Omnichannel’s steady march to ubiquity has continued over the past decade. It seems like literally every brand is now omnichannel. Or are they?
According to a report by McKinsey&Company:
We find that retailers are often swayed by new technologies that sound promising, but too often don’t deliver.
In all the buzz, brands are struggling to be present everywhere, all the time. New platforms and tools are cropping up presenting new opportunities in both the digital and physical marketing space.
So where can your brand add the most value in 2022? We listed a few of the most promising trends, and how they can be used to create more engagement for brands.
Virtual and mixed reality shopping assistance
Value add: Boosting customer service
Remember shopping by appointment only? It’s here to stay –– without the masks though.
The big advantage of brick-and-mortar shopping was and is the fact that there’s always someone around to help you out. Shopping clerks know exactly what’s available, and might even be able to give customers some pointers on what might be suitable for them, but what about your virtual shoppers?
A Forrester study commissioned by Shopify showed that 52% of brands are investing in ways to help brand representatives communicate with prospective shoppers in real time, through the media they prefer (e.g. text, chat, social, video), and the channel they’re on.
When you’re cluelessly scrolling through children’s toys before your three-year-old nephew’s birthday, it’s these experts who have access to sales data that can point you in the right direction.
What’s important to keep in mind, of course, is that you need to think of your representatives as a specific brand audience, who require their own marketing programs. They need to be trained on brand purpose, tone, and messaging, so that the consistency and quality of their communication with customers is ensured.
On the flip side, some stores are catering to their IRL shoppers’ digital needs by introducing mixed reality shopping assistance. For example, Dutch supermarket, Albert Heijn, introduced an AR application where shoppers can choose a recipe and have a shopping list automatically created for them. When in the store, the app directs them to where they can find each product and offers information about discounts and special offers.
This means shoppers don’t have to wait for a sales rep to be available, and it also provides the opportunity for direct and personalized selling opportunities through the shoppers’ recipe choices.
Upgraded social selling
Value add: Generating more sales on social media
A Statista survey showed that sales made through social media channels are set to triple by 2025. And if there’s any country to follow for the latest trends, it’s China. About half of Chinese internet users already shop on social networks versus about a third of US internet users. More striking is the amount of money they spend. Chinese social shoppers spent over $351 billion in 2021, almost ten times more than the paltry $36 billion US social shoppers spent.
It’s time for brands to experiment and think about how they can use some of the new opportunities to their advantage.
Live video in particular appears to be a hot market. In the first half of 2021, it already accounted for a whopping 21% of total physical goods sold online in China. And according to the Forrester study,
Eighty-one percent of companies plan to either increase or maintain investment in livestream selling to drive sales over the next 12 months.
Live videos can be great for product demonstrations, virtual showroom visits, or even on-appointment personal shopping –– depending on what fits with your brand. Amazon, TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook already offer tools for live commerce, all you need is the right content to go with the flow.
For example, KiKat hosted a Facebook Live event for its Chocolatory Australia campaign that resulted in a triple increase in online sales. During the event, the audience could directly purchase using the Comment to Message feature, which automatically begins a conversation in Messenger when someone comments on the livestream.
Channel selection is also important; depending on where your target customers are, it might be more efficient to focus on a channel where they’re already present –– e.g. Discord over Instagram if they skew younger.
Using push notifications to re-engage
Value add: Converts one-time shoppers into repeat customers
But it’s not just about attracting new customers. The most important omnichannel strategies will be focused on converting one-time shoppers into long-term customers.
One great way to do this is through push notifications. If brands can entice shoppers to opt-in, they can use this strategy to push their latest news, new products, and personalized discounts directly to shoppers’ devices.
A little prompt with the right message at the right time can work wonders for sales. Follow-ups fit into a wider personalization strategy. By integrating users’ shopping data, companies can deliver well-timed nudges to customers to come back, check out new products, or replenish their previous purchase.
Beware of being too pushy though. As we set out in a previous article, push notification pros, Notix, suggest finding the right balance. Take a look at their handy blog with tips on the best time to send push notifications, how to send triggered push notifications through API integration, and more.
A Wix Ecommerce survey found that 58 percent of customers expect follow-up messages post-purchase. A well-timed follow-up can lead to a sense of relationship being built between customer and brand. And if the message is tailored correctly, it’s often rewarded with continued business. The same survey states that 78 percent of customers are willing to make a second purchase if their communication and experience is personalized.
The nice thing about this strategy is that it’s automated, making it easier and less resource intensive to introduce into your growth strategy.
Thanks to services like Notix, integrating push messaging into your website for timely and effective follow-ups is easier and cheaper than ever, with some customers seeing double digit increases in conversion and re-engagement.
Offline is the new online, and vice-versa
Value add: Making the buying experience seamless
‘Phygital’ is the hottest buzzword in omnichannel retail in 2022. Even DTC brands that only had an online presence are now opening up brick-and-mortar showrooms for customers to physically experience their products.
What’s clear is that physical and digital spaces are almost as important. The Forrester study found that 54% of surveyed consumers said they’re likely to look at a product online and buy it in a store, while 53% said they’d look at a product in-store and buy it online.
But experience is not the only reason –– omnichannel is all about convenience. Or as HBR puts it “channel extensions that address gaps in the customer’s journey should be the real purpose of omnichannel selling.”
Shops offer a location where needs can be instantly gratified, which is an enormous benefit for people who just can’t wait. Buy-online-pick-up-in-store, or BOPIS, blends the best of online shopping with the best of in-store. Moreover, customers that pick up their product in a physical store can be exposed to more products and brand messaging, making future purchases more likely.
‘Buy in-store, ship to home’ and ‘Buy online, return in-store’ are other options that are sprouting up together with the flourishing of physical showrooms, both offering added value and convenience for shoppers.
Build communities, not third-party data
Value added: Increasing brand awareness and retention
Access to customer data is based on trust, and trust can be created by a sense of community. With third-party cookies being restricted, omnichannel retailers have to find ways to generate first-party data –– data that is given voluntarily to the retailer itself.
Communities enable this. Investing in a strong community building team that leverages appropriate channels for a brand’s personality can lead to increased customer retention and brand awareness. Examples can be chat rooms, in-person, or online experiences, and even on the blockchain.
One company that stands out in creating a tight-knit community is Peloton, a company best known for its exercise bikes and accompanying workout videos and classes. Thanks to a combination of approachability, rituals, gamification, encouragement, and yes, push notifications, the company managed to maintain a 95% retention rate.
Unfortunately, communities take commitment and time to form. But if a brand has a clear purpose and well-defined metrics of success, a community can deliver a sense of ownership, exclusivity, and identity to customers –– who in turn will be more likely to share data, and moreover, will have an incentive to keep coming back for more.
Omnichannel might be a fleeting buzzword, but developing a strategy in which brands engage their audiences and customers in all the places that make sense is smart in the long-term.