Is the future of retail online? It may be, but there are a number of advantages to in-store shopping that have yet to be duplicated in the digital space, and many reasons why people still prefer to do their shopping in person. For example, consumers enjoy the ability to see, touch, and test out products before committing to them, and often find the gratification of instant ownership more appealing than waiting for items to ship.
The true future of retail is a combination of both online and in-store shopping, experienced seamlessly across multiple channels via whichever method the customer prefers. Thanks to omni-channel retail and the power of unified commerce, businesses are delivering that future to customers today.
Omni-channel retailing describes a model in which clients are able to interact with multiple sales and media channels at once, and have their information retained by the retailer as they move between them. For example, omni-channel retailing allows your clients to browse on a desktop, compare prices on a mobile device, then visit your brick-and-mortar location to finalize a purchase — all without having to restart their customer journey. The omni-channel retailing links together all channels, combining the showroom and the website to create a single, unified experience.
Where omni-channel commerce strives to unify several separate channels, unified commerce takes multichannel selling one step further. Unified commerce relies on cloud technology to integrate all business functions, channels, and client data onto a single platform. Rather than allowing your customers to move seamlessly across multiple channels, you give them the opportunity to stay within a single channel — one that incorporates all other channels and data.
While there are some blurred lines between these two strategies, they both demonstrate that unified selling creates a more customer-centric business model. By eliminating restrictions on how, when, and where a client can shop, customers gain freedom and flexibility, resulting in an unparalleled experience.
Is a consistent customer experience really that important? In a word, yes. Roughly 75% of consumers expect a consistent experience wherever they engage. When they shop in stores, 68% of consumers say it’s absolutely critical or very important that associates understand their personal preferences or needs. Should businesses fail to deliver on this expectation, they risk losing customers. Some 70% of consumers report that technology has made it significantly easier to take their business elsewhere.
Despite the obvious demand for a unified experience, only 28% of B2C companies are available to serve customers on every channel. This becomes an even bigger concern when you consider that 73% of shoppers use multiple channels during their shopping journey. Taken together, these numbers suggest that approximately two-thirds of retailers are failing to effectively cater to the shopping preferences of approximately two-thirds of their audience.
Although the modern customer journey is more fluid and flexible than ever before, shoppers still expect a single, seamless shopping experience. A shopper may choose to interact with your brand across multiple digital channels, bouncing between mobile, web, social, and more before completing their purchase. In order to provide a unified experience, your digital commerce tools must extend beyond the basic website and connect not only with each other, but with the customer — anywhere, anytime, on any device.
Tools that track and collate client activity as customers move from channel to channel help ensure that no matter when or how the buyer resumes the conversation, you have the insights needed to help them pick up exactly where they left off. With continuity and consistency across every channel, clients will never have to worry about having to start over at square one.