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Meeting Customers Where They Are: Leveraging Digital Transformation for Omnichannel Innovations

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Customer shopping behaviors are changing. From pandemic-driven shifts to omnichannel purchasing habits to increasing preferences for buyer personalization, customers are attracted to businesses that offer the highest level of convenience and consistency across various touchpoints.

E-commerce proliferation has shifted how brands and customers interact online, and many of these innovations have also been adapted to in-store models. 

As customers make their way back to physical stores, online shopping still remains popular. Over the last year, nearly 75% of U.S. consumers made an online purchase on a computer, while 57% used a mobile phone. In turn, retailers find themselves in a sink or swim scenario where offering the seamless experiences that customers desire is no longer optional.

Omnichannel retail approaches leverage new technologies to create a more homogenous, engaging shopping experience for customers and can also help brands with inventory management and help give the visibility to control costs efficiently.

However, not everyone is quick to adopt omnichannel functions. According to the OSF Digital’s Omnichannel Retail Index 2022, the rate at which retailers implement best practice capabilities for an omnichannel customer experience has stagnated at around 60% over the last several years. As customers look for more personalized experiences across platforms, it’s essential for retailers to make proactive efforts to streamline the digital buyer’s journey.

New Ways to Buy

Among the myriad of innovative technology adoption, there are some clear winners in the retail space. Many retailers and brands featured in the 2022 Omnichannel Retail Index have begun to offer buy online, pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) options, with 77% also offering same-day pickup flexibility. In addition, 84% leverage “endless aisles” where sales associates order items for customers in a particular size or color that isn’t available inside the store.

All of this represents the growing overlap between the online and in-person shopping experience. By offering the freedom to access the same in-store and online products, retailers are meeting their customers where they are and driving brand loyalty through convenience. 

Adding new ways for customers to purchase items is just the beginning. Brands are starting to invest in additional technologies to make the shopping experience more engaging for their customers. According to a recent GfK survey, 29% of consumers are more likely to visit a store that offers some sort of augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) experience, and 21% are looking forward to trying an AR or VR shopping experience over the next year. Bringing in these new technologies piques customer interest and will eventually become the new standard for how shopping is done.

No Time to Waste

Consumers are constantly on the lookout for more convenient and engaging shopping experiences, and certain retailers are capitalizing. The highest-ranking company in the 2022 Omnichannel Retail Index has implemented 85% of digital and omnichannel best-practice capabilities, up from 72% the previous year. A new normal is being established that is built on customer-centric models prioritizing the needs and preferences of the consumer above all. 

Offering a seamless customer experience is now as much a part of the product as the item being sold. However, the wider gap in adoption highlighted in this year’s Index indicates that some companies are still hesitant to embrace omnichannel as others lead the charge.

There is a real opportunity here to harness the technological tools made essential during the pandemic to offer a richer shopping experience for consumers. By creating seamless transitions between the online and in-person worlds, customers are more inclined to shop with confidence and offer loyalty to brands that prioritize innovative digital transformation. 

Gerry Szatvanyi, CEO of OSF Digital 

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