How to Transform Omnichannel Retail from Myth to Reality

As you’re folding laundry at the end of a long day, you realize that your favorite pants are sporting stains from the tomato sauce-covered pasta that was yesterday’s dinner. Try as you might, the stain is there to stay, so you quickly open up your laptop to see if you can order another pair of pants online.

Luckily, when you reach the website, the store recognizes you and remembers your past purchases, so you can quickly find your pants order and replicate it.

As you pay, you notice an advertisement for an in-store blowout sale starting tomorrow, so the next day you head to the mall to see if anything catches your interest. When you walk in, ready to browse and perhaps buy, the store’s mobile app pushes a notification to your phone, asking you if you want to enable its Bluetooth technology feature and receive personalized offers, store floor maps, and up to date inventory information. And then…

Striving for seamlessness

This mundane shopping experience may seem familiar to the shopper. But to the retailer, the omnichannel experience is the culmination of an entire history of retail evolution: millennia of brick-and-mortar retail, followed by the late 20th century creation of ecommerce, and finally the mobile phone, social media and, ultimately, commerce revolution.

The goal of an Omnichannel retail strategy is to unify the customer’s shopping experience across all of these channels in a seamless way. Unfortunately, most retailers are at a loss as to how to implement such a strategy in their physical and online stores. However, there are a number of solutions available to help retailers of all sizes cater to the consumer expectation for a personalized cross-channel shopping experience like the one described above.

Beacon Technology

A beacon is a piece of hardware that, when attached to a store wall, uses battery-friendly, low-energy Bluetooth connections to transmit personalized discounts, rewards and recommendations to in-store customers‘ mobile phones.

The beacon opportunity is becoming increasingly significant as mobile phones become a more central part of the in-store shopping experience. In 2013, 28% of customers reported using their phone to look up product reviews, and 27% to compare product pricing. 65% of in-store shoppers already prefer learning about promotions and products from their smartphone rather than from a sales associate. With beacons, even when a sales associate is nowhere to be seen, the customer still feels engaged and the store is able to be attentive through technology.

Beacons enable retailers to merge the in-store experience with the personalization characteristic of online shopping. Merely by asking customers to activate their phones’ Bluetooth capabilities and authorize beacon notifications, retailers can engage directly and personally with them, offering personalized discounts and helpful in-store guidance.

Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs allow retailers to connect with customers through exclusive offers available only to members. This may mean anything from a consistent discount on each purchase to eligibility for specific sales, but the main feature is exclusivity. In return for better deals, the consumer registers information with the retailer.

Loyalty programs enable retailers to gather actionable insights in order to better personalize the user experience for loyalty members and other shoppers; it is otherwise very difficult to extract consumer data from customers. With these enhanced data resources, retailers can create engaging shopping experiences across all channels.

Channel-Specific Offers

Channel-specific offers are a way of driving traffic to multiple channels. For example, if a retailer wishes to draw consumers to its website and generate more online sales, it might distribute coupons that are only redeemable online. Alternatively, consumers with booming digital sales might encourage in-store traffic by offering incentives available only in the physical store.

Through these targeted offers, retailers can increase conversions at all channels, while improving customer brand satisfaction and loyalty.

Tokenization Technology

Tokenization is a technology that enables secure storage of sensitive data. When data is inputted into a system, it is encrypted into a token, or a reference, to the data. Once tokenized and stored on a secure server, data can be easily recalled to streamline the customer identification process.

Tokenization also allows retailers to recognize returning customers and identify their shopping patterns, but in a way that does not compromise consumer privacy. Retailers can instantly recognize their customers and cater to their individual preferences, leveraging the collected data to do so.

One key advantage of tokenization is that, unlike the other methods listed here, it doesn’t require customers to sign up or give approval. Consumer information is automatically secured, stored, and referenced to enhance the user experience and the retailer’s data resources.

Tokenization is helping many retailers better engage their customers across multiple channels while minimizing the friction felt by consumers when switching between these channels.

Oren Levy is CEO of online payment solution provider Zooz.

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