Suppose you are walking down a busy city sidewalk with a flurry of retail stores alongside. Suddenly, your smartphone beeps and you receive a notification that a store near you is having a runaway sale.
You enter into the store to find digital mannequins and endless digital merry go round of products displaying a wide array of products. You use your smartphone to browse the entire in-store product catalogue and order your favourite items using some third-party online retailer application. The store manager receives your order in his order management system and you can collect your purchase from the store counter immediately. The whole experience might sound like a page from a fantasy fiction novel by Isaac Asimov, but is actually one of the foremost trends that is changing the way the products are being marketed and sold to customers.
According to Wikipedia, Omnichannel strategy is a cross-channel content strategy that organizations use to synergize its communication channels and supporting resources to provide a unified and personalised experience to its customers. Companies and their customers can benefit heavily by engaging with users across multiple channels. Of each dollar spent on retail in the United States, 0.56$ is influenced by digital interaction. Thus, it has become important for the companies to tap into each and every channel and improve the customer experience which can help increase profitability of both online and offline channels. Also, companies with strong omnichannel marketing strategies retain 89% of their customers as compared to the industry average of 33%. The ability to target the customer more precisely across channels with a personalised communication will lead to higher conversions and a consistent brand image.
Companies all over the world are embracing omnichannel marketing strategies and adopting a unified approach of doing business. They have realised that they can no longer choose the channels through which they want to interact with the consumers. Instead, they have to be present at all channels that their customers tend to visit often. Online Retail giant Amazon has made a series of acquisitions of grocery retailers in a couple of years like Whole Foods and Birla owned More supermarket thus embracing its omnichannel strategy. It plans to completely makeover Whole Foods distribution hubs by using Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality and can completely transcend the customer experience. American Retail giant Walmart’s USD 16 billion acquisition of India’s homegrown e-commerce startup Flipkart instead of any other offline retail company is a testament to the importance of omnichannel experience in its business strategy.
The future of Omnichannel strategy
With the customers demanding more customized and convenient shopping experience, companies across industries such as retail, telecommunications, aviation, pharmaceuticals, etc. need to build upon and improve their systems and processes, and thus develop an efficient and an adaptive omnichannel ecosystem. Also, to provide a personalised shopping experience to the customers, the retailers need to collect as much information about the customers as possible and use techniques like artificial intelligence and machine learning to derive valuable insights relating to customer behaviour, expected customer lifetime value etc. This can also help in pushing more sales and providing better customer experience.
Quoting Spiderman, “With great power comes greater responsibility”. Companies need to be mindful and protective of the user data as in case of any leak or unauthorised usage of data will open up a can of worms with privacy-related issues. There need to be appropriate data protection regulations by governments all over the world to protect the privacy of the consumers and let users know how and by whom their data is being managed and deployed.
By Vivek Nandwani