An omnichannel approach will only improve the traditional brick-and-mortar retail experience
Even as recently as a year ago, many traditional brick-and-mortar retailers were feeling immense pressure from the perceived threat of online-only merchants. The Amazons and Overstocks of the digital world seemed to be unstoppable as they gobbled up increasingly greater shares of the total retail market.
However, over the course of the past 12 months, many merchants have realized that operating brick-and-mortar stores is actually a significant bonus for them. With the help of omnichannel eCommerce software, retailers can successfully compete online with the major eCommerce players by offering their own eCommerce store or marketplace, while keeping their physical stores open as well.
Omnichannel eCommerce software helps retailers align their eCommerce and brick-and-mortar operations so that they can deliver a seamless omnichannel experience across online and offline channels.
Bricks and Clicks
The combination of brick-and-mortar and online shopping channels, often referred to as "bricks and clicks" by industry pundits, seems to have won the favor of customers over the past 12 months.
The Holiday Preview Customer Feedback Index, conducted by OpinionLab, found that overall customer satisfaction for pure play eCommerce merchants actually declined by 18 percent over the past few months. Comparatively, retailers utilizing bricks and clicks scored higher than their e-tailer counterparts in five out of seven areas. The two categories with the biggest discrepancies were the checkout processes and service & support, both of which were heavily in favor of merchants using bricks and clicks.
So why has an omnichannel approach to bricks and clicks won over so many consumers over the past year? For many people, the key lies in the convenience and flexibility the strategy brings to the table. Several big-box retailers have incorporated eCommerce elements into the brick-and-mortar experience, allowing customers to look up product reviews on in-store tablets, source mobile coupons and take advantage of in-store pickup options. This means people are in better control of their personal shopping experience, which makes it more enjoyable and stress-free.
"These gains show retailers have a strong chance to come out on top this holiday season," Jonathan Levitt, chief marketing officer at OpinionLab, wrote for Multichannel Merchant.
"Those that can turn their stores into experience hubs offering multiple ways to pay and pickup, as well as top-notch customer service and mobile apps, will come out on top this holiday season. The omnichannel advantage is real and growing."
Shoring up online components
Although big-box retailers are increasingly relying on the convergence and consolidation of eCommerce operations and brick-and-mortar activities to deliver this new customer experience, it's crucial they are already starting off on a good foot. Bringing together a mediocre in-store experience and a mediocre online experience simply creates a mediocre omnichannel experience.
Online shopping has been growing for years, with research companies such as comScore recording multiple years of quarter-over-quarter spending increases. This makes it all the more important that retailers are able to nail down the online element of the shopping experience. If people can't navigate a retailer's website or if merchants can't track orders from their websites, they aren't going to be able to offer an attractive omnichannel experience.
As brick-and-mortar retailers look to integrate eCommerce elements into their existing operations, it's crucial they establish an effective framework to build everything out from. Offering an omnichannel shopping experience can be a significant boon to retail operations, but only if it's done correctly.