This post is sponsored by Samsung Business. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Omni-channel is a hot topic that’s getting a lot of attention these days from brands worldwide. And, why not? Buying has changed since the dawn of the omni-channel shopper.
Today, it can take months for someone to decide to buy, a process that can connect them to a brand in person, online, or via mobile as they check out storefronts, webinars, social channels, web content, email, and other media. Omni-channel means delivering a consistent experience throughout that journey—from discovery, to purchase, to post-purchase engagement—and ensuring that experience you deliver remains as frictionless as possible.
According to the National Retail Foundation’s 2015 State of Retailing Online report omni-channel and mobile are top priorities for brands this year—but they can’t be considered separately. How does mobile fit into the omni-channel equation? Before we discuss this, let’s take a brief look at the current state of omni-channel buying.
The Omni-Channel Buyer: Defining the Evolving Trends in the Omni-Channel Space
Today, most purchases take place through one of two different storefronts—offline (in store) or online—with lots of overlap between the two—but the real transformation for retail has been how those transactions take place.
“Eight out of 10 consumers globally use a computer, smartphone, tablet or in-store technology in shopping,” according to The Retail CMO’s Guide to the Omnishopper, a new survey from MasterCard. “The omnishopper uses technology to discover a wider variety of products and to compare and learn more about her choices.”
The survey also revealed that the pre-purchase process has become more intense; more than 60 percent of buyers agree that they do more research now than before. They also know what they want and where they want to buy it. Brand promotions matter to just 18 percent; modern buyers are making purchase decisions on their own, generally influenced more by friends and family than advertising.
As consumers embark on a more self-directed buying journey, brands may be left wondering whether they’ve been kicked out of the process. Quite the opposite is true: Brands just need to up their game a little; during the purchase process they need to engage further, create more delightful user experiences, be more creative with their content, and ultimately, find ways to continue to “touch” the buyer across several points of contact.
This means brands need to mesh in-store and online experiences into one seamless interaction—one that includes mobile. When it comes to getting information, mobile comfortably dominates desktop use. While social is responsible for a large chunk of that time, how people use their phones is highly individual, and a brand’s omni-channel strategy needs to accommodate that.
The Role of Mobile in the Omni-Channel Game
There were 145.9 million mobile shoppers in the U.S. last year, but only half were predicted to actually make a purchase through their device.
What about the other half? They use their devices to bridge the offline and online purchase process through actions like research, price comparisons, and managing loyalty points and coupons—which ultimately lead to their in-store purchase. According to a 2014 eMarketer report, “[m]obile is often the catalyst for sales” because that’s how most purchase decisions are made.
Because brands have so many potential touch points with buyers, they need to be able to track every interaction or transaction. Mobile is a gold mine of valuable data that can be traced throughout the journey. Since buyers perform so many pre-purchase actions on their smartphones, mobile data is a rich source of vital customer information, peeling back the curtains on important customer behavioral habits, as well as preferences, likes, and dislikes.
By merging data from different channels, then using analytics to decode trends and patterns, brands can piece together a comprehensive picture of their customer. Brands that get their mobile and omni-channel marketing strategies perfectly aligned will enjoy a significant competitive edge. Which is always the ultimate goal, is it not?
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