True omnichannel commerce is connected by robust backend systems.
When you commit to an omnichannel strategy, you're seizing a major opportunity to reach consumers across a vast array of in-person and online venues. To accomplish that worthwhile goal, however, you'll have to ensure that all components of your newly expanded operations are up to par. High expectations are the rule today in both eCommerce and traditional retail, and you'll have to meet them.
Customer experience is one of the pillars of a successful omnichannel debut. People need to feel comfortable shopping with you, and when you've staked your reputation on using multiple platforms, these channels need to be equally strong and consistent. You'll have to meet this challenge whether you're an online seller striking out into in-person stores or a traditional seller setting up an expanded internet presence.
What is true omnichannel?
A real omnichannel experience is above all consistent. People will recognize your branded offerings whether they are accessing an online platform or shopping in-store. The backend will also be seamlessly connected, with physical retail locations and distribution centers all feeding into the eCommerce experience. If there are breaks in the system, with presentation, branding, inventory or communications split up by channel, customers may end up unimpressed with your company's inconsistency.
The real goal of an omnichannel transformation is to reassure customers that they are dealing with one company, no matter which channels they choose to shop or communicate through. Shipping items ordered online for pickup at retail stores, facilitating internet returns in person (or vice versa) and other cross-channel actions should all be possible when your backend systems are fully integrated and aligned. Once you reach such a level of consistency, you're a true omnichannel brand.
Best practices of customer service
When it comes to delivering an ideal omnichannel experience, even enhancing both your website and in-store service won't be enough unless you work on combining and linking those venues. Customer Think specified that establishing a consistent presence between physical and digital retail is one of the more commonly overlooked elements of becoming an excellent omnichannel retailer. The source specified that companies focusing on online or in-person operations as siloed concerns are "stuck in parallel ruts."
When focusing on specific customer desires, it's important to ensure that shoppers will be pleased whether they interact with your brand in person or online. Customer Think noted, for instance, that if you're committed to making the shopping experience easier to navigate, it's best to ensure that product categories being set up in person are reflected online and vice versa. When creating a themed aisle in a retail store, it is a good practice to ensure that the same types of products are grouped together on your eCommerce site.
Marketing and perception should match
A unified backend will lead to a stronger omnichannel experience.
Not only should your online and physical stores share layout and tone, marketing strategies should treat them as parts of a whole instead of separate channels. Econsultancy noted that campaigns and calls to action that only affect part of an eCommerce business don't make sense in the current retail climate
. Letting one channel of the company promote itself in a way that contradicts the messaging coming from another part will potentially lead to confusion and dissatisfaction among consumers.
The above advice is especially important as it relates to setting expectations. Consumers who anticipate one experience and receive another, or find themselves disappointed by one of your retail channels, may end up disillusioned with the organization in general. Making it easy to shop both online and in person is half the battle. Setting up a consistent public face that will draw customers in and accurately represent your capabilities is the rest of your task. The rule of thumb is to break down operational barriers between channels wherever you find them.
The backend must match up
The beginnings of a true omnichannel business begin with backend systems. If your eCommerce platform
and the solutions powering your in-person stores don't share information effectively, everything from consistent returns to accurate inventory readings may be impossible to come by. When you can't deliver this type of consistent and strong retail experience to your customers, all other efforts to put forth a unified face could feel hollow. By contrast, once you have a backend solution that unites operations across channels, it's not so difficult to create a consistent brand image.