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By strengthening the connection between physical and digital shopping, retailers can create more enjoyable customer experiences that drive commerce and increase revenue.
Advances in technology have fundamentally changed the way customers interact with retailers. Customers want a consistent experience, whether they’re shopping online or in-person, paying for an item, using their loyalty program, or even returning items to the store.
By strengthening the connection between physical and digital shopping, retailers can create more enjoyable customer experiences that drive more commerce and increase revenue. Businesses are adapting to this evolving landscape by offering customers new and enhanced omnichannel capabilities across the customer journey, enriching the shopping experience and engaging digital-savvy consumers.
In the new world of omnichannel commerce, here are four strategies merchants can implement to improve the customer experience:
Create consistency across physical and digital channels
The phrase “omnichannel” is common, yet many large retailers have not yet executed on the concept. According to Gartner, through 2022, 50% of large organizations will have failed to unify engagement channels, resulting in disjointed and siloed customer experiences that lack context and cause friction.
To illustrate, if a customer searched a retailer’s website to find a couch, they might want to go to the store to determine its comfort. However, how would the customer feel if they drove to the store only to find that the item isn’t in stock, is priced differently than it was online, or the ability to Buy Now Pay Later was no longer an option? This type of mishap can turn a potential customer into something that retailers dread — a potentially outspoken lost sale.
Providing a consistent experience for customers is paramount to building customer loyalty. Successful retailers deliver relevant promotions, enable payment types, understand preferences and buying history, and address unique customer needs across all channels.
Localize discovery experiences
The wants and needs of customers can vary based on where they are located. Understanding the proximity of shoppers can help retailers deliver customized commerce experiences. Consider the sports fan who just watched his team win the World Series or Super Bowl. If a retailer knows that the fan is within 50 miles of the team’s stadium, they could send a mobile alert with a promotion for championship apparel to all of their customers within that radius the moment the big game is over — or direct customers to a physical store nearby selling championship jerseys the next morning.
Likewise, a home improvement retailer that knows its customers live nearby might want to provide an incentive to draw local customers into the physical store. This could be in the form of a discount on a specific item, or an invitation to a free wood-working class that the customer may be interested in based on their purchasing history.
Using a localized approach can drive more sales, both by providing a tailored shopping experience and by drawing customers to a brick-and-mortar location where they may purchase additional items.
Reimagine checkout via new digital payment options
Streamlining how customers check out goes a long way toward creating positive shopping experiences. A retailer that can integrate digital payment options is more likely to convert a sale and offer a simpler customer experience.
We’ve seen this play out across multiple industries. Restaurants are using QR codes to digitize menus as well as ordering and bill paying, sports venues allow fans to order from their seat with a mobile device instead of standing in long lines, and drivers can use Amazon Alexa in their car to pay for gas.
Traditional retailers have opportunities to integrate new omnichannel payment capabilities throughout the consumer experience. Some examples include Buy Online/Pickup In-Store, QR codes being used to activate value-added experiences, and scan-and-go marketplaces. Future ideas such as embedding payments within augmented reality or expanding the use of voice commerce could shape future checkout experiences.
Address returns with a customer-centric approach
While enhancing the discovery and purchasing process is often a focus for retailers, increases in digital purchasing has also increased the volume and costs of returned items. For every $1 billion in sales, the average retailer incurs $106 million in merchandise returns due to the cost of returning the item, new packaging, restocking, damaged goods, and other problems.
Based on Fiserv research, the majority of all returns are made by 1-5% of consumers. For some merchants, as much as 60% of their return volume will come from just one percent of their consumer base.
By analyzing payment data and understanding customer preferences, retailers have access to actionable data that can be used in real time to identify which customers are most likely to return an item.
When a retailer determines who is likely to be a high returner prior to the sale, they can offer incentives, such as a gift card or a future discount, as a way to reduce returns.
Evolve to deliver the best customer experiences
To stay ahead of the competition, retailers must develop new customer engagement strategies, and deploy innovative commerce technologies across all channels. Doing so will go a long way toward turning customers into loyal brand and business promoters.
John Nicola is senior vice president of corporate enterprise solutions, Fiserv
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