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Buying habits are changing. Are you keeping pace?

by Nortal Cloud team, June 14, 2019

Today’s shoppers want omnichannel convenience with personalized care. Omnichannel integrates the online and off-line experience — from brick-and-mortar locations to mobile-browsing, ecommerce marketplaces, social media and more — to seamlessly engage the shopper at each touchpoint.

Catering to shoppers who expect omnichannel convenience is increasingly important in today’s highly competitive and fast-changing retail environment. A strong O2O (online to offline) presence delivers more lifetime value than a single strategy. It allows for better customer experiences and drives greater brand loyalty and share of wallet.

Indicators point to a rapid decline in brick-and-mortar retail, but new trends show that in-person shopping has actually grown. According to PwC’s “Global Consumer Insights Survey,” weekly store visits increased to 44 percent in 2018 from 40 percent in 2015. Research from the IHL Group shows that 4,000 more stores opened than closed among the big chains in 2017.

Why is analog shopping — going into a store and browsing and purchasing in person — seeing an uptick? According to PwC, it’s likely shoppers are seeking a more sensory and social experience that can’t be found online. This is why Nike built its House Of Innovation 000 in New York City. The six-floor shopping experience, where the promise of “living retail” comes to life, covers more than 68,000 square feet in Midtown Manhattan. Each floor features personal and interactive spaces where consumers can get customized services that are more experiential than transactional.

Enabling omnichannel technology

Omnichannel technology isn’t used only in consumer sales. Forrester forecasts that U.S. B2B e-commerce will reach $1.8 trillion or 17 percent of all B2B sales by 2023. Major corporations — including General Motors, Chevron and Ford — have enhanced their B2B e-commerce presence to help increase sales and improve operations. These brands are leveraging e-catalogs and websites to sell accessories, parts and other products, while stocking small showrooms with best-selling items to provide a curated experience.

The latest innovations and a powerful technology infrastructure can make this unique shopping experience possible. For example, via the Nike App, customers can select products, personalize them with feature choices, get in-store availability and even add items to a virtual shopping bag that’s linked to a tablet device — so store associates can take the items to a dressing room or the checkout area.

Tips for O2O success

Keeping up with the pace of technology and O2O innovation is challenging. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you launch or refine your omnichannel retail commerce strategy to gain a unique customer experience and competitive advantage:

  • Invest in foundational IT solutions. Plan to deploy new technology within the next nine to 12 months and anticipate your needs in the next year or two. As an omnichannel retailer, you’ll need robust networking solutions for wireless and mobility applications, connectivity using the Internet of Things (IoT) and advanced applications for inventory systems.
  • Move towards a cloud or hybrid-cloud approach. Keep mission-critical, sensitive data and applications in-house while benefiting from the scalability and reduced cost structure associated with the public cloud. As you build your systems, identify gaps in your cybersecurity strategy and implement robust tools such as identity and access management, next-generation firewalls, physical security and incident response systems.
  • Partner for smart IT adoption. Work with a trusted partner to help develop your short and long-term IT strategy, and the deployment plan for best-in-class technology resources. Partners can help design and implement an e-commerce platform that lets you keep up with dynamic user needs and respond to your unique business requirements, even if you have complex buying structures and back-end integrations.

Starting with an assessment of your current tools and needs, Nortal’s team of IT and e-commerce experts provide customized development and implementation, open-source software solutions and sourcing, and optional enterprise cloud management and extended support as required.

  • Evaluate next-gen technologies. PwC says that 45 percent of store operators plan to increase their use of artificial intelligence (AI) within the next three years. Companies trying to capitalize on consumers’ desire for convenience and immediate gratification are turning to AI, big data and machine learning. Whether it’s an app that uses augmented reality to allow shoppers to try on clothes and make-up virtually; AI-powered ‘assistants’ that share personalized buying recommendations; or drones that make accurate and speedy deliveries, you should consider next-gen offerings as needs arise.
  • Listen to what customer data is telling you. Savvy retailers are using analytics to turn data into actionable information. By gathering and analyzing customer-related data, you can better understand what motivates and appeals to your buyers. Armed with this information, you can connect directly with each customer and offer a tailored omnichannel shopping experience.

Brands that use technology and data for personalized customer experiences increase revenue by 6 to 10 percent, which is two to three times faster than those that don’t, according to a Boston Consulting Group survey.

No doubt, innovation and technology will continue to play an increasingly important part in how retailers meet the ever-changing demands of omnichannel shoppers. Focusing on who your customers are, what they want — and where, when and how they want it delivered — will help you deliver the best customer experience possible, no matter the channel. Contact us to start implementing your omnichannel strategy today.