When it comes to retail in the 21st century, it’s definitely an omnichannel world. Sure, there are those who like to claim that brick-and-mortar retail is dead in the digital era, but that’s definitely not yet the case. Even if digital does dominate, companies currently need to figure out how to reap the best benefits of both worlds. And that’s the aim of omnichannel retail. The big question is, how do you actually do it?
Leveraging Big Data for Omnichannel Success
If you’re like most retailers selling across multiple channels, you generate a steady stream of data – there’s no lack of information. The challenge is to translate those data points into meaningful user personas and, accordingly, actual action items. Your goal is to create the most relevant interactions as you can for customers. And make no mistake – your customers are expecting a seamless experience with your brand even as they access your offerings in several different ways from smartphones to desktop computers to visiting the physical store.
Even though cross-channel engagement is skyrocketing, a shocking small number of brands – fewer than 40% by some estimates—have developed the ability to link data across channels for each customer. You can’t develop and track an omnichannel strategy if you don’t have the underlying data capabilities to support it! Here’s what those capabilities need to include:
- Collecting and acting on cross-channel consumer data.
- Pushing the data real-time into marketing technologies delivering personalized experiences.
- Analyzing data to measure how well each engagement was optimized.
Effective omnichannel retail goes beyond new customer acquisition and brand awareness campaigns through paid media efforts. Google AdWords, display marketing and retargeting, and social media advertising is only located at the very top of the marketing funnel. True customer acquisition tactics must also extend to your company’s website, mobile apps, social media accounts, and content marketing. In addition, other internal data sources such as your customer relationship management software, loyalty programs, and call centers must also be integrated into one actionable stream of cross-channel, cross-functional data.
There are different ways to do this, but one that’s gaining in popularity is called enterprise tag management – snippets of code that can help capture cross-channel customer activity. With this you can then begin to build accurate cross-channel customer profiles in real-time. Once that profile is also made actionable in real-time by your marketing technologies, then you’ve reached the pinnacle of omnichannel retail.
Walmart vs. Amazon
In the omnichannel battle of brick-and-mortar vs click-and-order, Amazon and Walmart are an interesting use case. Amazon’s share of the American retail market is growing while Walmart’s has been stuck at about the same level for several years. But Walmart is sitting by idly wringing its hands in worry. The company is spending billions and billions on information technology while still improving its physical store performance. In short, Walmart is trying to figure out its omnichannel retail strategy. And it needs to do it fast.
Now that Amazon offers free two-day shipping through its Amazon Prime service for an annual subscription of $99, the wait factor in online shopping is largely eliminated. And that’s just one way Amazon is making online shopping increasingly attractive.
Walmart is countering by allowing customers to order items online and then stop by the store, park in special spaces, and have their boxed up items quickly loaded into their cars – that’s the kind of synergy between online and brick-and-mortar that needs to be explored in any omnichannel strategy. Given that 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart, the strategy makes a lot of sense.
The big question is, will its efforts pay off and keep Walmart in its leading retail position? So far, it’s online sales are not performing well enough, growing only a bit more than 7% in the first quarter of this year while Amazon’s North American sales ticked up by 27%. At least Walmart understands the need for robust omnichannel efforts – far to many other retailers have yet to take it seriously.