Today’s consumers are always on, and often shopping. They have access to commerce 24 hours a day, seven days a week, via smartphones and computers, and they love to take advantage. That’s why many smart brick-and-mortar merchants have turned to e-commerce to stay competitive in the age of the Internet.
E-commerce is a big step for merchants to take toward building a seamless customer experience. With an e-commerce shop, merchants can give customers access to the same level of service and personalization they offer in-store, as long as they know how to use technology to achieve this. For example, Nordstrom allows consumers to view items they are interested in online and check availability in local stores. If the item is not available right away, customers can order it to then pick it up in-store. This, combined with the magical words “free shipping,” ensures a pleasant and seamless customer experience from online to off.
It’s vital for merchants whose goods can easily be sold online (as opposed to QSR, grocery stores, etc.) to take advantage of the marketing and e-commerce tools offered today to get their products out to more people in more convenient ways. Mobile shopping is the best way to do this, because an optimized mobile e-commerce experience puts your products in the hands of anyone with a smartphone or tablet. Having a mobile shopping presence expands business opportunity and attracts a new breed of customers as well.
Along with mobile shopping, a plethora of mobile payment and loyalty apps have appeared that promise to deliver great value to consumers and merchants alike. Merchants are understandably eager to take advantage of these opportunities, but are also wary about how mobile payments will impact their business and, ultimately, how to manage the customer experience across multiple mediums.
As smaller merchants grow increasingly comfortable with providing e-commerce options and delivering great service both online and off, they recognize that mobile payments could allow them to take the next step toward a truly seamless customer experience. With mobile payment apps, customers can not only browse from anywhere, but they can also receive personalized coupons and offers that take into account factors like their location and unique shopping preferences. Of course, this is only a good thing if the customer experience is positive in these new mediums.
The bottom line: it’s critical to deliver a similar — if not identical — customer experience in any medium. Whether they are shopping in your store, using a mobile wallet app or purchasing something via e-commerce, you want them to have a consistent and positive view of your brand.
Merchants, particularly retailers, are starting to ask for this type of omni-channel capability, and those who are able to provide it are likely to win the day. Of course, delivering this type of seamless experience to consumers can be extremely challenging, requiring various approaches based on channel and merchant type.
Below are some best practices for retailers looking to leverage a multi-channel customer experience to more deeply engage customers regardless of where, when or how they choose to buy.
1. Know Your Customer
While collecting customer data may seem creepy at first, it’s actually the best way to deliver a personalized shopping experience. Knowing who your customer is, what their preferences look like and how they behave across mediums is vital to deliver on the seamless and connected future of commerce. While you may be able to keep a record of certain data points now, the only way to know and understand your customers fully is to utilize the power of omni-channel.
2. Location, Location, Location
One of the most important things you can know about your customers is where they are. This is not a ‘Big Brother’ surveillance-type campaign. Instead, it’s about automating your marketing to be more responsive to your customers’ needs and preferences. For example, if your customer is searching for something you carry and is within walking distance of your store, your POS system should know to send them an offer to encourage them to come in. Using location services for marketing is the best way to connect your customers with exactly what they want, when and where they want it.
3. Secure Your Data
While it’s important to leverage customer data to deliver a better experience, it’s also vital that you secure that data. Most merchants recognize the sensitivity of credit card numbers and financial information, but they aren’t the only data point that can be used to commit fraud or invade privacy. We recommend that you treat every piece of customer data — whether a PIN number, name or smartphone identification number — like it’s a credit card number and protect it accordingly.
Data security should also be in place to protect against both external and internal threats. Believe it or not, 60 percent of business failures are the result of internal theft. Implementing secure safeguards and properly screening and training employees is vital.
The Time to Go Omni is Now
For merchants who are ready and able to jump on the omni-channel bandwagon, there are endless opportunities to up the ante and provide customers with an elegant and enjoyable experience, no matter where they are.