Mobile eCommerce Guide: Mobile and Omni-Channel

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Francis Pilon

In part I of this series on mobile eCommerce, we took some steps to better understand mobile consumers. In part II, we looked at how to shape an eCommerce store into a conversion-optimized mobile experience. Today, we examine the path to creating delightful customer experiences through omni-channel commerce.

There’s been a shift in the midst of commerce. The digital age has evolved into the age of the consumer and it’s leaving retailers at a cross-roads. Grimly put, it’s do-or-die. Brands need to start leveraging an omni-channel approach to their business processes before their customers churn and turn to the competition.

With 90% of consumers using their smartphones in store while shopping, consumer buying behavior has shifted. The way they interact with brands is changing. Now there’s multiple touch-points, devices, screen sizes, store locations, and communication channels to account for. All of which are forcing retailers to adapt by better catering to the modern consumer and offering a truly omni-channel experience.

Consumers have become more equipped than ever before with product information. Retailers are dealing with a hyper-sensitive and hyper-informed customer. A couple quick thumb presses and a customer can easily figure out how much margin a car salesperson has to work with, if they’re being honest with their sales pitch, and find out what the competition is charging.

What is Omni-Channel?

Omni-channel is what multi-channel and cross-channel should’ve been. It’s a step beyond what both of those tried to address and were able to accomplish. Omni-channel is a necessary revolution in commerce that’s clearing the blurred lines of retail and customer experience. Blurred lines meaning, the disconnect between shopping experiences available today and the way consumers actually behave, shop, and interact with a brand.

Omni-channel is a shift from thinking about particular devices to thinking about a holistic customer-centric experience. As consumer behaviour evolves and technology advances endlessly, marketers and technologists are being forced to follow suit. And they should want to; shoppers who use more than one channel have a 30% higher customer lifetime value.

Omni-channel is a technological and organizational shift that involves integrating all aspects of a company’s systems to ensure a fluid digital and in-store customer experience, and the ones who invest the time and resources will likely be the ones on top in the near future.

What does omni-channel look like?

Ordering from Walmart online and picking up same day in a store near you. Saving your online shopping cart across multiple devices, then visiting in-store and having the salesperson already know what you’re shopping for. A Neiman Marcus app that notifies their salespeople when a frequent customer enters the store. Topping up your Starbucks rewards card via a mobile app, website, or in-store. Then paying for your coffee in-store from your smartphone. Being able to send money anywhere in the world or deposit cheques from your CIBC mobile app or in-store at a branch. Calling a call centre and having each representative you talk to automatically know your customer profile and know your concerns rather than having to repeat yourself 4x over. Walking into Nordstroms and seeing the most pinned items from their Pinterest on display. Having salespeople on the floor equipped with iPads that have real-time inventory counts and mobile checkouts.

Mobile as the Crux of Omni-Channel

As omni-channel adoption increases, mobile should be at the heart of the retailers focus. Given the current trends in mobile consumer behavior, it’s clear that mobile is going to be the center of shopping experiences. Whether it’s ordering right from your smartphone, browsing on your tablet, using your smartphone in-store to learn more about products, or taking part in mobile virtual reality, mobile is at the forefront of retail technology advancements.

Consumers use their mobile devices for everything (well almost everything). And like I referenced in part I, mobile shopping will surpass desktop in the next 5 years. Mobile is bridging nearly all aspects of the buyer journey; making it the crucial ingredient in any omni-channel recipe. Deloitte predicts that over 50% of in-store purchases are being influenced by digital technologies.

Consumers can now use their smartphones at all touchpoints of a buyer journey and omni-channel experience; online chatting with customer service reps, SMS, Internet browsing, voice calling, email, social media, product scanning, purchasing, etc. Mobile devices should be seen as more than just “mobile”. They’re deeply integrated and woven into our daily lives. Thinking of mobile as just a tactic or a single part of a bigger strategy could leave your business at a disadvantage over the competition.

How have you been able to incorporate omni-channel experiences into your business? What role does mobile play in your retail strategy? Share in the comments below.