There’s no denying that the explosion of new channels and technological acceleration have sparked meteoric shifts in buyer behaviour.

Customers that once transacted with brands via physical storefronts are now prone to swinging seamlessly between channels – whether comparison-shopping in-store with a smartphone, completing transactions on a desktop during lunch breaks or conducting pre-purchase research on a tablet on their way home from work.

For businesses, capturing this new “always-on” customer depends less on channel-specific processes than it does on delivering a seamless customer experience – one based on an intimate understanding of the purchasing journey and a real-time relationship with the brand. This ability to implement an omnichannel strategy has become increasingly central to building customer loyalty and maintaining a competitive edge.

But when it comes to putting omnicommerce into motion, there’s a serious divide between expectations and reality. According to The Omnicommerce Service Gap, a global study conducted by London-based research firm Loudhouse in December 2013, only seven percent of respondents had faith in a retailers’ ability to deliver an omnichannel customer experience and seventy three percent believed that the failure to integrate channels was a consequence of a single-minded pursuit of sales.

However, these misaligned priorities are only one-half of the equation. For many businesses, internal conflict and outdated legacy systems prevent any effort to translate an omnichannel perspective into real-world rewards. Here are three powerful strategies for delivering the kind of seamless customer experience bound to reap rewards for your brand.

Embrace a single customer view

It’s no secret that customer information has always been a catalyst for conversion and sales. But in the omnichannel era, customer engagement stems from the ability to enable personalised interactions based on a single view of a shopper’s preferences, transaction history and buying habits.

Unfortunately, many businesses are plagued by technology platforms that don’t allow for real-time insight into the customer journey. Swapping these for systems that allow for a single view of the shopper or better navigating existing technological barriers to capture real-time data across multiple touchpoints are powerful steps towards omnichannel success.

The Winning Group is no stranger to this concept. In 2013, the Australian company, which operates fast-growing online retailers such as Appliances Online and Big Brown Box as well as bricks and mortar counterpart Winning Appliances equipped its sales staff with smart devices that enabled a single customer view – an important phase in a strategy that also includes omnichannel tracking for deliveries and logistics.

The Winning Group’s obsession with customer-centricity is also paving the way for record gains – last year, the company report sales in excess of $350 million along with 25 % year-on-year growth.

Create real-time inventory visibility

For the “always-on” shopper, a compelling customer journey is based on a seamless experience of the brand across every touchpoint. But for many retailers, inventory inconsistencies often lead to the kind of channel conflict that can damage customer loyalty and hurt sales.

And the fallout from this is far from theoretical – a recent Harvard Business School study found that 65% of US retailers operated inaccurate inventories and attributed the resulting stock-out and replenishment issues to the sector’s declining sales.

Enabling real-time inventory visibility across multiple channels can help staff facilitate intelligent purchasing decisions while restoring faith in a brand. It’s also the first phase towards shifting away from a multichannel perspective and towards the customer-friendly notion of the “endless aisle.”

Cultivate an omnichannel culture

It’s no use declaring yourself an omnichannel convert if your online and offline resources aren’t aligned.

This means that bricks-and-mortar staff members should share the same sales targets and incentives as their offline counterparts and that marketing strategies that rely on channels should make way for those intent on evolving the brand.

It’s also critical that businesses combine agile ways of working with an organisational structure that fosters customer-centric thinking from upper management down. The ability to cultivate an omnichannel culture hinges on buy-in and clarity at an executive level – failure to display strong leadership will dilute the message.

In August 2013, UK retail giant Debenhams offered a powerful example of what’s possible when a business sheds channel-specific processes and embraces an omnichannel future.

In an interview with Luxury Daily, the retailer revealed that introducing a collective sales incentive across e-commerce and bricks-and-mortar employees, ensuring that the online and offline operations work closely on a daily basis and gaining strong support for omnichannel from the board members had set the stage for a seamless customer experience – as well as year-on-year sales growth of 82%.

Overcoming cross-channel challenges may not be a simple but it’s an essential investment in customer relationships and business growth. Letting go of channel-specific thinking and committing to a seamless customer experience can powerfully shape the way your brand evolves.

 

Contributor

Nick Spooner

Nick Spooner is a partner at PwC and the leader of PwC Digital Services Experience Centre across South East Asia and Australia.

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