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Bridging Worlds – Omni-Channel Retailing in the Digital Age

It was not so long ago when everyone said: Online retailing will never assert itself against brick-and-mortar retailing! It was alleged that there was no personal touch, in particular, no personal service, which e.g. trained shop assistants are able to provide. Now, the tide has turned and everyone says: Brick-and-mortar retailing has to rethink, reinvent itself, and strike out in new directions in order to keep up with the rapid development of e-commerce. You might ask yourself "What's next?" How do I excite my customers in the digital age and ensure the success of my business in the long term? The key lies in the connection of the online and offline worlds, so-called omni-channel retailing.

The new Paradigm is: Consumer first

According to a current SDL customer survey, 90% of all customers expect to make the same experience with a business and/or brand across any channel. When connecting the online and offline worlds, it is thus not primarily about changing the worlds as such, but rather about tailoring the worlds to the customer. Bridging worlds means to engage oneself with the "new customer" of a new age; to understand why he/she prefers to do some things online and others offline. It means to understand which service aspects your customers particularly appreciate in the online world and which in the offline world. And even more: it means to offer each customer in each world - thus, at every touchpoint - exactly what makes his/her personal purchase experience special. It is about a change in paradigm: away from a product-centered perspective towards a customer-centered perspective. 100% consumer first.

Customer Service is a "Must Have" - Online and Offline

The proverbial window-shopping suggests it: customers and those who would like to become customers expect service. For example, a nicely decorated shop window which invites browsing and purchasing, or mannequins which show new trends and the latest styles. And, of course, friendly shop assistants who individually respond to the individual customer. This kind of service can technically be realized at each touchpoint of the customer journey. Thus, connecting the both worlds nowadays is easier than ever. At the same time, however, a consistent omni-channel strategy is more important than ever.

"Spoiled for choice" - this saying is as topical as never. In the dense jungle of competing dealers, products and offers, customers may get lost quickly. Here, it is important for each provider - both online and offline - to take its customers by the hand and purposefully lead them to the offers which are of interest for them. Just how important this individual service is, is shown by a current BITKOM survey. According to that, one in four online shoppers has already cancelled a purchase because he/she was missing adequate advice about the product.

The connection of all customer interaction channels opens up ever-new opportunities to offer each customer a highly individual service. By means of intelligent software, retailers are able to meet this challenge. Omni-channel capable personalization solutions combine the information from the different channels and make it possible to personally pick up each customer again and again - regardless of the channel via which he/she starts his/her next shopping tour. The customer no longer has to search for his/her favourite products - he/she is found by the suitable product.

A Current Real Life Omni-Channel Example

Imagine a customer calls the service hotline in order to conveniently place his/her order by phone. When entering the customer number into the CRM backend, the call center employee is shown products which he/she can recommend to the customer in addition to his/her current order. In order to calculate this individual service, all current and past (trans-) actions of the customer are taken into account: for example, the last clicks in the online shop, the last order or the last movements within the (smart TV) app. In this way, each customer benefits from an exclusive service which addresses him/her personally: simply consumer first.

Let us pursue the example: The satisfied customer orders and shortly after receives his/her goods. This does not only include the ordered articles, but makes the customer fancy more. A nice brochure shows (similar to the aforementioned shopping window) the latest trends - individually tailored to the customer's taste. In line with this, he/she receives a personal discount coupon or an attractive bundle offer which soon lures him/her into the online shop again. A service plus for the customer, a revenue plus for the retailer.

Conclusion: The Customer is King - Today More than Ever

He/she wants to be treated just that royally - across all "worlds". Simply omni-channel! Build bridges for your customers so that they will find you across any channel. Pick up your customers by means of individual services which are perfectly tailored to them. That is the kind of service by which you can excel, as you fulfil increased customer expectations and, in the best case scenario, even surpass them. Modern omni-channel solutions make it possible.

This blog post was first published at prudsy's "Recommendation Engine"-Blog as Bridging Worlds - Omnichannel-Handel im digitalen Zeitalter.

Mary Heinze
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Mary Heinze