With more sellers and brands competing for their attention, infinite choices online, and easy access to customer opinions, buying has become, well, a buyer’s market. And with that newfound power, consumers are require more from retailers: Better service, better products, and information wherever they want it. John Andrews VP marketing and product management, eBusiness for Oracle, echoed this thought at last year’s Bazaarvoice Summit:

“The customer is becoming much, much more demanding.”

Luckily for retailers, the same tools that give consumers their power make it possible to deliver exactly what they’re demanding – which is information and choice wherever they shop, says Dennis Suler, ecommerce marketing manager for Verizon Wireless:

“We’re looking to provide customers with the tools and information they need to make the right purchasing decision in the best channel for them.”

Price based on the customer’s experience, not the channel

A common pain point for omnichannel retailers is pricing. But prices needn’t be identical everywhere, says Oracle’s Andrews:

“How do you manage pricing? You might want to do regional-based pricing within your stores, and somebody sees it lower online. My initial instinct was ‘Lowest price wins for the customer!’  Many retailers actually say, ‘Well, no, actually not.’ If the customer wants to pick up the item and walk out the door with it, there’s value to that. And they might pay a different price.”

In other words, while the product is the same, the customer experience in receiving that item is different. For example, a shopper can pay one price and get his item shipped to the store in a week, and pick it up himself. For a little more money, he can have it shipped to his home in a few days. For a little more, he can receive it at home the next day. And for a bit more, he can walk out of the store with it today.

There are situations where customers with different needs will opt to pay more for speedier ownership. Andrews illustrated with the idea of a hostess who needs a deluxe coffee maker for her dinner party tonight – even next-day delivery wouldn’t be quick enough. In this way, the retailer offers choices that satisfy shoppers’ price demands and timing needs for mutual benefit.

Make all online information available in stores, digitally

Shopping online offers much more information and choices than stores typically can. Consumers also bring that information into the store with them via their mobile devices. Offering free wifi in brick and mortar stores helps them access the information they need online while shopping in your aisles.

Retailers can proactively encourage shoppers’ omnichannel natures (while gaining some control over the online experience) using kiosks and tablets, says Oracle’s Andrews:

“Why isn’t [your website] a kiosk in the middle of a store, right? Where a customer is in the store and can touch the products, and then, can interact with the online catalogue directly within the store. More often than not, we’re seeing tablets become the kiosk of choice within the store.”

In place of actual touchscreen displays, retailers can equip store staff with tablets to help shoppers find reviews, Q&A, sizes, etc. Verizon uses both shelf tags and tablets to bring reviews into the store, says Dennis:

“When someone walks into a store now, what will happen is they’ll pick up one of our phones, and they’ll have ratings and reviews on there. So, you’ll see ratings and reviews for the phone.  Associates [will] have a tablet with ratings and reviews on there. So when they talk to a customer, they’ll see that. So no longer is it just online.”

Simulate the expertise and personal touch of store associates with social features

Personalized assistance has been difficult to replicate online. But new social features, tagging, and filtering translate user-generated content into personal service.

For example, in a store shoppers can ask the associate for shoes good for hiking, rather than street running. With filterable reviews, shoppers can find testimonies from people like them – or like whomever they’re shopping for, says Oracle’s Andrews:

“Is social navigation to be able to be refined by reviewer? ‘Show me the cameras that are rated highly by women over the age of 70, if they’re writing reviews, because I’m buying a camera for my mother.’ So, being able to have that capability in check [is important].”

Online, retailers also have the opportunity to involve expert reps from the manufacturer. While Samsung and HTC may not be able to staff a product expert in every Verizon location, reps for the brands can answer consumers’ questions on the Verizon website – which makes the carrier look good too, says Dennis:

“[Brand reps] provide the expert product-based input… If there’s technical questions that people are asking that we don’t have the answer to, we bring in the OEMs [original equipment manufacturers], and they’ll help us answer those questions. They provide the support for those product features and functionality. So, if a product is a new product, and we don’t know about it – people are asking about ‘How long is the battery life?’ or whatever it may be – the OEMs can actually come in and answer.  That actually gives us a lot more credibility, as well.”

Verizon even uses Q&A with brand reps to build online buzz before new models launch, says Dennis:

“Before we launch a product, we put questions and answers on there so we can get the buzz, so we can get people asking the questions and really get buzz around a product before it launches and goes live.”

The overarching theme in omnichannel discussions: There are no channels any longer. There is only your brand experience – and it has to satisfy shopper needs wherever they buy.

This post includes quotes from the 2013 Bazaarvoice Summit. Get information on our 2014 Summit here.



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