As organizations struggle to synchronize their communications across all devices and delivery channels, the threat of being left behind seems more acute than ever before. Businesses that are unable to align their technologies, processes, and strategies, with shifting market expectations will be stuck offering increasingly outmoded customer experiences. Whether this leads to a steady decline or a precipitous fall is immaterial, a failure to transform will make your current operating model unsustainable.
The Omnichannel Experience and Retail Banking
To see this principle in action, look no further than retail banking. Today, the vast majority of banking transactions are performed through mobile apps and websites, without any intervention from your local branch. In the next 4 years consumer visits to physical bank branches are expected to drop 36%, while mobile interactions are predicted to rise to 88%. Despite these massive demographic shifts, banks still can’t afford to ditch their physical locations altogether, 87% of North American consumers still plan to maintain a relationship with their physical branch well into the future.
For firms stuck between these contradictory demands, balancing the functionality of diverse digital experiences with efficient in-branch processes and responsive call center support is a real challenge. However, any business that responds to these growing concerns with an unplanned expansion will create non-integrated service offerings that only decrease customer engagement. Unfortunately, with new open data initiatives on the horizon and fintech startups threatening traditional banking functions the time to experiment with different implementations isn’t available either. In 2018, omnichannel is no longer an objective, it’s the standard.
What Omnichannel Strategies Can Do
- Companies with strong omnichannel customer engagement earn a 9.5% annual growth in revenues, compared to 3.4% for companies with weak engagement
- These companies also experience a 5% year-over-year decrease in cost-per-contact, compared to a 0.2% year-over-year decrease for the weak ones.
- Online channels drive in-store purchases. Up to 60% of customers prefer browsing online and picking up items themselves.
- At least 40% of consumers start their buying journey offline then complete the purchase online. An omnichannel implementation optimizes this process.
- Companies with strong omnichannel engagement average 89% customer retention, while those with weak engagement retain only 33%.
Actionable Omnichannel Strategies
The Supply Chain
Traditional supply chains are built on budgeted production runs based on historic data, and a multi-level delivery process which moves through various warehouses and distribution centers across the world. In a seamless omnichannel environment the focus is to get the necessary products to consumers as quickly and reliably as possible.
Rather than historic forecasts, supply chains should be built around inventory optimization tools, that are integrated with sales and operational data to deliver real-time demand forecasts to your ordering and production systems.
Companies should also look to move their distribution models away from warehouse intermediaries. Depending on the accessibility of an organization’s brick-and-mortar outlets, they should look to move shipments directly to retailers or distribution centers instead. To keep up with the growing diversity of demand, companies should look to expand the portfolio of SKUs in each shipment significantly while decreasing the number of line items in the system.
Optimize Retail Locations
Organize your brick-and-mortar establishments to reflect the product lines and categories offered on digital channels. Curate product assortments and ensure that your offerings are easily visible, to reduce friction for consumers moving from online browsing to in-store purchases. Many companies now offer apps to facilitate navigation at their physical locations.
Online storefronts have dealt with the lack of tactile input by introducing video demonstrations and quality visuals into their digital catalogues. Your physical locations must offer similar opportunities for engagement. Where possible, provide dynamic displays and opportunities for product interaction. Otherwise, allow customers to tap into interactive menus using in-store apps which provide further information about the products on offer.
In-store associates should be trained to handle online-to-offline customers that have only previously experienced products through mobile or desktop. Representatives must be able to help customer navigate through both physical and digital channels with ease.
While in-store purchases offer consumers much of the immediacy they crave, these benefits can be easily undercut by long queues and limited payment methods. Stores like Best Buy and Wal-Mart have worked around these issues by instituting click and pay counters, where customers can purchase the product online then pay for it in-store. On the other hand, Apple has deal with the problem by removing cash registers and replacing them with self-service kiosks which can handle mobile and credit card payment.
Your Digital Presence
Slow page loading times, and service unavailability cost businesses up to $44 billion in lost revenue over 2010. Your business websites must remain agile to retain customer interest, even a one-second delay in browsing times can cause a 7% drop in conversions. While mobile users are generally prepared to wait a little longer on information (around 6-10 seconds), they are easily frustrated by non-responsive storefronts that are clearly not set up for mobile browsing.
Responsive Websites are a Must
By the end of 2017, around 25% of all eCommerce revenues were driven by mobile purchases, and at least 50% of all in-store purchases involved the use of a mobile device at some point during the buyer journey. With 86% of Internet users now on smartphones, search engines like Google are also boosting mobile-optimized sites on their rankings. With these market realities in mind, retailers must ensure a smooth mobile browsing experience.
Personalization is key to any omnichannel experience, and social media provides the best opportunity to create unique engagement amongst buyers, 79% of B2B marketers in the US, use social media as their primary marketing platform.
Content is king when it comes to social media, whether you’re marketing on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram you need industry-relevant information that captures the attention of your target market segment. Messaging must be optimized to meet the particular constraints of the platform; Instagram marketing should be primarily visual, while Facebook can be used for concise descriptions and customer support.
Although successful digital transformations must place the customer at the forefront, business processes can benefit immensely from automation and analytics as well. While top-line growth might be more exciting, increasing efficiency and managing the bottom line is what ultimately creates long-term success.
In the next series of articles I will be covering the steps businesses must take to transform their operational processes.