Introduction: An Omnichannel Strategy is No Longer Optional
In the past decade or so, “omnichannel” has been one of the most frequently used retail buzzwords. It’s that aspirational idea of delivering seamless, connected experiences to customers across channels.
Today, most brands are on board with the idea of omnichannel. But when it comes to building a strategy and executing it, most brands are missing the mark.
According to a survey from Bluecore and Forrester, a mere 30% of retailers feel they’re effective at driving seamless, consistent omnichannel experiences across channels.
That means the remaining 70% aren’t effective at omnichannel. And that’s a big problem.
We’re experiencing a huge shift in consumers’ shopping habits and expectations. For brands, a solid omnichannel strategy is no longer a “nice-to-have” or a pipe dream. Instead, it’s a must for any brand that expects to set itself apart and thrive in today’s retail world.
In this guide, we’ll discuss why omnichannel must be a top priority for all brands. We’ll also explore the roles data, technology, and people play in delivering seamless, cross-channel experiences that attract, convert, and retain customers.
The State of Shopping
Later on in this guide, we’ll dive into three of the key components of a successful omnichannel strategy. But first, let’s take a quick look at the state of shopping today. Doing so will lay the foundation for why omnichannel is so important.
Ecommerce Continues to Grow
As we all know, eCommerce exploded at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the United States Census Bureau, eCommerce sales in the US grew 43% in 2020.
Nearly three years later, consumers continue to embrace the convenience of online shopping. In fact, CBRE predicts that by 2023, eCommerce will account for more than 23% of total retail sales. Digitally-impacted sales (in other words, purchases made either online or in-store by a customer who browsed or researched online first) will account for just over 58% of total retail sales.
In addition, a growing portion of eCommerce purchases will happen on a mobile device. In 2024, Insider Intelligence expects mobile commerce (aka m-commerce) to account for nearly 43% of eCommerce.
The Role of the Store is Evolving
While eCommerce is growing, stores continue to be viable channels. But for many consumers, the role of the store is changing.
There will always be shoppers who will visit brick-and-mortar locations to experience a product firsthand before purchasing it either in-store or online. Others will blend the convenience of online shopping with the instant gratification of in-store shopping by leveraging buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) service. Research from Salesforce tells us that 60% of consumers have used curbside pickup before. And 51% expect to use it even more within the next three years.
New Channels are Emerging and Gaining Favor
In the recent past, if a consumer wanted to buy something, they could either do so at a brick-and-mortar store or via the brand’s eCommerce site. But today, the number of ways in which consumers can make purchases is increasing.
For example, consumers can now shop via social media channels and tap into virtual and augmented reality to better understand products prior to purchase. In addition, conversational commerce channels now allow consumers to interact with brands, get recommendations, and make purchases – all within messaging applications.
These innovative shopping channels are gaining favor with consumers. Per Salesforce research, 68% of consumers have purchased products in a new way within the past two years.
The Purchase Journey is Rarely Linear
Those linear purchase journey graphics in marketing textbooks are a myth. Today, the purchase journey is filled with lots of twists and turns and oftentimes, multiple channels.
According to Salesforce, 78% of consumers have used multiple channels to start and complete a transaction. For example, a consumer might browse an eCommerce site and read questions that have already been posted by other consumers. Then, they might visit the brand’s brick-and-mortar store to see the product in question – but not make a purchase. Later on, they reach out to the brand via a messaging channel to get their outstanding questions answered – and that’s where they ultimately make a purchase.
78% of consumers have used multiple channels to start and complete a transaction.Source: Salesforce State of the Connected Customer Fifth Edition
Consumers Have Lofty Expectations – And They Reward Brands That Meet Them
Modern consumers expect cohesive, personalized experiences across the shopping journey – even when they’re jumping between different channels. Research from McKinsey & Company tells us 72% of consumers expect the businesses they buy from to recognize them as individuals and know their interests.
72% of consumers expect the businesses they buy from to recognize them as individuals and know their interests.Source: McKinsey & Company
And they reward brands that deliver. The same report found that 76% of consumers are more likely to consider purchasing from a brand that personalizes. In addition, 86% of consumers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience.
The Omnichannel Opportunity for Brands
Today, it’s no longer a matter of digital vs in-store shopping. Instead, consumers are leveraging myriad channels within a single purchase journey. And they demand connected experiences, wherever they are on the purchase journey. In fact, 88% of consumers say that the experience a brand provides is as important as its products or services.
88% of consumers say the experience a brand provides is as important as its products or services.Source: Salesforce State of the Connected Customer Fifth Edition
And they won’t hesitate to ditch one brand for another that offers better experiences. The same report found that 71% of consumers have switched brands at least once in the past year.
Any brand – whether traditional or digitally native – must make omnichannel a priority. In fact, it’s the only way to meet shopper expectations and grow sales.
Traditional brands and retailers have the opportunity to build winning eCommerce sites and digital experiences that attract customers and boost loyalty. Digital natives, on the other hand, have the opportunity to optimize their current experiences and build better ways to engage with shoppers in the ways and places they want to interact.
Brands of all kinds that focus on delivering relevant, connected, and personalized omnichannel experiences are in a better position to:
- Attract and delight customers
- Grow a strong reputation
- Increase conversion rates and basket size
- Boost loyalty and lifetime value
- Improve employee experiences
Three Keys to Accelerating Your Omnichannel Strategy
Of course, there’s a lot that goes into an effective omnichannel strategy. However, there are three components that are especially critical to success: data, technology and people. Let’s take a closer look at each.
#1 Holistic Data
One-size-fits-all experiences won’t cut it. Instead, consumers demand personalized experiences across all channels. Data is the key to making those great experiences a reality.
Data is often siloed. Chances are, you have a ton of data available to you. But it’s likely scattered in disparate systems and repositories that don’t play well with each other.
When data is scattered throughout the organization, it’s hard to make sense of it. That makes it nearly impossible to take meaningful action. And as American entrepreneur, Marie Forleo is often quoted as saying, “insight without action is worthless.”
Third party cookies are going away. One key source of data – third party cookies – will soon be a thing of the past. And many marketers are scrambling to fill the void. It’s important that brands ensure they have holistic data that’s easy to analyze and take action on – even after third party cookies go away.
Prioritize first party data. For starters, brands must make it a priority to collect first party data. While this seems like an uphill battle, the data tells us otherwise. Oftentimes, consumers are willing to share their data – if they know what’s in it for them. Our friends at Yotpo found that 82% of consumers are willing to share their data with a brand to receive personalized products, recommendations, discounts, or services.
Besides being transparent about how you’ll use the data, it’s also important to time it right. One good opportunity is after a positive interaction. For example, if a shopper engages with your brand via a conversational commerce channel and gets what they need, they’re more likely to provide their data to fuel future experiences and recommendations.
Centralize your customer data. You need data to fuel great omnichannel experiences. And you have the data. But it lives in dozens of different locations, so it’s impossible to make any sense of it.
Instead, you need a single source of truth about your customers. Salesforce is the ideal option.
With Salesforce, you can capture, unify and activate your customers’ data in a single location. That data empowers you to build relevant experiences for each customer across the customer journey – including product discovery, purchase, and service.
By centralizing your customer data, your customers get the connected, personalized experiences they crave. And you’ll set yourself apart from the competition – and grow sales.
#2 An Optimized Tech Stack
Consumers expect personalized, seamless experiences across channels – an idea we’ve touched on many times throughout this guide. Yet, many brands don’t have the tools they need to deliver. According to Twilio, less than one in four businesses have the required technology to deliver consistent, personalized experiences across channels.
The right technology is critical to a successful omnichannel strategy.
Chances are, you already depend on a number of different solutions to run your business. But oftentimes, these solutions are fragmented and the data is siloed. Adding additional solutions further complicates matters.
It’s important to take a hard, honest look at your tech stack. First, work to identify gaps in functionality. For example, you may have a need for business translation software to enable agents to effectively communicate with your global customer base. Be sure any solutions you consider “play well” with your other core technology.
In addition, look for opportunities to streamline your tech stack. You may have multiple solutions that address similar challenges.
The goal is to ensure your entire tech stack is working in unison. Then, you’ll be well-positioned to fuel great omnichannel experiences.
#3 An Engaged Team
Great, omnichannel customer experiences start with great employee experiences. After all, if your employees aren’t invested and engaged, they’re not going to be in the right mindset to deliver winning experiences to your customers across channels.
This starts with finding the right people. It’s important to look for the right skills and experience. But don’t forget about soft skills too.
In addition, be sure to provide ongoing training and development opportunities for your existing staff. Some of your omnichannel initiatives will be new territory, and the right training can boost employees’ confidence and engagement.
Finally, be sure to equip your teams with the tools they need to collaborate and be productive in their roles. For example, a translation tool like Translation Studio empowers employees to collaborate with their coworkers – wherever they are and in whatever language they speak. And providing a solution like Reputation Studio from 1440 allows your customer care teams to manage reviews and Q&A right from Salesforce. This saves time and boosts productivity.
How Salesforce + 1440 Fuel Great Omnichannel Experiences
What does the ideal tech stack look like for an omnichannel brand? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
However, it’s important for all brands to have technology in place that provides a single, 360 degree view of your customers. The world’s best brands choose Salesforce as their single source of truth that fuels the best customer experiences.
Salesforce allows brands to create unified customer profiles across all touchpoints. Customer data, marketing journeys and privacy management are all in one spot. Then, teams throughout the organization can leverage this data to segment customers and deliver winning experiences throughout the customer journey.
Salesforce is a powerful platform right out of the box. But one of the great things about Salesforce is that you can customize it as needed to deliver even better omnichannel experiences.
Here at 1440, we’ve built a suite of solutions native to Salesforce that empower brands to deliver great experiences. We get it: the customer journey isn’t always straightforward. But our solutions help ensure you’re ready to delight customers before, during, and after a sale.
Pre-Purchase: Boosting Shoppers’ Confidence
Modern consumers do plenty of research before committing to a purchase. This is especially true in today’s economic climate, when many consumers are cutting back on spending and scrutinizing the purchases they do make.
1. Building Your Reputation with UGC | Oftentimes, this pre-purchase research includes turning to user-generated content – specifically ratings and reviews and Q&A. Reading ratings and reviews (and brands’ responses to this content) gives shoppers the opportunity to learn about the experiences their peers have had with a product.
94% of online shoppers always or regularly read reviews, and 65% of consumers sometimes or always read reviews on a mobile phone while shopping in a physical store.PowerReviews, The Ever Growing Power of Reviews and 1440, The Growing Role of UGC in the Purchase Journey
As part of the pre-purchase research, many shoppers also read the Q&A portion of product pages – and may even submit their own questions. Reputation Studio from 1440 allows brands to manage reviews and Q&A from dozens of channels – all within Salesforce. This ensures you can get shoppers’ timely answers to their purchase-blocking questions, which increases conversion.
98% of consumers read Q&A at least sometimes and 51% submit their own questions via Q&A at least sometimes.Source: 1440, The Growing Role of UGC in the Purchase Journey
2. Connecting with Consumers Via Their Preferred Channels | Increasingly, consumers are turning to messaging channels to interact with brands throughout the purchase journey. Message Studio from 1440 empowers you to manage these conversations within Salesforce.
3. Breaking Down Language Barriers | Finally, Translation Studio from 1440 ensures you can engage in all of these interactions with consumers in their preferred language. This is important, as 83% of consumers expect a brand in a different country with a different native language to be able to interact with them in their preferred language at least sometimes.
During Purchase: Delivering Great Ordering Experiences
After doing their research, reading reviews and Q&A, and getting answers to their outstanding questions, your customer can make a confident purchase decision. The next challenge is to deliver a winning purchasing experience.
Commerce Studio from 1440 ensures your shoppers have smooth ordering experiences – regardless of the channel and payment method used. In addition, Commerce Studio ensures your customers receive exactly what they ordered – without running into any issues.
Post Purchase: Resolving Issues and Fostering Loyalty
According to a Harvard Business Review article, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. That’s why it’s so important to deliver post-sale experiences that strengthen relationships, restore trust, and keep customers coming back for more.
1. Turning Negative Situations Around | If a customer is unhappy with a purchase, they may decide to write a negative review. Reputation Studio from 1440 allows your team to get alerted to this review. That way, you can provide a fast response that resolves the customer’s issue, restores their trust and boosts your reputation among future shoppers. And Translation Studio allows you to post the response in the customer’s preferred language.
73% of consumers would reconsider a product with a negative review if there was a sufficient response from the brand or manufacturer (1440 research).
Some unhappy customers might reach out to you another way – such as live chat, email, or a messaging app. Translation Studio enables you to quickly and easily translate these messages, as well as your responses. That way, you can provide great service, regardless of language.
2. Streamlining the Returns Process | Returns are a fact of life – even for the best brands and retailers. According to an infographic from Invesp, at least 30% of products ordered online are returned. Returns and exchanges can be a headache for both consumers and brands. And if a shopper has a poor experience returning a product, you may lose them for good.
Conversely, 92% of shoppers will buy from a brand again if the returns process is easy (Invesp). So it’s important to get it right.
Commerce Studio allows brands to provide a self-service returns portal to customers. In addition, agents can process returns, exchanges, and damages from multiple channels – all within Salesforce.
3. Strengthening Relationships with Happy Customers | It’s also important to connect with happy customers after they’ve made a purchase. Reputation Studio from 1440 can help. Reputation Studio enables brands to easily respond to positive reviews across channels. And Translation Studio allows you to do so in the reviewer’s preferred language.
Doing so fosters loyalty and drives repeat purchases and advocacy.
4. Making Data-Based Improvements to Products and Experiences | Reviews and Q&A are rich sources of data that can help you improve products and customer experiences. Reputation Studio allows you to continuously measure sentiment for your products and your company. Then, you can shed light on opportunities to improve existing products, develop new ones, and make your customers’ omnichannel experiences even better.
It’s Time to Activate Your Omnichannel Strategy
For brands, agility is essential.
Creating an omnichannel strategy isn’t a one-time event. Consumer habits, behaviors, and preferences are always in flux. While the mix of data, technology, and people may be right for your needs today, that can always change.
It’s critical to keep a pulse on shopping behavior and be prepared to adapt quickly as needed. And it’s also important to invest in flexible technology. Flexible solutions are those that are built to serve your needs both now and in the future.
These days, the customer journey is rarely linear. Instead, it’s a winding road with multiple touchpoints and channels. And consumers expect connected, personalized experiences, regardless of channel.
Yet, most brands are falling flat.
Now’s the time to focus on delivering winning omnichannel experiences. By doing so, you’ll set yourself apart from the competition – and be in the ideal position to attract, convert, and retain more customers across all channels.
Want to learn how 1440 can help with your omnichannel strategy? Request a demo.