More people are now comfortable shopping online because that is what they have had to do to survive the pandemic. This shift in buying habits is not going away. If you were collecting data on your customers with a view to moving to omnichannel before the pandemic, you are ahead of the game now, as you already have data to interpret and analyse about what your customers need. Having an omnichannel offering is fundamental to building on established relationships as well as forging new ones. Now, you need to focus on making it convenient for customers to buy from you
Data underpins omnichannel
Some may argue that it doesn’t matter about the customer journey – what customers really want at the moment is convenience. But in order to give customers what they want, retailers and brands have got to understand them better and have the data about their experiences and preferences to interrogate. As consumers, we are all used to giving data away online, but it is now easier than ever to collect data from customers in-store, thanks to integrated customer relationship management systems. Plus, we have had several months of Covid-19 online activity, so online data sets have been expanding too.
McKinsey stated in its June 2020 ‘Redefine the Omnichannel approach’ report that: “Advanced analytics can help organisations make full use of their rich customer-interaction data and truly understand customer intentions and behaviours across channels. A deep understanding of the customer will help the company determine which cross-channel experiences truly matter the most.” We see many of Worldpack’s clients ready to step up and deliver with a powerful omnichannel offering – even with the current challenging circumstances.
Customer service is key
There is one simple truth about omnichannel – the customer should benefit from it. All too often, omnichannel hasn’t worked because of hiccups in the system, such as a flaky online offering, mistakes in technology and a lack of communication with staff to ensure brand consistency. Communication with and training staff so they understand how they fit into the bigger picture is paramount. You don’t want a customer venturing into your store and being frustrated by staff who don’t have the latest information on stock levels, one-way systems or how click and collect works – especially if they have had an amazing online experience.
Retail staff are fundamental to a positive in-store experience
Under the glare of Covid-19, retail staff in store have become more important. These jobs are important because the people are likely to be at the beginning or end of the customer journey. They need to have product information at their fingertips, know the store’s Covid policies inside out and be able to adapt to different situations.
There is a famous scene in Love Actually where Rowan Atkinson’s sales person puts so much love into wrapping a purchase he ignores Alan Rickman’s requests to hurry up and consequently loses the sale. For brick and mortar retailers, it is critical to look at the roles within store and determine how they drive value, who needs training and which roles can be replaced with automation and technology. The importance of recruiting, retaining and retraining staff who are exceptional at listening and adapting should not be ignored.
In its report ‘Closing the skills gap in retail with people analytics’, McKinsey highlights that “as roles evolve, it is crucial to invest in building new capabilities, especially in areas that will drive future growth, such as interpersonal and technological skills.
“The store of the future will be not only the focal point of a technologically enhanced shopper experience but also a hub for data gathering and data-driven decision making. Applications range from smart price tags to targeted in-store promotions displayed on smart shopping carts or pushed to the mobile phones of registered shoppers. Skilled labour is a key prerequisite for maximising the value generated by such innovations.”
Trust is vital
As Dennis points out, “Alongside the importance of merchandising, marketing and understanding customer needs, data is the foundation stone for omnichannel. In the short term, by all means focus on interactive experiences, an amazing store layout and terrific glitzy displays and collect that data. But make sure you don’t lose sight of the customers’ needs at the moment – how safe they feel in your store and how best able your staff can help with this.”