From Omni-Channel to Omni-Customer
Blurred lines. Robin Thicke’s words were never more true. We have evolved from a world where online and offline were once co-existing happily, into a world where there no longer is a line between on- and offline. Retailers are well aware of this changing environment and are adapting their channels and touchpoints the best way possible. But where to start? RetailDetail’s Omnichannel Congress 2016 gave us the necessary inspiration to lay out the omni-channel strategy for the future. First, it is important to be aware of the world the consumer is living in. After all, their truth is our truth.
So what does this consumer reality look like?
The consumer thinks no-channel, not omni-channel. As Nele Bruers from Dobit points out: consumers are not thinking in channels, they think in brands. Brand X stays brand X, whether they see it online, offline or anywhere else.
Consumer expectations are skyrocketing. Jan Huysmans from bol.com realizes that consumers want it all and they want it now:
- Faster delivery: bol.com started out with a proud “we deliver within 1 week” promise but has now evolved to “we deliver within 12 hours (or less)“. Purchase cycles are becoming shorter and shorter.
- Lowest price: the enormous transparency online allows consumers to easily compare prices and find the cheapest product; almost complete Internet coverage and omni-present Wi-Fi hotspots enable them to do the same when in physical stores.
- Excellent service: in a world where everything is shared, stories of good and bad service have the potential to go viral within a minute: customers expect nothing less than an outstanding service.
They are knowledgeable. Mark Roex from Jeans Centre understands that, when consumers walk into the store, they might already know very well what they want. Consumers are no longer clueless when entering a store. They have all the knowledge in the palm of their hand and will be very disappointed if they cannot get what they want.
So, how can retailers cope with this new consumer reality?
A number of speakers at the Omnichannel Congress presented us with their strategy and their view. Four things to keep in mind when thinking about your omni-channel strategy:
- Start from your customer journey. Mark Roex (Jeans Centre), Erik Cuypers (Maxeda), Jan Huysmans (bol.com) and Koen Elsen (Achilles design) all realize that in order to optimize your strategy, you need to think like your customers. Having an in-depth understanding of their journey is the essential starting point.
- Create a consistent story. As said before, consumers think in brands, not in channels. Therefore, having a consistent story across all channels is key in creating a brand image that sticks. This also means a consistent price strategy across channels. Arjen Schouten (Rituals) noticed people trying out products in the store only to buy them cheaper online through some shady channels. Rituals reacted by investing strongly in a partnership with Amazon in order to offer a stable price-setting across channels.
- Bring an experience. Nowadays, consumers are expecting an experience, wherever they go. Modern technology allows us to create this experience by bringing the digital world into the store. Dobit is one of the companies which succeeds in delivering this experience, as they have proven in the Aktiesport store in Amsterdam, where the screens are part of the total experience, allowing customers to order what they want on in-store screens and eliminating having to sell a no to the customer.
- Ensure a top service. The empowered consumer can share every experience – good or bad – with just a few mouse clicks. Marion Van Zon, from the Van Zon wholesaler family, realizes that only a top service can tie your customers to your company. Key elements of her approach are personalization and responsiveness. Van Zon is not the only one who realizes the importance of top service. Bol.com is also on the look-out for ways to improve their service and become the best partner for their customer, e.g. by integrating customer reviews and expert lists.
So instead of saying “I hate these blurred lines” like Robin Thicke did, let’s embrace these blurred lines and integrate them in our strategy!