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How to Build an Omnichannel Retail Strategy for More Sales

Your thorough guide to omnichannel

Kirill Golubev

Chief Product Officer

Eva Petritski

Content Manager

January 12, 2023

Customers choose to make a purchase only after looking up the information about the products. As reported by Harvard Business Review, 73% of people use multiple channels during their shopping journeys.

Having multiple sales channels helps increase the average spend. A study of 46,000 shoppers showed that a retailer’s omnichannel customers spend an average of 4% more when shopping in the stores, and 10% more when shopping online than single-channel customers.

The more additional sales channels there are, the more money customers spend. Thus, customers who used over four channels spent on average 9% more in physical stores than single-channel customers. Customers who first checked products in the retailer’s online store or on third-party platforms spent 13% more when they shopped in physical stores.

The study proved wrong two widely accepted views:

  • Impulse buying is the major revenue stream in retail.
  • Customers explore the offers in physical stores and buy online.

As it turns out, preliminary online product research results in more sales. And, according to the study, omnichannel customers first review products online. Such behavior is typical for Millennials (customers born from 1981 to 1996).

Here are the existing sales channel strategies:

  • A single-channel strategy is when you sell your products or offer services through one sales channel. For example, a marketplace store. This strategy can be good for a small business at the outset. However, we noticed that even small businesses strive to create as many entry points for their customers as they can, for example, selling on Instagram along with a marketplace storefront.
  • A multichannel strategy is selling products through several channels, for example, in an online store and in a physical store. However, such channels are weakly connected with each other, or not connected at all.
  • An omnichannel strategy is based on the multichannel principle, with the difference that it implies the coalescence of all channels into a single profile or a shopping cart. The customer can operate on different channels and switch between them without losing progress.

At HeyInnovations, we help customers design and implement the fusion of different sales channels.

Let’s look at the components that form the omnichannel user experience, and how we create this experience in various projects.

The components of the omnichannel user experience

Norman Nielsen Group identifies three components of the omnichannel shopping experience: coordinated functioning of all channels, contextual optimization, and seamless experience. Let’s look at them in more detail.

Consistency of all channels

Customers interact with companies through various channels: online and physical stores, social networks, messengers, e-mail, and service centers. The goal of the omnichannel strategy is to provide customers with a unified and continuous interaction experience through all of these channels.

These are the components that make up consistency.

#1. Customer data synchronization

All channels must display all the data and changes made by customers. For example, if a call center made some clarifications, the user’s personal account must display them immediately.

On the website and in the app of Ginza Delivery, users can specify the ingredients that they want to remove from their meals in the personal account, or remove the ingredients from the menu items directly while ordering. If a user has specified some ingredients in the application, the changes will be saved in their personal account on the website and vice versa.

The same works with the menu items: if a user removed some ingredients from the dish, started ordering on the website, and continued in the application, the dish in the shopping cart there will have all recent modifications.

#2. Consistent visual style

The logo, the color palette, graphic elements, illustrations, photos, and typography–all these design elements must visually tie the channels together.

Physical stores, social media, the website, and the app of 12 STOREEZ use a coherent minimalistic visual style in calm natural tones; visual elements in all channels mirror the style of the clothing that the brand designs.

#3. Key functions in all channels

Your customers may not use all the communication and sales channels, so make sure that they can access all the basic functionalities from anywhere.

On the website and in the app of our client Ginza Delivery, shoppers can specify their location either automatically or manually to view offers from the nearby restaurants. They can add the item they like into their cart in just one click.

Unlike the app, that displays only menu items, the main page of the website has sections with special offers. In the app interface, such sections would look out of place and distract users from ordering goods.

The app groups menu items into carousels for each restaurant, and the website displays each dish separately, as it is easier to fit a larger number of individual product cards on a computer screen. The website also features a non-standard grid with different-sized product photos, selections, and personal recommendations to grab the users’ attention, and put more highlight on the food.

Contextuality

It is vital to understand and correctly use all the strengths of each channel at all stages of the sales funnel.

To understand the context of using each channel and design the most optimal user experience, answer the following questions:

  • What tasks can your users solve with your help?
  • When and in what situations do they solve these tasks?
  • What devices and channels do they use at different stages of their journey to solve the tasks?
  • What tasks are solved more often in each channel?
  • What devices and channels are most often used in each channel?

In the mobile app that we developed for Pettersson, a large home improvement retailer, we used the basic smartphone functionalities to create a handy instrument for the store customers. In the Pettersson stores, heavy items have special NFC tags along with the regular price tags. Customers can log into the app, open the Touch&Beep section, and hold the smartphone to read the price tag.

Then, a product card with a detailed description and the option to add the item to the shopping cart appears on the screen. The barcode reader in the app works in the same way. Reading barcodes and NFC tags spares customers from writing stock numbers out and allows effortlessly adding items to the shopping cart, after which the customers can confirm the order either in the store with a manager, or online.

Seamless experience

Seamless experience means switching from one channel to another without losing progress. Customers should have an option to complete the task from where they left off on any device.

To achieve a seamless experience, you need to plan out the entire user journey, not just individual interactions. Find out how and in what cases users switch between channels, then detect and remove any potential obstacles along the way. Start by answering the following questions:

  • Are there any instances when your customers may want to switch from channel to channel? If so, how do you help them?
  • Does it happen that users switch between channels when solving a task? If so, can you automate the transition between channels?
  • Do you use prompts that encourage users to switch to other channels? If so, what actions do you expect from users, and will they be able to successfully perform them?

For example, Google Maps users may want to search directions on computers, and build the routes on mobile devices. That is why the desktop version of Google Maps allows transferring routes to the smartphones.

After detecting all the obstacles that your customers might have while switching between the sales channels, you can start creating solutions. Here are a few key points to keep in mind:

#1. Help to resume from where the user left off

There are several ways of how you can help users resume their activity in a new channel.

Authentication. The easiest, but not the best way to synchronize user actions in all channels.

For example, one cannot use Netflix or Facebook without logging in. It makes sense, since the former needs to access a user’s subscription data, and the latter requires a user profile to interact with other members of the social network.

At the same time, making users log in or register just for the sake of viewing the range of products or placing an order in an online store is pointless. More often than not, users see it as a waste of time, and will leave to a platform that provides an easier access.

Sending a link. Generating and sending a link via email, a text message, or messengers is an inexpensive way to help users resume their tasks on other devices. Another way is to send a QR code or an access code.

For example, on the Pettersson website, customers can compile a construction budget spreadsheet and share it with a link.

If the user opens the link on the smartphone with the installed app, the shopping cart there will already contain the spreadsheet items.

Handoff. It is a process of transferring data from one channel in the network to another.

This is how the Apple ecosystem allows their users to resume activity on other devices. A user can start watching a movie in the Hulu app on the iPhone, then switch to Mac and continue from where they left off.

#2. Create sandboxes to save items

To enable re-accessing information and saving progress when switching to another channel, keep a record of recently viewed items.

The 12 STOREEZ app remembers the items that were viewed on other devices and displays them in the search suggestions. It helps users get back to the item they searched but did not add to their wishlist or shopping cart.

#3. Add after-sales services

Placing the order is not the final point of your customer’s omnichannel experience. You need to make sure that the client returns to you after the first purchase. Whether they come back, or not, depends on the support you provide to them at the stages that follow the purchase: receiving and returning the order.

In the 12 STOREEZ app, there is an option to return the goods. The user specifies the return reason in the app, and waits for the retailer’s representative to contact them to clarify the return procedure.

Connection between physical and online stores

If you use both physical and online sales channels, think about the ways of linking them together. The option to easily switch to any sales channel increases customer lifetime value by 30%, that is, facilitates a long-term relationship with your customers.

Here is how we link offline stores and online sales channels:

  • In-app loyalty card. Customers can use it in the store and track how they earn and redeem points in their personal accounts.
  • Barcode reader and NFC tags for a quick search in the catalog. It is convenient for the customers who need to order goods that are out of stock in the physical store, check if there are any items with other specifications, or order delivery of heavy items.
  • Information about item availability. It helps customers learn whether the required item is available in the nearest store and order it in the app or on the website.

There are also several other interesting solutions, such as using the app as a navigator across the store, or communicating through interactive screens with the export of the results to a smartphone or email.

Conclusion

Building an omnichannel sales and communication strategy is a strong requirement for any large retailer. The easier it is for customers to switch between channels when exploring the range of products or placing and tracking the order, the more they will spend and return to your store. In this article, we showed how our clients build an omnichannel strategy, and how we help to implement it.

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