Omnichannel Retail Shopping [Part 3]


Omnichannel Services
In this third and final article in the Omnichannel Retail Shopping series we will review the omnichannel services that retailers should consider providing. The big brands and box stores are now developing and offering many new services and consumers quickly come to expect them. These services are designed to maximize the customer experience in all channels and remove any obstacles or hesitations when making a buying decision. The goal is to make the purchasing process as seamless as possible.

Let’s look at the methods you can use to provide great customer service across channels.

OrderOnlineFrom Anywhere
First, you need to have a mobile compatible website, as mentioned in the first article of this series. The best way to provide that for your customers is by using responsive web design. Responsive web design creates a website that can detect what type of device a consumer is using - computer, tablet, or smartphone - and then seamlessly deliver a visual and interactive website that is designed for the size of the viewing space (monitor, tablet, or phone screen) and the method for responding (keyboard or touch screen). Consumers are using their mobile devices while on the go and 24/7.

Retailers should take the opportunity to order an item for a customer that is in the store and looking to purchase a specific item that may be out of stock, not available in the correct size or color, or an item that is only available online. Many sales associates now carry, or have access to, iPads or kiosks where they can quickly place an order for the customer and have it shipped to the customer’s home or shipped to the store for pickup.

This feature provides the sales staff a personal way to add service and value to store customers, both important assets that keep customers coming back. Sales staff should be provided with the technology needed to place orders and they should be well trained on how to use it. This service creates the opportunity to increase sales while creating satisfied customers.

ShipToTheStore OrYourHome
Mentioned above is the option to have purchased items shipped to the customer’s home or to your retail store. This option applies to purchases made via online and mobile shopping as well as orders places in-store by your sales associates. Some retailers now offer the option to order online and pickup at the store within hours of placing the order. Essentially, the customer is “reserving” the item and then picking it up.

All of these options bring the consumer into your physical store and that is the goal! Retailers that maximize the in-store shopping experience can entice consumers to engage with their brand, to look at their full line of products, and to purchase additional items.

Free shipping continues to be a factor when consumers are shopping online. It is often the deciding factor when choosing where to purchase or whether to order online at all. Forrester Research reports that 59% of consumers say shipping costs are the biggest concern when shopping online. Free shipping can be costly for the retailer but in today’s market it must be considered. Retailers can require a minimum dollar amount for an order to receive free shipping, in order to help make free shipping more profitable.

When looking for additional ways to remove online shopping barriers, some retailers choose to offer a pay at pick up service. For consumers that don’t have a credit card, or are unwilling to use their credit online, retailers can offer the option to place an order online and then pay in store within a specified amount of time. The consumer can bring in their order confirmation email, make payment by cash or credit card, and then their item will be shipped.

ReturnToStore AndReturnShipping
An added convenience and comfort for consumers is the ability to purchase online and then return the item to a retail location. Fo many consumers, the imagined hassle of having to re-package and then ship an item back, along with verifying that the purchase payment has been refunded, creates a roadblock to their online purchasing. By offering the option to simply bring the item back to the company’s retail store, that worry is removed.

Another way the issue of returns can be addressed by the retailer is to provide free return shipping labels right in the initial product shipment. was the leader in this idea, realizing shoes and proper fit would automatically generate a high return rate and lead to consumer concerns about ordering shoes online. So, they eliminated the consumer worry about returns and made shopping online for shoes at a great consumer experience.

Now that the majority of consumers are equipped with a smartphone, location-based technology can be used to send messages and offers to consumers when they are in the store. Current technology can even identify the specific in store location of a consumer. That info lets the retailer send a very specific message in order to make the offer as relevant as possible.

As sophisticated personal communication devices remain affordable, bandwidth increases, and location-based data is easily available, retailers will have powerful new methods for marketing to prospects and customers. Today’s consumer remains in charge of the shopping and purchasing process so direct and personal messaging will be required, making the retailers task more complex.

In reviewing all of these new omnichannel services, we can see that they require a strong inventory management system. While inventory management is not always part of the marketing discussion, when coordinating online and offline channels, it plays a pivotal role in providing customer satisfaction. Real-time inventory data is a crucial element in staying ahead of the competition. For example, IKEA provides product inventory for each store location on their website, allowing customers to verify if the items they want will be available at the store if they make the trip. It also notes any items that are available online only. These systems are complex, but retailers and businesses should be choosing ways to consolidate their data so that it can be easily pulled and organized for use throughout their software systems.

It is an omnichannel marketplace and you need to keep in mind how, when, and where your customers choose to shop.

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