Omnichannel Retailing & SMEs

In a world where retailers are implementing sophisticated retailing strategies it doesn’t mean that omnichannel is a strategy reserved for the big and the few. SME retailers may not have all the tech, financial or people resources but small steps towards an omnichannel approach may help future-proof our high streets. In this post I start the conversation as a researcher on the subject of customer decision-making journeys and omnichannel retail.  

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INDEPENDENT SHOPS in town centres account for 65% of all stores (LDC via Grimsey Review II, 2018). Thats a lot of retailers who could lose out by not adopting and omnichannel approach. What’s more, in 2019 independent retailers made up half of the retail job losses on our high street (Centre for Retail Research, 2019 via Retail Gazette). According to Winchester BID Best Performing retailers report by John Kind, “consumers want the convenience of buying online and visiting a store to inspect a product and make a purchase. Modern retail is made from this channel mix. Successful retailers must do all they can to make this mix work smoothly...a seamless omnichannel experience.“

So what is Omnichannel?

I've spent upwards of eight years looking at this so I'll do us all a favour and keep this brief. Omnichannel retailing reflects a shift in customer expectations where consumers want to shop whenever or however they choose and they have heightened expectations of their service and experience regardless of the channel used. Basically, consumers don’t care which channel they are interacting with as they perceive all of their interactions as being with your brand rather than a specific channel.

So how can SME retailers adopt a more omnichannel focus to their business?

Customers desire a frictionless (seamless) experience. They are empowered and rely heavily on information to support decision making. They hold high expectations of brands and resultantly expect impeccable experiences. Spending the time and energy on an omnichannel approach is worth it. On average customers will spend at least 20% more than their single or multi-channel counterparts. This is a very conservative estimate and you can see that percentage rise to upwards of around 40%.

If you are an SME retailer here are seven key steps to start you on the path towards adopting an omnichannel retailing approach:

1. View your channels as a total brand retail experience - That’s why negative experiences transcend channels. So if your customer has a problem with a channel they also now have the problem with your brand. This is a mindset shift, so stop using the word channel and focus on the brand.

2. Develop deep customer insight by mapping out the customer decision journey of your consumers - conduct research to find out how your customers use each channel and the key types of decisions they are making about your product or service offerings identify key stages.

3. Examine Marketing automation trigger points - once you have mapped the customers decision journey to purchase you need to look at your current marketing effort - do they reflect the decision journey? For example, your email campaigns - do they connect with each of those stages of the decision journey?

4. Bolt down your brand - brand guidelines protect your brand across channels this means that as you develop new channels or brief anyone to execute these for you they will carefully follow the style, tone of voice and format of your brand. You don’t want to confuse this across channels particularly as you leverage a growing social media presence.

5. Revisit staff training - are staff conversant in all brand channels and interacting with the different platforms and are they able to look at your retail brand in the same holistic way that you and your customer does? How are they responding to problems across channels can they improve this?

6. Fusing the online context into the offline environment immediately - bring your reviews, likes, ratings into store experiences. This sort of data should no longer be confined to digital channels and these are things that retailers could leverage in store. Make sure consumers can access this information readily within the store. Don’t leave it to your customer to do the research to make a purchase decision - help them.

7. UX (User Experience) - does the user experience of the channels support the decision journey stages. If your customers are using different channels for different purposes do you understand the unique value and benefits that those individual channels provide? If not do your research to find out the role and purpose of each channel so you can tailor the user experience of that channel better.

If you would like to find out more about mapping customer decision journey for your enterprise get in touch with Dr Sam via email at:

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