The shopping experience that once began and ended in a store is now a journey across many channels—online, mobile, in-store and over the phone. Smartphones alone keep shoppers engaged with a brand anytime, anywhere and will soon command the majority of online browsing activity. They also enable consumers to bridge the gap between the online world, and the offline world. The challenge businesses now face is how to create a seamless, consistent customer engagement and buying experience across all of these channels.
Originating in retail, but applicable to any industry, the term "omnichannel" has been a buzzword for the last several years. It represents a strategy businesses are taking to connect the multiple, siloed sales channels they may have and fused them into one, cohesive and consistent experience across the brand to meet the expectations shoppers demand.
Consumers browse for and buy products when they want and how they want. They also want flexible fulfillment options, whether it's in-store pick-up, cash-and-carry or ship to a destination. Customers have definitely gone digital but they still enjoy the tactile and social interaction when they engage a brand in-store.
Why is providing an omnichannel brand engagement now the norm? Deloitte Consulting found that 84 percent of all purchases were researched online sometime during the shopping journey. When customers do make their purchase, 90 percent of customers do so at a store. And the same percentage of customers use their smartphone as part of their in-store shopping experience, according to mobile loyalty company SessionM. Moreover, an IDC study found that omnichannel shoppers have a 30 percent higher lifetime value than those who only shop one channel. What does all this mean? Customers don't see channels. They see brands. And they want the same relevant and consistent experience no matter where, when and how they engage a brand.
The foundation of providing an omnichannel experience starts with a company's core technology. The ability to deliver an omnichannel experience rests on having a single commerce platform that unifies front-end and back-end systems, and provides a central hub for order management, customer, item and inventory data. The back-end systems of the platform will then funnel data to all sales channels, ensuring that accurate information across all customer touchpoints is delivered in real-time, creating efficiencies and opportunities to improve the customer experience.
What's the upside? Real-time visibility into inventory levels across all channels means you will never miss out on sales opportunities because of inadequately stocked merchandise and inefficient modes of tracking product levels. Centralized order management delivers on the promise of fulfilling, buying and returning anywhere. And unifying siloed sources of customer data into a single repository to get one complete view of the customer across all channels and touchpoints will deliver consistent customer service and support personalized marketing, merchandising and targeted promotions across all channels.
The alternative is deploying different point solutions for each channel, each in their own silo, not connected or sharing data between channels. Customers exposed to this approach will feel ignored and frustrated when they move from one channel to another during the same shopping journey.
With more ways to engage a brand, customers are in the driver's seat. Providing an omnichannel experience delivers on their expectations of a seamless, consistent journey anytime, anywhere and anyway.
Learn more about NetSuite's omnichannel solution today.