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Omnichannel Experiences: A Retailer’s Competitive Edge

October 16, 2018 | by StoreAdvise


It’s nothing new that more people are shopping online than ever before. According to BigCommerce, in 2017, 96% of Americans were doing most of their shopping online versus 65% who prefer shopping in a store. Why? For most shoppers they save more time shopping online because finding what they need, in stores, isn’t always easy.

However, there are a lot of reasons why shoppers are still shopping in a physical store like; no additional costs (shipping and fees), not having to wait for a delivery, and/or being able to feel the quality of the item.

While some retailers may look at this as a competition between online and physical sales, it should be approached as an integration between the two experiences; an omnichannel. Some businesses have already started to go this route and according to Propeller Insights, 84% of U.S shoppers prefer an omnichannel experience.

What is Omnichannel?

Omnichannel is another one of those buzzwords that’s thrown around in meetings, sales pitches, and networking conferences, but what does it really mean?

Omnichannel is defined as a:

“…multichannel approach to sales that seeks to provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online, from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a brick and mortar store”.

In English, please? Omnichannel is serving the customer an uninterrupted shopping experience from online to in-store purchase.

As we continue to shift into a more technological savvy society, we can expect web-influenced retail sales to increase. In fact, web-influenced retail sales, especially by mobile, are predicted to rise in the U.S until 2020.

An example of this can be when a customer is on your website browsing for some dresses for a special occasion on their cell phone. They see a few that they like, but they aren’t sure if they will fit right and it’s too pricey to purchase online without knowing if it will fit. Online they are able to reserve a fitting room in the store, with their items, come in, try them on, and make a purchase. No matter where the customer is in their shopping journey, they are getting what they need when they need it.

However, the process isn’t always that smooth so how do you create a better experience and bridge that gap?

Buy Online Pick-up In Store/Buy Online Return In Store (BOPIS/BORIS)

One of the easier ways to get started in omnichannel is by offering in-store pick-up or in-store return programs. Like our omnichannel example above, the BOPIS and BORIS approach speak to customers who like shopping both online and in-store as well as the shopper who may benefit from coming into your store.

BOPIS and BORIS both offer your customer the conveniences of ordering in real time, same day pickup, avoidance of shipping fees, and easy returns/exchanges which can convert into additional sales for you. BOPIS and BORIS are useful approaches for both small and large retail chains as it offers a different customer experience that is unforgettable.

The trick with BORIS and BOPIS is building a seamless program that has no interruptions from online to instore. The key to a great omnichannel program is:

  • Real-time communication: What is the status of the order, where can the item be returned/picked up in the store, and who can they contact with questions?
  • Wait Time of Pick-Up/Return: Most businesses executing BOPIS have a wait time of less than two hours and those executing BORIS have a flexible window for returns.
  • Stocked Inventory: Whether your customer is picking up an item or returning/exchanging it, you need to ensure that you have enough inventory in store to meet your customer demands.

Using Technology to Bridge the Gap

Many businesses are already using the BOPIS/BORIS method, roughly 88 percent of the top 100 retailers in the US are already practicing this method. Both methods are seeing growing success and more purchases, both online and instore.

Disney, Oasis, and Crate & Barrel are all using either BOPIS or BORIS in some of the best ways. Crate & Barrel, a furniture, and home goods store, understand that most shoppers are using multiple devices throughout the day; phones, tablets, computers. When a customer is signed the Crate & Barrel application saves their shopping cart so that no matter what device they use, they can check-out when they are ready. Oasis, a UK fashion retailer, tells their shoppers the closest store availability for a specific product, in real-time. If the item is not in stock, a staff member can place an e-commerce item for the shopper meaning a sales associate can ring up a shopper from anywhere!

While BOPIS and BORIS are great ways to start bridging the technological and in-store gap, they are not the only ways. Other retailers have created omnichannel programs through loyalty programs (shop online, purchase in store for extra points), scan to ship (out of stock in store? Scan barcode with an app an order online), and beacon programs (open an app in store, receive discounts and messages for special web-only and store-only products).

What’s Next?

Going forward, more people will be shopping through a more omnichannel experience meaning more retailers will be creating different processes. The key word here is experience.

How will your omnichannel experience have an edge over your competition? What experience will you offer online, and in-store, that will make your customer think “That was easy, I’m shopping here from now on!”

At StoreAdvise, that’s our specialty. Not only do we offer omnichannel solutions, but we create an unforgettable experience for our shopper which will keep your customers coming back, but also have new customers wanting to know what all the buzz is about.