Omni-channel solutions bring together online, offline and mobile shopping to provide a unique, seamless experience. The goal is to achieve a better overall shopping experience and increase conversions. An omni-channel strategy tries to leverage every platform and device a customer may use during their shopping journey, but it's not so much about how many channels it uses as it is about the way it makes the customer feel.
The difference between multi-channel and omni-channel would be that all omni-channel experiences are multi-channel, but not all multi-channel experiences are omni-channel. (:P)
A simple example of multi-channel: to allow customers to check the availability of an item at a specific physical store from the website.
According to the 2015 Forrester study 'Customer Desires Vs. Retailer Capabilities', 71% of customers consider being able to do this important, and 39% added that they wouldn't shop at a store which lacked this information.
Practically all stores have an online selling platform by now, and these platforms influence the physical ones. Yet, according to the Forrester report, only 1 out of 3 retailers have basic multi-channel capabilities.
5 Retail Companies Doing Omni-channel Right
The following examples are from top companies doing an outstanding job at implementing omni-channel retail solutions.
Even if some of them are beyond what small or medium-sized businesses can afford, others are easy to implement, and they can serve you as inspiration.
Disney's omni-channel strategy is even in the smallest details. First of all, their website works perfectly on all devices, it's fully responsive - as all websites should be. This should be a top priority for most retailers, yet it's not so common.
No matter if you are trying to buy a toy or book a trip: you can do it from desktop, tablet or mobile phone.
But the real omni-channel feel begins when you start integrating your mobile phone into the Disney theme park.
You can use the official mobile app there to check how long you'll have to wait in line for a ride at each attraction, find yourself on the map, and plan your day using the My Disney Experience tool.
And of course you have probably heard about the Magic Bands.
These adjustable and customizable bracelets are specifically designed to make the park experience more convenient.
They have many different functions: for instance, they can unlock your hotel door, integrate your Fast Pass, identify you to enter certain areas, or store your photos at the part.
It's basically the key to the park, and it makes everything in it a lot easier and faster.
2. Ralph Lauren (+Harrods)
Photo of the campaign via 2d-code.
Not all multi-channel ideas have to be as sophisticated and high-tech as Disney's Magic Bands.
Several years ago, Ralph Lauren launched a QR campaign that took 36 windows at Harrods. It was promoting their new Women and Men's range at Harrods, and the idea was pretty original.
Whenever customers scanned a QR code or tapped an NFC sticker, they landed on a page featuring an interactive shop map with details about the collection.
This QR code idea allowed customers to shop even when Harrods was closed, by accessing the online store from the campaign's map.
How does a QR code to your online shop on your physical shop's window sound?
Starbucks is one of the top players at omni-channel marketing. These are just a few things that can be part of the experience buying a coffee at Starbucks:
- You can use their mobile app to place your order and pay ahead of arriving in a physical store.
- After placing your order, the app suggests you nearby Starbucks stores and lets you know the estimated wait time for your order at each one.
- You pay using your Starbucks Card.
- When you select the store, the app can give you directions to get there.
- You can check and reload your card's balance anywhere (phone, app, website, store), anytime, and your card's information gets updated across all channels in real time.
- Rewards are reflected in your account automatically, without you having to do anything.
No wonder why the Starbucks rewards app often appears in lists of top omni-channel efforts. It's a great example of how to leverage your customers' devices and your own channels for a better experience.
Sephora's omni-channel experience is relatively simple, yet effective. The members of its reward program (Sephora's Beauty Insiders) have access to a series of benefits using the official app:
- Save products you love in the "Beauty Bag", for future purchases.
- Have access to your purchase history.
- Easily re-order items from your history.
- Keep track of your loyalty rewards.
- Add items to your shopping list and buy them directly from the app, which is pretty neat.
In-store interactions are updated in real time to the customer's profile, and the app contains relevant information for when looking for products at the physical stores.
It's no surprise that Apple has made efforts to create a seamless experience combining physical stores and mobile app to enhance sales. Customers can:
- Schedule appointments with support reps at the Genius Bar from the app.
- Be notified when a rep is ready to help them.
- Be notified when they're near the store where they have to collect an item.
- Get their order information instantly when entering the shop to collect the item.
But that's not everything.
Apple is probably the best example of what omni-channel means. Besides taking into account all the different channels used by their customers, everything is designed around the same principles to create a single, unified feeling. The physical stores' design reminds of the Apple products, and they allow you to interact with them at the store. Once you have purchased an Apple product, their own entertainment apps keep you engaged.
There is a long list of ways Apple makes sure everything around it is a single branded experience, while at the same time providing fast, easy and elegant solutions.
If you look at these brands, they are all successful in making themselves relevant to people’s lives, providing a point of difference in a sea of sameness and amplifying what they stand for in a meaningful, clear and consistent way.
And it’s all in the marketing. Apple’s multichannel retail strategy unifies the customer experience across all channels and platforms, to create a complete end-to-end journey for each purchase.
(Ann Green, sentior partner, Millward Brown)
Ultimately, the future of commerce is all about selling smarter through omnichannel capabilities and contextual marketing. (Nicholas Kontopoulos)
Consumers are already multi-channel buyers. They use mobile apps, do research using web platforms, they shop both online and at physical stores... As usual, the challenge is to go where your customers are, and engage with them to increase conversions in a way that's comfortable and coherent with your brand's personality.
In this process, businesses need to fully understand their customers' journey and buying habits, to leverage the different channels in which they are active and gather the information that's relevant from them.
Apple, Disney, Starbucks, Sephora and Ralph Lauren are only a few examples of brands who understand the new possibilities and challenges of this multi-channel scenario and have evolved their strategies. What can your brand do to stay updated?