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The rise and rise of the omni-shopper

Today, consumers interact with brands through more touch points and channels than ever before. As a result, demand for a consistent experience has increased, whilst the ability for retailers to offer a personalised service across all channels has become more challenging. But are retailers responding to the right demands?

Recent headlines predicting that online shopping will soon eliminate the need for physical stores have dominated the retail space. Whilst several high profile store closures have cemented these claims, they aren’t necessarily a true reflection of the real consumer shopping trends that are at play.

New consumer research has found that in five years’ time almost half of all purchases (44%) are expected to involve more than one channel; this could be mobile, online or in-store. Despite which, only 15% of consumers currently feel extremely satisfied that retailers provide a consistent experience across different channels. Rather than take an ‘either or’ view on the subject of online shopping verses the high street, each channel must be regarded as points on the consumers’ preference scale, of which retailers must understand how each is relevant, and to what extent.

‘Showrooming’ is a good example of a recent trend which brands are slowly coming to terms with. The value in the touch and feel elements of purchasing goods cannot be disregarded – for example 64% of consumers prefer to buy footwear in person – but the transaction must be viewed in its entirety. Will the customer research shoes online before buying in-store? Or will someone buy in-store based on prior research online, or indeed in other high street stockists?

Taking this one step further beyond simply understanding consumer shopping habits to using intelligence to drive revenue, previous purchase history can inform a retailer’s engagement with its customers across multiple channels. For example, an email or Tweet to a customer to let them know a specific item they regularly buy is on special offer in a store near to them is an excellent example of direct customer engagement using multiple channels.

Of course, not all consumers will become full omni-channel shoppers. The research highlights that there are varying degrees to which customers wish to engage across multiple channels. It’s important that retailers take into consideration the preferences of all types of customer; from ‘omni-enthusiasts’ (13%) which cite the use of different channels through which to purchase as crucial, to ‘omni-hesitants’ (22%) which don’t regard the use of multiple channels to be of significant importance. Nevertheless, 72% expect to be able to research, shop, receive goods and receive customer services in whatever way they choose – rising to 83% amongst omni-enthusiasts.

The only way to understand these differences is to analyse the mounds of customer data each channel gathers during every purchase. The challenge is how you can then join the data up to achieve a single view of the customer. As the Christmas shopping period approaches it’s important for retailers to start thinking about how best to engage with customers through their preferred channel in order to ensure a consistent and positive customer experience.