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 Chuck Schaeffer How to Succeed in Omni-Channel Retailing


A 10 Step Omni-Channel Framework

  1. Business Processes. Many retailers are still unable to meet even the simplest omni-channel use cases. The 2014 Forrester study, "Customer Desires vs. Retailer Capabilities: Minding the Omnichannel Commerce Gap", reported that 71% of consumers expect to view in-store inventory online, and 50% expect to buy online and pick up their purchase in a store. However, only 36% of retailers surveyed said that they can provide shoppers with in-store pickup of online purchases, online visibility of cross-channel inventory, and store-based fulfillment of online orders. The research also shared that in-store pickup of purchases has emerged as a key capability that brick-and-mortar retailers must be able to offer if they expect to compete against online-only retailers. 47% of the consumers surveyed said they use in-store pickup to avoid online shipping costs; 25% use it to collect their order on the day of purchase; and 10% say they find it more convenient to pick items from a store rather than having them shipped to their home.

    Omni-channel consumer use cases are often designed in what are called customer journey maps and organized along consumer personas and life cycle stages. Omni-channel retailing is a journey, so it’s important to prioritize use cases and make continuous advancements. Another common omni-channel business process is supporting consumer conversations across channels and intermittently. Consumers expect to engage their favorite brands in one channel and continue or escalate to another channel often in separated dialogues. For contact center use cases, this requires retailers to bookmark the consumer dialogue so that it is easily resumed when the conversation continues.

    Omni-channel success demands that business processes become more consumer-centric and cross-functional. This often represents a cultural change where all departments must be reoriented to support whole company goals and not just goals benefiting individual departments. Adopters should consider cross functional champions and teams to design and deploy more holistic business processes. This change is profound, and in fact many retailers wisely understand that they need to reorganize their company hierarchies to become flatter organizations.

    Customer experiences are only as good as the people who deliver them. Education, training and coaching will be required. Job descriptions should be updated. Incentives should be considered. Indeed, incentives drive retail staff behavior and omni-channel shopping will likely need to be supported with multi-channel commissions. A shared success incentive model will be extremely helpful for most retailers.

  2. Clear Objectives. When setting business objectives, remember that omni-channel communication is more than delivering the same content across multiple channels and should aspire to achieve the more strategic objective of delivering a consistent and rewarding customer experience across all channels. For example, promoting the brand promise, customer-centric culture, conversational tone or even company personality along with the content needed to satisfy the consumer use case achieves more synergistic and sustained results.

    To stimulate your thinking, here are some omnichannel objectives I’ve used in prior consulting projects.
  • Deliver consistent customer experiences from platform to platform, with continuity in branding, messaging, and content, and optimized toward the strengths of each channel
  • Facilitate consumers’ desire to engage their favorite brands and even less favorite suppliers over the channel that is most convenient for them at any given time
  • Create seamless customer journeys with cross-channel engagement continuity to aid every consumer interaction and contribute to the overall consumer experience
  • Enable consumers to access communication channels simultaneously and interchangeably while maintaining dialogue persistence during multi-part conversations
  • Keep customers engaged in individual touch points and as they move among them. Maintain conversation fidelity through intermittent starts and stops and across channels
  • Integrate physical, virtual and mobile sales channels to better deliver frictionless buying experiences

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Omni-channel retailing is more than delivering the same content across multiple channels and should aspire to achieve the more strategic objective of delivering a consistent and rewarding consumer experience across all channels.


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