The original version of this piece appeared as a Retail Customer Experience post.
As the worst of the global pandemic recedes into the background, Google prepares to phase out third-party cookies, and economic uncertainty looms, 2023 looks to be the year that marketers must prioritize versatility above all else. As a result, brands should put a renewed focus on omnichannel marketing strategies to not only better reach customers where they shop but also provide a consistent experience across channels.
Today, customers expect to be able to interact with brands through a variety of channels, whether they be an online marketplace, mobile app, or physical in-store location. According to research conducted by Adyen, approximately 48% of Gen Z consumers expect to be able to either return or exchange online purchases at physical outlets. At the same time, more consumers are returning to in-store locations as e-commerce sales fall from pandemic-level highs, leading to an increased need for a seamless shopping experience that follows customers from one channel to another.
Brands should increase investments in omnichannel marketing to reach customers, especially Gen Zs, who are digital natives but also avid in-store shoppers; gather the data required to power a modern marketing program; and drive customer engagement with personalization across channels.
Reach Customers, Especially Gen Zs, Where They Shop
The consumer shopping experience has seen one dramatic change after another over the last several years: a gradual move online as smartphones proliferated, a sudden online acceleration due to the coronavirus pandemic, and, finally, a resurgence of in-person shopping as a unique experience unto itself. As a result, consumers have become accustomed to shopping through a range of channels, depending on their needs and preferences, and requiring brands to court them where they spend their dollars.
Generation Z, in particular, demands an omnichannel approach. As digital natives, Gen Zs spend a significant amount of their time online to research, but they also assert a greater preference for in-person shopping than any other generation. As a result, brands hoping to reach these future power shoppers must have a seamless omnichannel customer experience that spans the varied channels where they choose to spend their time — and money.
One brand that has excelled in developing a robust omnichannel effort is BestBuy, which has created a seamless online, in-app, and in-person shopping experience that provides consumers with the options they crave. While their online store and mobile app give consumers the opportunity to browse deals and purchase items for at-home delivery or in-store and curbside pickup, the company has also begun experimenting with smaller pilot stores in which customers test curated products in person and then use the app to make purchases there. Customers can then pick up the product at the front desk and complete their purchases without interacting with sales representatives.
These new hybrid stores give Gen Z shoppers the in-person experiences they desire, while also excluding the elements they revile — namely the sales associates that only 7% of Gen Z respondents told Adyen they found appealing.
Create Omnichannel Conversations That Drive Data Collection
Omnichannel strategies also provide the opportunity to collect data across various points of the customer journey, equipping brands with actionable insights into the kind of products and experiences consumers are seeking. By their very nature, omnichannel strategies allow brands to extend their data collection methods beyond the confines of digital spaces into the real world, where customers are often willing to provide their data in exchange for personal value.
Nike, for example, has created an ecosystem of apps, an online storefront, and in-person experiences that simultaneously reward consumers for participating in them and also generate a significant amount of useful big data for the company. While the Nike app allows customers to “heart” their favorite styles, scan barcodes in-store to learn more about products, and redeem membership benefits when making in-person purchases, the company’s SNKRS app grants sneakerheads access to exclusive releases and the ability to reserve in-demand kicks at nearby stores. The Nike Training Club app, meanwhile, provides users with a holistic training guide consisting of exercise routines, live-streamed classes, and resources covering nutrition and physical wellness.
The result of this strategy is that consumers are encouraged to provide the data needed to power the personalization of their own customer experience, which in turn empowers Nike to develop the products, deals, and marketing campaigns needed to retain them. Through such omnichannel efforts, Nike has created a data-driven ecosystem that provides value to consumers, whether they’re online, in app, or in person.
Drive Customer Engagement With Personalization Across Channels
Consumers favor different channels for one primary reason: their personal needs and tastes. At the simplest level, personalization needs to be consistent across the various channels to deliver a seamless experience.
One brand that has achieved stand-out customer personalization is Home Depot, which has fully embraced an omnichannel customer experience through the integration of their online store, mobile app, and in-person locations. In 2021, the company rolled out a military discount expansion for all U.S. active service members, their spouses as well as veterans to receive 10% off both in-store and online. Before making a purchase, military customers can register through the customer app, which serves two purposes.
In addition to allowing the customer to obtain the discount online, it also makes it faster and easier for customers to check out when utilizing the discount in-store: at checkout, rather than having to present other forms of identification, the customer can use the app to present a barcode to the cashier, ensuring that she qualifies for the military discount.
At the root of Home Depot‘s omnichannel offering is an understanding that today’s consumer wants to receive the same benefits and high level of customer experience across all channels. This reality is here to stay and retailers that can adopt similar approaches are well positioned for the future of commerce.