Going omnichannel doesn’t mean using every channel

Through the past decade, retailers have worked to create and maintain a digital, omnichannel presence.

For most, that has primarily meant improving the connection among their different sales channels, i.e., online with brick and mortar.

But today's retailer must do more than, for example, ensure a sale can start in one channel and conclude in another, or that inventory of a downtown location can be reliably checked online.

With digital interactions influencing an estimated 56 cents of every dollar spent in retail stores, it is crucial for brick and mortars to invest in the right channel, the right way.

Here are 3 tips for choosing the best channels for your omnichannel investment.

1. Hook up with social media

The ability of retailers to influence the purchase journey is decreasing, while social media channels are increasingly able to shape sales decisions.

Retailers should embrace integration with and the native capabilities of the major digital platforms where their customers are currently interacting and transacting.

Retailers interact with customers on average, according to Deloitte, six to eight times annually.

Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest interact with those same individuals far more regularly, weekly, daily and even multiple times per day. Advertising on Facebook is not just for niche companies.

Becoming integrated into the fabric of everyday activity means more than old-school mailers or even posting on a business Facebook page or Instagram account.

They must become "top of mind" for customers, and in today's world, that means being a consistent voice on social media.

2. Be millennial-minded

Deloitte found that more than three-quarters (78 percent) of non-millennials are now using digital devices either two or three times throughout their shopping trips.

Research indicates that digital plays a large role in inspiration, payment and post-purchase for beauty products, but only a very small role in the grocery business.

Couple that with the fact that more than three-quarters of the buying power is still with those older than 30, and it's clear that digital strategies should be aimed at how different groups use digital tools differently during the purchasing journey, and a range of customized experiences should be created for each.

Customers want to shop from trusted advisers. Creating dialogue and a relationship with customers is the future of retailing.

3. Look at the data

Retailers need to move from a legacy “campaign” mind-set that centers on sales events to a customer mind-set built around the needs of different segments of shoppers.

Reliance on traditional approaches can result in flawed budgeting and investments in the wrong positions.

For instance, a commitment to helping shoppers easily select products may be the most important customer interaction on the path to purchase — rather than promoting the "one-day super sale."

Staffing and hiring need to reflect that change: social media specialists and customer relationship managers are increasingly valuable.

Brick and mortars that can marry valuable service from associates that complements their digital presence will ultimately be omnichannel winners.

Digital plays a larger role at different times during a journey, depending on the product that is sought.

Customers want to engage digitally and direct their own journeys, rather than work their ways through a store layout or merchandise hierarchy to locate and purchase products.

The key is to find the moments of inspiration and engage from that moment.

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