By Vaibhav Lall
Digital experience, in the face of the pandemic, has become a part and parcel of shopping. Brands focused on delivering to the increasing expectations of seamless and intuitive digital presence across various platforms, are seeing greater returns. Undergoing major digital transformation is, therefore, critical. Implementing a seamless customer experience across various platforms and devices, amplifies the lifetime value of customers.
Challenges in implementing omni-channel marketing initiatives
Omni-channel marketing strategies help consumers receive a more personal and streamlined experience in terms of design or e-commerce. However, the implementation of omni-channel marketing initiatives in India is still fraught with issues.
- Disparate technology platforms: The adoption of disparate platforms for communications, time tracking, work management, storage and performance tracking, can be costly. It also causes confusion, since finding information scattered in multiple places is difficult. This intensifies the need for a single platform.
- Incomplete data across all channels: Creating an omni-channel customer experience requires data from different channels. However, existing data is often obsolete, duplicate, contradictory, inaccurate or incomplete. To ensure its accuracy, businesses must adopt a unified data collection system.
- Lack of omni-channel marketing strategy: Despite the growing need of omni-channel marketing, most brands have failed to formulate an effective strategy. For a robust omni-channel strategy, critical awareness of target audience is necessary. Brands should know where the audience spends their time and how they interact with their favorite brands. A personalised experience is an integral omni-channel marketing strategy.
Technology or software limitations: For an ideal omni-channel retail experience, brands need to leverage technologies like IoT, Augmented reality (AR), Virtual reality (VR) and chatbots. However, most brands have a non-agile IT infrastructure. Overhauling the entire IT system and training the team about new technologies requires a capital outlay beyond the reach of startups and MSMEs.
- Inability to act on data in real-time: Omni-channel marketing requires brands to provide an agile and personalised assistance to customers in real-time. Many brands struggle with that aspect, causing an unfavorable user experience due to brand disconnect. It necessitates a strong platform capable of managing multiple channels and unifying customer data for a customised user experience in real-time.
What should you do in 2021 to scale your omni-channel strategy?
Over 74% of respondents, in a Target Marketing research, stated that a consistent omni-channel experience is integral when purchasing a product or service. According to Google, about 85% of online users start shopping on one device and finish the action on another.
It is necessary for retailers to ride this trend by making their online experience integrated and user-friendly. To profit the ecommerce boom and beat the competition, brands need to optimize commerce across channels like online marketplaces, social media, online communities, alongside brick & mortar shops.
- Unify your customer and product data
Brands needs a single platform for all their sales channels and inventory. The main challenge for an omni-channel is to reconcile data across various channels to create a single view of a visitor’s progress. It may sound simple, but 92% of companies still encounter difficulties in accessing, unifying or analyzing their data. The brand’s product and inventory data should be accurately updated in real time.
- Prioritize mobile shopping experiences
With 50% of global ecommerce sales happening on mobile devices, brands need to create a lightning-fast mobile experience. Today, responsiveness in web and mobile app is the key to increase consumers. With growing content centered towards smartphones and tablets, consumer experience needs to be fluid and engaging.
- Adopt the Headless commerce architecture
The headless commerce structure clearly separates the front end of the online store from the rest of the website functions. It allows this architecture to be viewed as separate parts rather than as a common centralized system. The deliverables, managed with APIs, make a common front-end user interface that intelligently adapts to all platforms. Adopting the headless architecture facilitates seamless integration with third-party tools and services, personalising the front-end experience.
- Enhance click and collect
Brands should offer buying options like buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS) and reserve-online, pick-up in store (ROPIS). While the customer pays for the online purchase before picking it up in the store in the first case, they book the product online and pay for it in the store, in latter. These services offer the opportunity to make additional in-store sales. In line with the concept of cross-selling and up-selling, complementary products or a higher range product than the one chosen online by the customer can be proposed.
- Create interactive experiences
Today, with the power of Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and IoT, brands can deliver a seamless and singular experience. They can leverage these emerging technologies to elevate in-store shopping. Interactive spaces improve the user experience throughout the customer journey, help brands identification, increase efficiency.
Priorities for the next three years
- To effectively execute an omni-channel strategy, brands need to prioritize investment in three different tools, namely, an integrated marketing automation tool, data integration tools and better analytics tools.
- Marketing automation is not mere strategy or technology. It also consists of a set of processes/tools that allow companies to simplify, automate and measure marketing and increase their operational efficiency. This augments their revenues and consolidates customer relationships.
- Data integration is the process of combining, cleaning and presenting data in a unified form. This includes aggregating data from a wide variety of source systems with disparate formats, removing duplicates and cleaning the data to transform it into the required format.
Data analysis tools help inspecting, cleaning, transforming and modeling data with the goal of uncovering useful information, suggesting conclusions and supporting decision-making.
With changing times, consumer behavior has changed. They want to discover products through multiple channels before buying. Current uncertainty has amplified the need for flexibility, practicality and consistency. To offer an impeccable user experience, brands need to rely on omni-channel marketing.
The author is founder of Khojdeal. Views expressed are personal.