Even if you haven’t explicitly noticed, chances are you’ve been successfully courted by an omni-channel strategy.
That’s because they’re so necessary in today’s retail landscape that you’d practically have to live under a rock to avoid them. As online-only behemoths like Amazon threaten to devour brick-and-mortar stores, they have no choice but to assimilate into the digital culture.
While these strategies are invaluable to retailers, it’s not surprising that some companies might still be intimidated by the outlook or feel that they don’t have the capabilities or resources to execute a strategy successfully.
In a survey from Rakuten, 26% of respondents still hadn’t taken any action on an omni-channel strategy.
But the data consistently proves that omni-channel is becoming less negotiable with every passing day. An IDC study found that customers who shop across multiple channels bring in a 30% higher lifetime value.
Harvard Business Review reports that of 46,000 surveyed shoppers, a whopping 73% shopped on more than one channel (only 7% shopped online-only, and 20% shopped in-store-only). Findings showed that they spent 4% more on average every time they visited a store and 10% more online in comparison to single-channel shoppers. And when they did research online in advance, they spent 13% more in-store.
In short: more channels = more revenue.
So how can companies find the inspiration to find a strategy that works for them? Learning by example, of course. Let’s take a look at 10 companies that are killing omni-channel, and the examples they’re setting for other brands.
1. Neiman Marcus
Luxury retail chain Neiman Marcus was awarded the 2017 IRT Retailer Innovation Award in Customer Engagement for its dynamic efforts to make the omni-channel experience as seamless as possible. At the center of their philosophy is a strong belief in personalization. Jeff Rosenfeld, VP for Customer Insight and Analytics, gleans:
Identity is the core of personalization, and if you don't get it right, you're not talking to the entirety of that customer.
The marketing team aims to remove the barriers that separate how customers interact with the brand through different channels, working to provide a “white glove” experience through each touchpoint. To do this, the digital channels get a little bit “smarter” every time a customer interacts.
For example, if a customer consistently searches for size 8 or 8.5 shoes or size 10-to-12 in dresses, the company website will remember. The next time they search for these items, the site will return search results for those sizes that are available in the nearest brick-and-mortar locations. The site also uses geolocation to include info on relevant local events or new arrivals for brands the customer has expressed interest in, all of which are incorporated into email marketing and dynamically printed direct mail campaigns.
The company closely examines web analytics like clicks, page views, and time spent on each page to make inferences about user behavior and preferences.
Neiman Marcus also innovates in its tech offerings, with tools like the in-store “Memory Mirror.” It allows users to record 360-degree videos of themselves trying on clothing in the store, which they can then save in the mobile app and take a look later when they’re ready to buy online or in-store.
Their “Snap. Find. Shop.” app powered by Slyce allows users to upload a photo of shoes or handbags they like, which is then run against the Neiman Marcus database using smart image recognition. If they have something similar, customers can buy it on the spot online.
You could say that Neiman Marcus really “gets it.”
2. Value City Furniture
Value City Furniture, also known as American Signature Furniture, recognized the need to build and nurture personal relationships with their customers, especially because of the higher cost investment in their products (let’s face it, no one makes a big furniture purchase on a whim).
To help cultivate engagement between each customer’s touchpoints with the brand, they focused on answering customer questions and fostering both the emotional and rational aspects of a furniture purchase — a strategy which had historically been neglected.
They created a platform called the “Easy Pass” to bridge data between physical stores and online carts and shopping lists. When customers build a list online, a store employee can pull up the info and show them their selection in-store. And we all know the massive value of giving customers the ability to physically touch a product before they’ll commit to a purchase.
This also works both ways, with an in-store selection seamlessly added to their digital wishlist. When they receive communications, it includes all the info they need to make a decision: dimensions, info, and product photos; a help chat link; and even the name and contact info of the employee who helped them.
Steve Haffer, Value City Furniture’s Chief Information Officer and EVP of Marketing, Ecommerce and Information Technology, says:
“In our world you just — boom — click on the link on the email we sent you or just go right in, it pulls up that invoice — the items that you wanted — and you can process it right there in the moment without having to go back to the store.”
Value City also uses email to help nurture the customer journey. For example, they’re emailed when they abandon a cart or receive an email when they’re in-store, keeping the purchase alive and nudging toward the Easy Pass system.
As a result of their strategy, the company has seen an immense 283% raise in abandonment revenue, 190% boost in overall email revenue, and 55% growth in shoppers reached.
The world-renowned fragrance company Glade dreamed up the Museum of Feelings, a submersive sensory experience that explored the link between emotions and scent — after all, memories are a gateway to human emotion, and scent is the strongest sense tied to memory. The pop-up installation was born in a portable 5,300-square-foot building in Manhattan’s Financial District, featuring several rooms that used touch, sound, visuals, and smell to stir up emotions in its visitors.
The company used wonderful creativity to dream up these sensory experiences, like kaleidoscopic mirrors in the Exhilaration room, green LED vines hanging from the roof in the Joy room, and light halos that close in on your feet as you approach the scent lamp in the Invigorated room. Even the outside of the building changed colors based on the “mood” of the city, which was calculated using trending social media info, weather reports, and stock market data.
The kicker: each room’s smell was from Glade’s new scent line. At the end of the exhibit, customers were guided into a bright room with a smelling table and a candle-lined wall to catch the impulse shoppers while they were still wrapped up in the bliss of the experience.
I don’t know about you, but I’d call this nothing short of a brilliant marketing tactic to forge a new, imaginative channel of engagement with customers. And Cannes seems to agree: the campaign won four awards at the 2016 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity: a Gold Lion for Live Brand Experience, Silver Lion for Omni-Channel Experience, Bronze Lion for Spatial Brand Installation & Experience and Bronze Lion for Creative Data.
Outdoors retailer Timberland is using near-field communication (NFC) technology to merge the physical and digital worlds of ecommerce. NFC is a game-changer, allowing secured information to be instantly exchanged between mobile devices without interference. The result is a huge asset to two of the biggest customer issues in retail: time and convenience.
Timberland has implemented “TouchWalls” with large interfaces, in addition to tablets that can be used around the store.
The TouchWalls display online-only inventory, allowing users to touch product photos to view expanded information and build their personalized shopping list for both in-store and online-only products.
Customers can also use a tablet to tap NFC-tagged inventory, and rich product information will instantly load on screen. This has the added benefit of exposure for lesser-known products, as the product recommendation engine pulls up inventory like women’s footwear and men’s apparel.
All this activity is stored in user profiles for an ultimate omni-channel win-win: they’re showcasing the full potential of their products and immersing customers in the brand, all while collecting coveted in-store, online, and post-visit behavioral data to constantly hone their retail and remarketing strategy.
Kate Kibler, Timberland’s VP of direct-to-consumer, says:
You are engaging with the consumer on an intimate level — they are telling you what products are interesting. That customer data is one of the most important things to grow your brand.
Orvis is a great lesson in learning to adapt to your audience. With their primary products being sporting apparel, fly fishing gear, and pet supplies, the company isn’t exactly appealing to the millennial, smartphone-addicted crowd. But CIO Davis Finnegan recognizes that their target audience, mainly more affluent customers aged 50 and older, is quickly adapting to the digital age. He notes:
This demographic, [the “second mover” generation] is adopting technology at a very, very rapid pace, and they’re using it to connect with people and brands in more unique ways.
The team did a walkthrough of the physical store and asked what customers would want to see. Their new POS software Aptos, which they refer to as their “endless aisle” tool, bridges a critical gap in web and mobile transactions.
Employees equipped with iPad minis can order any out-of-stock products and charge them for both in-store and online sales with their iPad credit card readers. They can also show customers similar products, and they know who’s a new customer and who’s loyal when they step in the door.
The company’s mobile app works to shift the marketing messaging, build relationships, and nurture the relationship toward the second and third purchases. For example, customers receive personalized content based on their new products and the places they’re fishing. Orvis hopes to continue building this technology, with the ability to one day equip fishing rods and reels — and even apparel — with sensors and software to heighten the experience.
6. Crate and Barrel
Crate and Barrel partnered with CloudTags to create a program that’s been dubbed the Connected Store and Mobile Totes experience. The program uses tablets throughout the homeware store that act as “mobile” tote bags (get it?), allowing customers to scan product barcodes and learn more about each product they’re interested in, like what colors it comes in and what kind of reviews it has. They can also search for items and create wish lists.
CloudTags integrates with Crate and Barrel’s APIs like inventory feed and search functionality to deliver information in real time. If customers opt to add their email, they can send themselves their own shopping list or walk up to a Mobile Tote checkout line, where a sales associate will even gather their items for them.
When a customer doesn’t purchase the items, but emails their wish list and opens the email when they get home, their cookie ID allows Crate and Barrel to retarget them with banner ads for the products they’ve already expressed interest in.
This clever strategy allows the company to switch up their marketing messaging to stay relevant and targeted throughout the customer’s buying journey.
And it works: Crate and Barrel reported a 10% sales hike within two months of testing Mobile Totes in their Skokie, Illinois store.
While some may criticize the technique as a bit creepy, Crate and Barrel’s VP of Ecommerce Joan King begs to differ, noting that:
More and more, people are actually expecting that we know their shopping preferences. They are expecting us to be smarter and smarter.
And that’s just what they’re doing.
Women’s apparel brand Topshop initiated a UK-based campaign to bring high-end fashion to everyday consumers, with a digital billboard campaign at its center point. Six Twitter-supported billboards in London, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Glasgow showed real-time word clouds from Twitter data that used the hashtag #LFW, displaying fashion trends as they emerged on the runway at London Fashion Week.
The clouds included trends like pleats or color-blocking and were complemented by a small selection of Topshop’s in-store inventory that correlated. Each billboard was within a 10-minute walk from a physical Topshop location. For those who wanted to shop online, tweeting a trending word to the Topshop Twitter account earned them a curated shopping list they could use to guide their purchases.
During Fashion Week, Topshop saw an impressive boost in sales of nearly 25% across all the categories featured on the billboards, with a 75% boost on items related to the modernism hashtag.
Way to stay relevant, Topshop!
And the Fashion Week campaign is just a drop in the ingenuity bucket for the company. Their Topshop On the Go app works to create a seamless experience between physical and digital worlds, with a barcode scanner that links users to nearby store locations and highlights their available stock.
Topshop shows that it’s a prime contender for integrating multiple channels into a smooth experience, delivered in a way that aligns perfectly with the interests and behaviors of their users.
VIP.com is one of China’s largest ecomm marketplaces, specializing in lifestyle and retail brands. It started off as a discount platform, moved to full price goods, and now includes other verticals like travel and hotels. In its journey to be an ecomm powerhouse, the website has taken some key omni-channel principles and used them to dominate the Chinese market.
One Hong Kong retail group tested its partnership with VIP.com by uploading its inventory from tits Beijing and Shanghai stores. The company used the website’s geolocation data to push special offer notifications to customers in these surrounding areas, at which point they could buy online, pick them up from the store locations, or have have VIP.com collect and deliver the products.
One strategy for generating buzz was using Western models to deliver products to Shanghai-based women at home (a technique that admittedly wouldn’t have much clout in the States, but was rather successful in China).
To generate traffic in the cutthroat online marketplace realm, VIP.com’s model works on big data recommendations. New customers are organized into clusters that are continually refined as each user interacts more and more with the brand. With each look, click, or buy, the platform “gets to know them” better. Filippo Gori, the Business Development Director of International Brands, reports that this strategy rakes in a cool 5-to-6% conversion rate.
If you’re looking to find success in cross-border ecommerce, particularly in China, take some advice from Gori:
“If you are a new brand in China and you want to have an idea of where your customers might be, the easiest way to do that is to test online, with some offline marketing. Immediately you will start to have an idea of where your prospects can be… Having that online connection, that online engagement and online brand environment where the consumer is important is just a missing piece these days.”
9. TBC Bank
TBC Bank, which operates in the country Georgia, is leading its nation in omni-channel strategy, earning the 2016 FICO Decisions Award for Customer Onboarding and Management. TBC reimagined the way consumers sign up for their accounts by addressing an all-too-common issue in the banking industry: customers were dropping off during the onboarding process.
To acclimatize to a digital world, the company implemented a seamless omni-channel strategy to help new customers finish their onboarding process with flexibility. After beginning the process through a call center, they can now finish Image via an ATM branch, or kiosk.
Being the first in the country to act on the opportunity came with high risk and high reward. Nicole Sturgill, principal executive advisor of CEB TowerGroup and one of 2016’s FICO Decisions Awards judges noted:
“Developing a fully omni-channel, seamless process is very challenging. Being the first in the country to do so requires extra effort, as customers have to be educated and made comfortable with the new process. TBC Bank’s increased sales and automation results definitively highlight the benefits to be gained from an omni-channel solution.”
But in the end, the risk had a huge payout:
- The loan approval rate grew 40 percent
- The credit application’s time-to-decision dropped to 15 minutes, down from a full business day
- The application change time-to-market for application decreased by 85% — now, the in-house development team performs 90% of required system changes
- Because of decreased manual review processes, the cost to originate a loan dropped by 50%
- Overall automation levels skyrocketed to 90%, up from 15%
10. Steve Madden
Apparel retailer Steve Madden understands the value of data and a quality CRM in an omni-channel strategy. One of their main missions is to ensure that the data matches up from all touchpoints of the buyer’s journey, as many companies struggle to find cohesion between differing sources.
Mark Friedman, Steve Madden President of Ecommerce says:
“The whole concept of CRM is not new, but a lot of retailers are struggling to capture information on customers and their transactions at the point of sale, and have that data in the same database as online purchases, matching up customer activity wherever they shop.”
To accomplish this, the marketing team combines their cross-channel data into a “lake” and layers business intelligence over it. By doing so, they’re able to segment customers and create more targeted, meaningful communications.
Friedman notes that when a buyer becomes inactive, they gear up with aggressive reactivation messaging, as opposed to the types of messaging they deliver to those who are still making purchases. Additionally, the brand has modified its POS system to give enhanced functionality and features, as well as a mobile app to connect the physical and digital realms.
Infiltrate, Originate, Dominate
omni-channel is no longer a choice for retailers — the name of the game is adapt or be conquered. As we careen into the age of technology, even the older generations are harnessing the power of digital channels to streamline and optimize their shopping experiences and their relationships with brands.
There’s a lot of competition, but with the right channel strategies and a healthy dose of creativity, you can set your brand up for longevity and stability in a rapidly-changing environment.
What will be your legacy in the omni-channel revolution?