Unified communication: A need of the hour for effective consumer decision making

Published: August 29, 2019 7:59:50 PM

International studies on consumer behavior have shown the rise of a phenomenon called “webrooming” in which potential buyers spend majority of their time researching products online.

Omni Channel, Unified communication, consumer behaviour, webrooming, multi-channel strategyResearch studies indicate that omni channel shoppers have 30 percent higher lifetime value than traditional in-store shoppers.

By Tanuj Choudhry

Even in today’s shared-economy era, no single factor conveys a feeling of security and social integration quite as much as a self-owned house. And when you buy a house, designing its interiors is what makes it home. A typical homeowner spends 8-10% of the value of her home on interiors. It’s a sizeable amount, and decision-making can easily be an 8-10 week process. In a world of Amazon, Swiggy and Uber, where consumers are informed and spoilt for convenience, it becomes imperative for interiors brands to offer a seamless buying experience across touch-points. Omni channel marketing becomes crucial, allowing consumers to engage with a brand and through a channel, they are comfortable with, then and there.

No wonder this has become an integral part of old and new age B2C brands across fashion, interiors, etc. The buying journey, especially for the home interiors segment, includes various touchpoints like mobile, social media, billboards and TV, retail outlets and most recently, virtual meetings. A strong omni channel strategy allows customers to transition across these channels through a unified experience. A brand that you discover on your Facebook or Instagram feed will most likely allow you to get a virtual tour of its experience centre, or even log into a virtual consultation with a designer. A Saturday afternoon visit to an experience centre will often trigger more targeted messages for you on the social media platform, encouraging you to dive deeper into a product range, or sign up for a sale!

International studies on consumer behavior have shown the rise of a phenomenon called “webrooming” in which potential buyers spend majority of their time researching products online. These customers physically visit stores only when they have made a holistically informed purchasing decision. Omnichannel approach has made this a reality by creating seamless customer experience across physical stores and multi-module online channels.  Research studies indicate that omnichannel shoppers have 30 percent higher lifetime value than traditional in-store shoppers. Today, businesses should focus on adopting an integrated experience while keeping a check on the following elements:

1. Services, an inch/a click away: Home interior players need to create a robust interface to provide services to consumers across online channels as well as in the stores. A real-time interface is very important in today’s fast-paced lifestyle. This ease of access should just not be restricted to product offerings but also extend to after-sales support and customer service. Voice powered e-commerce (like Siri & Alexa) to optimize searches and use of chatbots and co-browsing tools for consistent customer support are enabling brands to provide an enhanced experience for the consumer.

2. Always knowing them better: Leverage Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Computer Vision, and if needed small-data, to redefine consumer engagement, gather data in a scientific way and use the right metrics for communication strategies. It also helps in providing personalized recommendations best suited to their requirements.

3. Connecting technology at the core of the brand offerings: Technological intervention in Omni channel has brought consumers and brands closer. Augmented reality and visualization is making brand offerings more holistic and appealing. One of the significant breakthroughs in the past few years is how home interior brands are using technology like ReactJS, AngularJS, WebGL, ThreeJS and 3D graphics to build products like Spacecraft, to create end-to-end designs along with exact costs for consumers in realtime. This has not only enabled quicker turn around on projects but also halved the number of interactions that a consumer traditionally needed to indulge in, especially while dealing with unorganized players.

4. Localization at the community level: While people are predominantly dependent on online for faster and easier mode of purchasing, it is also important for business to have presence at the community level. This can be done by having physical presence in smaller radiuses, and by creating a warm, integrated experience in-store. Furniture behemoth, IKEA, has also been experimenting with smaller, pop up stores in high-density areas across global cities, as an alternative to its well-known large format stores.

5. Creating the most consistent service: As multi-channel marketing continues to augment retail sectors, home interior players need to ensure that the offerings, communication, service and support are not only consistent throughout all media, but the brand also offers effortless transition between devices. This ensures that the consumer picks up right where they had left off. According to Google, about 85% of online shoppers start a purchase on one device and finish on another.

In conclusion, omni channel has been effectively complementing growing consumerism and changing consumer preferences. Integration of unified multi-channel strategy will be crucial for brands in the home interior space, in order to optimize businesses, scale profitability, increase brand preference and thereby achieve operational excellence.

(The author is Chief Business Officer and Board Member At Homelane. Views Expressed are personal.)

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