We all know that omni-channel is essential for retail.
But getting it right can feel like needing something close to omniscience. Intimate knowledge of the physical and digital sides of your business is vital if you're to successfully weave them together into the unified shopping experience your customers demand.
Luckily, you can bypass the need for total omniscience by dipping into the creative strategies outlined in our seasonal strategy stocking filler of a report. Unified shopping approaches are a real stand-out in this guide to the 2017 season's top trends.
The effort to unify is worth it. Omni-channel customers are committed customers. A telling stat from Grace Edinger – Manager of Digital Products at cosmetic brand Kiehl's – at a recent Salesforce conference, revealed a 135% greater spend by such customers compared to online-only shoppers.
That's a rich spending seam to be mined and one that glitters particularly bright as Christmas lights are switched on across the country. Perennial omni-channel favourites, like Click-and-Collect and returns, really come to the fore at this time of year. If you can get those right this Christmas, you're more than half-way to omni-channel nirvana.
Whether you call it 'Buy Online, Pick-up in Store', or Click-and-Collect, consumers love the flexibility this channel cross-over affords them. Younger shoppers are definitely down with the C&C option. Sixty per cent of those aged 25-44 are inclined to use it, according to our recent Shopper-First retail report. Christmas is hectic for them, and retailers that give them options for their seasonal shopping strategy really stand out.
That's especially true for those who can support the 'collect' side of the equation with a dense network of bricks-and-mortar stores. The week before Christmas Day offers a fantastic opportunity for them to beat online-only players by pushing hard on the time-saving and cost-shaving benefits of picking up.
It also usefully plumps up sales volumes, in what are often the slowest digital shopping days of the season. But make sure your C&C customers have plenty of TLC.
Give them a direct pick-up point separate from the normal in-store till queues. And see if you can offer them channel-exclusive deals to grab their attention. Once in-store, the upsell opportunities can mean greater average spend. Your stores will love this, but only if you make sure they share in recognition of the sale.
The message that returns are good for your business is a received wisdom these days. You don't want to miss out on this opportunity to save the sale. Our report on the key trends for 2017 has plenty of tips to make returns work for you, particularly on the digital side of the equation.
But don't miss out on the potential upsides from a cross channel approach. Getting returners into the store has great potential to be a happy experience for all.
For consumers, they get to save on return shipping costs, with the chance for getting a seamless exchange. Often the return is simply about getting a misfit corrected, something more readily done in-store.
For retailers, a sympathetic face can make the in-store return add real value to the customer relationship. Store staff can intelligently address the specific concerns that caused the return. And, of course, maybe upgrade an exchange to an upsell.
But you need to make sure a unified approach to click and collect and returns is more than just a hasty bolt on. We've heard tales of store staff hiding when they see a digital returner coming into their store. The reason? They haven't been properly incentivised to process the return from another channel.
So, make sure that your quest for unity goes more than skin-deep. Both sides of the business need to pull together to prosper this Christmas.
Check out our 2017 report for more ideas on presenting a united front to the fast-approaching season.