen, give us a holler!