Omni-Channel Retail and Beyond: Delivering Superior Customer Experiences

Despite the massive shift toward online shopping, there is still a place for brick-and-mortar retail. In fact, as many as 85% of customers still prefer to shop in-store rather than online. However, recent data suggests that trends are changing. Long-established retail stores are often failing to meet projected earnings year after year, while ecommerce sites are moving in to fill the vacuum. According to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau, Q1 2016 retail sales only grew by 2.2% from the previous year, while ecommerce sales have been growing by a yearly average of 15%.

Is the future of retail online? It may be, but there are a number of advantages to in-store shopping that have yet to be duplicated in the digital space, and many reasons why people still prefer to do their shopping in person. For example, consumers enjoy the ability to see, touch, and test out products before committing to them, and often find the gratification of instant ownership more appealing than waiting for items to ship.

The true future of retail is a combination of both online and in-store shopping, experienced seamlessly across multiple channels via whichever method the customer prefers. Thanks to omni-channel retail and the power of unified commerce, businesses are delivering that future to customers today.

What is the difference between omni-channel and unified commerce?

Omni-channel retailing describes a model in which clients are able to interact with multiple sales and media channels at once, and have their information retained by the retailer as they move between them. For example, omni-channel retailing allows your clients to browse on a desktop, compare prices on a mobile device, then visit your brick-and-mortar location to finalize a purchase — all without having to restart their customer journey. The omni-channel retailing links together all channels, combining the showroom and the website to create a single, unified experience.

Where omni-channel commerce strives to unify several separate channels, unified commerce takes multichannel selling one step further. Unified commerce relies on cloud technology to integrate all business functions, channels, and client data onto a single platform. Rather than allowing your customers to move seamlessly across multiple channels, you give them the opportunity to stay within a single channel — one that incorporates all other channels and data.

While there are some blurred lines between these two strategies, they both demonstrate that unified selling creates a more customer-centric business model. By eliminating restrictions on how, when, and where a client can shop, customers gain freedom and flexibility, resulting in an unparalleled experience.

Shoppers want a unified experience.

Is a consistent customer experience really that important? In a word, yes. Roughly 75% of consumers expect a consistent experience wherever they engage. When they shop in stores, 68% of consumers say it’s absolutely critical or very important that associates understand their personal preferences or needs. Should businesses fail to deliver on this expectation, they risk losing customers. Some 70% of consumers report that technology has made it significantly easier to take their business elsewhere.

Despite the obvious demand for a unified experience, only 28% of B2C companies are available to serve customers on every channel. This becomes an even bigger concern when you consider that 73% of shoppers use multiple channels during their shopping journey. Taken together, these numbers suggest that approximately two-thirds of retailers are failing to effectively cater to the shopping preferences of approximately two-thirds of their audience.

Omni-channel retail and unified commerce solutions can help your business turn everyone into an engaged, satisfied, loyal customer — you just need the right tools.

A unified platform is the solution.

To earn the loyalty of more customers, you need a single, comprehensive solution that unifies all aspects of commerce with store innovations, distributed inventory management, cross-channel data integration, and a rich set of ecommerce capabilities that encompass mobile, social, and web — all powered by the flexibility and agility of the cloud.

When Every Touchpoint is a Transaction

Today’s connected customer wants to shop from any device, any location, any time. Learn how embrace this new retail reality, evolve your approach, and reach more shoppers.

Provide seamless experiences across every digital channel.

Although the modern customer journey is more fluid and flexible than ever before, shoppers still expect a single, seamless shopping experience. A shopper may choose to interact with your brand across multiple digital channels, bouncing between mobile, web, social, and more before completing their purchase. In order to provide a unified experience, your digital commerce tools must extend beyond the basic website and connect not only with each other, but with the customer — anywhere, anytime, on any device.

Tools that track and collate client activity as customers move from channel to channel help ensure that no matter when or how the buyer resumes the conversation, you have the insights needed to help them pick up exactly where they left off. With continuity and consistency across every channel, clients will never have to worry about having to start over at square one.

Unified order management ensures customer satisfaction beyond the sale.

The shopping experience doesn’t end with the purchase. By integrating order management across all channels — online and in-store — you give shoppers the power and flexibility to choose how and when orders are shipped, where they are delivered, and how they might be returned. Customers can buy online and pick up in-store, purchase in-store and have items shipped, change orders after they’ve been placed, choose between multiple pickup and delivery options, and return items to any location without the usual hassles.

Know your shoppers before they even enter the store.

A truly unified commerce platform allows you to optimize your in-store sales approach with cross-channel customer insights. With a single view of customer activity across digital, social, and more, sales associates can offer personalized, data-based service tailored to each shopper. They can identify a customer’s shopping habits, provide personalized recommendations, and access inventory from any location — including online — to help shoppers find exactly what they’re looking for.

The right solution brings it all together.

The commerce world is shifting, but maybe not in the way that some expect. The future of shopping won’t be retail or online, but a hybrid of both. Omni-channel retail and unified commerce brings everything together in a customer-centric, unified solution. This approach will improve the customer experience regardless of how they choose to shop, and increase your effectiveness across all channels. With the right tools, your customers will be able to enjoy a seamless, personalized, interactive buying experience — whether or not they ever set foot in your store.

Want to learn more about the tools that are redefining commerce? Check out Commerce Cloud and see for yourself what a unified commerce solution can do for you.

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