Retailers: Don’t Worry, Be Omnichannel Happy

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The findings of the latest Barclays Corporate Banking Online Retail Report will have British retailers tearing their hair out this week, revealing that UK shoppers are abandoning a massive £3.4bn worth of goods in virtual shopping baskets every year. But while it seems like a frighteningly large amount, experienced retailers shouldn’t be losing sleep over it.

The report finds that “device switching”, is the key cause of such large-scale abandonments, which may infuriate digital marketers who are fine-tuning their company’s mobile commerce experience. However, retailers who cater for the omnichannel consumer will reap the benefits. It is this type of customer, after all, that a major study by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) found makes up the vast majority of retail shoppers.

As the name suggests, an omnichannel consumer is one who uses several channels across their journey; from mobile, to online, to bricks-and-mortar. Not only are these the most common type of shopper, up to 73 per cent of all consumers are “omnichannellers” according to HBR’s report, but they are by far the most valuable. Shoppers who research prices online prior to their visit spend on average 13 per cent more in-store, and further than this, will make around 23 per cent more repeat visits than a single channel shopper within a six-month period.

A successful retail strategist should be utilising every channel available to them, which means using physical and digital platforms collaboratively in their hunt to get shoppers over the line.

Of course, this is not an excuse for retailers to leave their online platforms unattended. On the contrary, they should be regularly upkept as a basic hygiene factor and do play an important role in catering for the omnichannel customer. However, the findings of the report do go some way in explaining why retailers are currently placing focus on refining the in-store experience.

A recent survey of high street retailers by Qmatic found that 98 per cent of retailers agreed that reducing in-store friction was the key to retaining both new and existing customers. This makes sense in the context of the omnichannel shopper, as the in-store shopping remains arguably the most important part of the consumer journey; HBR’s study found that only 7 per cent of US shoppers are online-only.

In the US, Target is currently remodelling 110 stores (with a further 300 to be remodelled in 2018) with the aim of providing a greater “customer-focused shopping trip” with an emphasis on freshness. At a cost of around $5million per store, this is no trivial investment by the discount retailer, but a major effort to improve its fortunes.

Meanwhile, retailers up and down London’s Oxford Street have spent the summer of 2017 holding exclusive events to drive customers in-store, while enhancing their visits through use of the latest digital innovations. Going one step further, John Lewis sent staff to theatre school, in a move designed to help develop a presence on the shop floor that will leave a lasting impression on customers.

A successful retail strategist should be utilising every channel available to them, which means using physical and digital platforms collaboratively in their hunt to get shoppers over the line. Even traditionally online-only retailers are getting in on the act: Amazon has had a frenzy of bricks-and-mortar activity this year.

The dominant force of online shopping has had its downtown Seattle “Amazon Go” store in beta testing since March, and in August bought Whole Foods in a much-publicised foray into the grocery sector. With Whole Foods acting as Amazon’s “bricks-and-mortar pricing lab”, as HBR puts it, it will be fascinating to see what lessons the company learns about the physical retail environment, and how they then implement them into their multi-channel marketing strategy.

While the news that retailers are losing out on £3.4bn from abandoned online shopping carts is one that has certainly generated headlines, stores set up with the omnichannel shopper in mind need have nothing to fear. A true multi-channel marketer should instead focus on rolling out the red carpet, and expect to see shoppers in-store soon.

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