Using an omnichannel strategy to drive sales

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Here’s an interesting stat: 90 percent of shoppers expect retailers to offer an omnichannel shopping experience, but only 55 percent of retailers actually have omnichannel retail strategies in place. If that sounds to you like it’s a big problem, you’re right. It is. New Blis research suggests that consumer shopping habits have changed even more dramatically than we had anticipated in recent years. Shoppers now seek more seamless mobile and automated shopping experiences, and to stay ahead (and stay in business), retailers must leverage an omnichannel approach to the buyers’ journey. Both digital native and brick-and-mortar retailers need to think creatively about how they’re blending their online and in-store experiences to engage shoppers seamlessly across channels.

In our latest white paper, “Omnichannel Consumers Treading New Paths to Purchase,” we uncovered some important findings that retailers need to consider as they endeavor to address the always-on consumer.

The journey starts online, but often ends in-store.

The first step in any shopping journey is inspiration – the moment the shopper realizes they might want something, and they’re motivated to further research their potential purchase. Nearly half of all shoppers will begin by browsing on their computer (47 percent), while only 10 percent of consumers will shop with apps, and 15 percent start on a mobile website. Social media accounted for 16 percent of shopping inspiration, which isn’t surprising considering the many visual ad formats these sites offer; however, seven percent of shoppers went to social media for recommendations. An even smaller number of purchases, only three percent, occurred on social.

The majority of purchases prefer to complete purchases either in-store (35 percent) or on a desktop or laptop computer (41 percent). What’s interesting is the similar weight and preference shoppers placed across all other channels on their path to purchase: mobile apps, mobile websites, social media and in-store visits all received comparable levels of attention when customers were looking for inspiration, advice and price comparisons.

Mobile Opportunities in Omnichannel Retail

That exposes both some challenges and opportunities for marketers. Mobile apps and websites in particular represent an opportunity. Given that 71 percent of participants in our study consider themselves “mobile shoppers,” comparatively few actually preferred to leverage the channel as they shopped.

With regard to mobile shopping apps, two out of three participants in the study said they use at least one mobile shopping app, but nearly one third do not use any. Younger shoppers seemed to show more loyalty to apps, but consumers between the ages of 25 and 54 – a larger and potentially more affluent group – were willing to embrace multiple apps. It’s worth the effort to encourage shoppers to download retail apps. According to a recent study, sixty percent of consumers use apps to browse products, while half use them for coupons and 49 percent actually complete purchases.

When it comes to encouraging shoppers to download and use mobile shopping apps, innovative features are more likely to yield success than discounts. Consumers admit that it would take a discount of at least 25 percent – if not more – to get them to switch brands. It may be more effective to offer shoppers convenience, such as the opportunity to purchase an item in-store with a simple scan of their mobile (as Amazon does in its stores) or the ability to use earned benefits automatically by paying with the app (as Starbucks and CVS do).

By the same token, marketers should look at opportunities to bring the best features of their in-store and online experiences into their mobile apps and websites to make them a more seamless and engaging touchpoint along the shopper’s journey. Not every shopper engages at every potential touchpoint on the path to purchase; this course is becoming more bespoke as shoppers discover their own way to buy the things they want and need.

Retailers must understand their customers to deliver the customized shopping experiences they desire. As competition becomes increasingly fierce, omnichannel is the best course to chart for a thriving business – as evidenced by the continued success of Amazon, Walmart and Target, and the demise of Payless, Toys R Us and other Main Street and mall fixtures. The impact of omnichannel is even clearer by the numbers: consumers who shop across multiple channels spend 30 percent more per purchase. Put simply, shoppers expect a multi-channel journey. They want to have a cohesive experience online and in-store, and they want to be able to purchase the items they want when, where and how they choose. It’s incumbent upon retailers to understand this and deliver.

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