Omnichannel trends provide a window into the future. One where traditional boundaries between channels and even the physical and digital worlds no longer apply. The rules of the game are changing, and it’s only the companies who are able to pick up on and respond to these trends that will stay competitive in 2022 and beyond.
So, if you want to provide the kind of seamless customer experience across all your sales channels that modern consumers now expect — here are six key omnichannel trends to keep your eye on.
1. Digital-first brands entering the brick-and-mortar space
A brick-and-mortar store is an attractive option for many retailers, providing an opportunity to establish a presence in local communities while adding another sales channel into the mix. The increasing cost of acquiring customers online, punishingly high online return rates, and the ability to provide more compelling retail experiences have all helped make the prospect of branching out into physical locations more appealing.
According to a Forrester study:
- 32 percent of brands say they’ll establish pop-up and in-person experiences, with 31 percent establishing or expanding physical stores
- 59 percent of consumers say they’re likely to look at a product online and buy in-store
- 54 percent are likely to look at a product in-store and buy online
Brands are beginning to understand that providing a truly omnichannel offering means moving beyond digital and embracing the importance of in-person and in-store experiences.
2. Blending online and offline experiences
Tangential to the growing trend of brick-and-mortar stores is the blending of online and offline experiences. Prominent use cases include the likes of “buy online, pick-up in store” and the increasing inclusion of mobile apps in customer shopping experiences. For example:
- Loyalty program provider Target Circle’s app allows shoppers to check store inventory before traveling, as well as compare prices or unlock special discounts and rewards on mobile devices when shopping in-store
- Coffee chain Starbucks’ app helps users earn rewards from in-store purchases, order in advance for in-store or curbside pickup, and even allows a Spotify integration so visitors can identify the songs playing inside the coffee shop
But it’s happening on a much deeper level, too.
The sophistication provided by modern augmented reality (AR) is blurring the lines between online and offline even further and helping create a new phygital world (that’s physical and digital).
A couple of notable ways this is happening are through virtual try-ons for clothes using smart mirrors and preview placement for furniture that allows users to see items in situ in a digital recreation of their home before committing to buying.
3. Virtual shopping
As innovative retailers strive to bring the in-store experience to the online world, real-time access to knowledgeable sales becomes evermore important.
One of the fastest emerging technologies for virtual shopping is video chat. This year, videos will constitute 82 percent of all online traffic, and over 50 percent of consumers say they watch videos while shopping in-store.
Video can be used to connect online shoppers to in-store sales assistants and bring all of the interactive benefits of an in-store experience to the comfort of their home. For example, it offers a way to perform product demonstrations, conduct showroom tours, and even undertake personal shopping experiences around a store.
And it’s not just retail that stands to benefit from this approach. Services such as one-to-one financial planning and advice no longer require a visit to a physical location, either.
Visual search is another technology changing the way people shop. Users can upload a picture of an item they like the look of and find it at the click of a button. So when someone goes past wearing something that catches a person’s eye, but they have no idea how to get their hands on it, visual search technology can instantly tell you where to find something similar. It’s like having a personal shopping assistant on a mobile device.
4. Multi-channel attribution
Every marketing and sales leader wants to know that their campaigns are generating a return on investment. But customer journeys aren’t strictly linear, and one channel will never give you the full picture of your sales success (or lack thereof).
To fully capitalize on omnichannel marketing strategies, multi-channel attribution is a must.
According to Chris Cantino of investment and consulting firm Color, “Companies who embrace multiple sales channels will pursue analytics that inform a more holistic view of customer journeys…which may transition from online to offline and back again.”
In essence, multi-channel attribution allows you to collect data across all channels in real time, then deploy cross-channel analytics to study consumer behaviors holistically.
Digital marketers have long been familiar with the idea of multi-channel attribution. What’s changed is the merging of this familiar digital tactic with offline channels.
“Direct-to-consumer brands have always leveraged data and customer relationships to their advantage,” says Cantino. “Applying this framework to other sales channels will result in increased conversions, more effective promotion, better-informed product development, and stronger customer relationships.”
5. Changing consumer expectations
Markets are fundamentally consumer-driven. That’s why it’s so important to keep a close eye on what consumers expect from their experience — online and offline. Here are three examples of changing customer expectations that companies will have to meet.
Sixty-nine percent of U.S. consumers shop more with brands that offer consistent experiences in store and online, according to Forrester. No matter the device, channel, or platform, consumers expect brands to provide consistent information and experiences at all times. Inconsistent experiences, on the other hand, can actually cost you customers.
Ninety percent of customers rate an “immediate” response as essential or very important when they have a customer service question, with 60 percent of customers defining “immediate” as 10 minutes or less — according to HubSpot. The growing popularity of same-day delivery is just one example of the necessity of speed in the customer experience.
When your various channels aren’t properly integrated, this results in friction, which could cost you customers. Automation and integration, especially between online and offline channels, is key to ensure you can meet consumer demands for fast, quality service.
Eighty percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences. Some poignant examples of the kind of hyper-personalization consumers have come to expect include:
- Clothing retailer Nordstrom remembering repeat customers’ clothing size based on their previous online shopping behaviors
- Personal styling service Stitch Fix creating a curated monthly subscription box based on the customer’s preferences
- Online fashion retailer ASOS using social media data to offer customers personalized discounts and deals
True personalization is only possible through omnichannel integration — gathering data from all customer interactions to provide the full picture of their behaviors and interests. This is also key in providing high-quality customer service. With all data running through a centralized location, service reps will always have access to the information they need to ensure a continuous conversational flow with customers, even if those interactions are broken up across time and devices.
6. Social selling
Brands have used social media for marketing, sales, reputation management, customer support, brand growth, and more for a while. But now, social media platforms offer a new benefit to retailers: built-in shopping features.
According to mdf commerce’s report 10 Trends Changing Omnichannel Retailing in 2021, over 60 percent of brands have already started using some kind of social ecommerce functionality.
A prime example of this trend is Instagram, which provides a seamless shopping experience completely in-app, even allowing for brands to produce shoppable videos. Some of the benefits to the retailer include:
- Fewer steps from discovery to conversion
- Better insights on top performing products
- Increased conversions from influencer marketing
- Direct integration between Instagram and your ecommerce store
As social media allows for more direct purchase options, it will only go from strength to strength as a sales stream in the overall omnichannel mix.
Want to hear more insights? Check out the full recording of our omnichannel cx webinar.