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Channel immaterial – why savvy retailers should strive to give shoppers a seamless customer experience

With more Australians splitting their shopping dollars between online and in-store purchasing, it behoves retailers to ensure they’re offering a superlative customer experience via both channels.

In the 12 months to June 2018, Australians spent a whopping $26.5 billion on online retail, according to the NAB Online Retail Sales Index.

The Ibisworld 2018 Online Shopping Australia Market Research Report notes the online shopping industry is now viewed as a bona fide component of the mainstream retail sector.

Rapid growth in internet and broadband penetration, combined with consumer acceptance of e-commerce as a viable and safe alternative to bricks and mortar retailing, has helped cement its status, the report found.

The rise of online shopping has seen a growing number of Australian retailers go omni-channel – making both bricks and mortar and online equally important components of their sales and distribution models.

Part of making this strategy work is ensuring customers are reached effectively at every touchpoint – mobile, desktop, at the counter and more. It’s even become possible to buy directly from Instagram – the social media platform of choice for Australia’s millennial cohort.

Getting to know you – a unified journey begins with identity

Offering a unified customer journey means engaging with customers in a coherent and consistent way, regardless of where they choose to stage the interaction.

Creating unique customer identities is the key to doing this well. Customer information is typically stored across a variety of databases. Marketers need to embrace technology to connect these together and extract the insights they contain to build a cohesive view of each individual customer. This may include their demographic data, likes and preferences, preferred purchasing time and channel and favoured method of payment. These are all valuable insights which can be used to inform the customer journey, make communication more effective and boost brand loyalty.

Blurring the lines – the benefits of integrating digital and physical

One way retailers are pulling their digital and physical experiences closer together is by offering online customers a choice between in-store pick-up and traditional delivery via Australia Post or courier service.

‘Click and collect’ is a modus operandi that’s working well for an array of big-name brands, from discount department chain Kmart to upmarket fashion chain Sportscraft.

Meanwhile, supermarket behemoths Woolworths and Coles have rolled out ‘click and collect’ grocery lockers by the dozen, as a convenient alternative to home delivery in busy commuter locations around the country.

These refinements of the omni-channel model put customers where they belong – at the top of the priority list.

Retailers which find clever ways like these to meld the physical and digital to create a better customer experience up their odds of surviving – and thriving – in the digitally disrupted shopping space.

Overcoming the disparate data challenge

The biggest impediment to creating unified customer journeys irrespective of channel is the storage of data in disconnected siloes. For example, a retailer’s customer care department may have charge of the company web site, its social media team the Instagram channel – and never the twain shall meet. If both channels receive a customer enquiry from the same person about an out-of-stock item, only one need reply but it’s possible both will, in a classic demonstration of the left hand not knowing what the right is up to. They may even share competing information and possibly make the brand appear sloppy and uncoordinated as a result.

It’s the marketers’ job to ensure customers aren’t required to experience this sort of confusion and frustration. They can start the ball rolling by pushing for data to be pulled out of decentralised silos and put together in a central storage repository, accessible to all stakeholders in the customer journey.

The right tools

Customer journey mapping and orchestration tools can help retailers pull together the data and insights they need to create unified customer journeys which span each and every one of their channels.

Whether customers are browsing the net on their mobiles, scrolling through their Instagram feeds or strolling the aisles, these tools can be used to make connections in real time and deliver offers and interactions which match the moment. Getting this right is what drives customer engagement, conversion and growth.
Making the omni-channel great

While the online retail sector continues on its seemingly inexorable growth trajectory, bricks and mortar stores are far from dead. Successful retailers know it’s possible to offer Australians the best of both worlds by skilful blending of physical and digital experiences.

By eliminating data silos, connecting disparate systems and technologies and mapping compelling customer journeys across all touchpoints they can deliver on the big four marketing goals – convenience, consistency, personalisation and value – regardless of when, where and how consumers choose to spend their money.

About the author

Nicole Stirling, Director of Marketing Asia Pacific and Japan at Acquia

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Nicole Stirling

Nicole Stirling

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