June 02, 2021
Omnichannel has once again risen to the top of marketing’s agenda, as the pandemic spurred a mixture of online and offline engagements, particularly in retail. Marketers were left to piece together omnichannel’s many moving parts while under the consumer expectation for a seamless, personalized and delightful experience every time.
It’s a Herculean feat given the sheer volume of engagements and touchpoints, ranging from a website visit to a mobile app to an online chatbot to a phone call with a customer service agent. For the most part, engagements occur randomly across channels and in various stages of the buyer’s journey — and marketing has to be on top of it all.
Among retailers, omnichannel meant marketers had to serve up an acronymic soup: BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store), ROPO (research online, purchase offline), BIMBO (browse in-store on mobile, buy online) and BORIS (buy online, return in store).
“More than one-third of Americans have made omnichannel features such as buying online for in-store pickup part of their regular shopping routine since the pandemic, and nearly two-thirds of those individuals plan to continue,” say Holly Briedis, partner, and Brian Gregg, senior partner, in a McKinsey & Company article.
The CMO Council found that 71% of consumers want a blend of both physical and digital channels. Yet 87% of consumers find it frustrating when having to repeat themselves in multiple channels. This frustration has led to 73% of consumers questioning why they’re spending with the brand in the first place.
What’s keeping retailers from embracing omnichannel?
“Some fashion brands, for instance, have been slow to push e-commerce, given the high cost of shipping and returns, and the fear that online channels cannibalize in-store sales,” McKinsey authors say. “Others fund ad hoc investments that yield only marginal improvements in the overall shopping experience.”
Making omnichannel work is incredible difficult. The McKinsey article cites an anonymous fashion retailer to describe the arduous omnichannel journey. The retailer’s story begins with a critical need on both online and offline channels: expand e-commerce capabilities and revitalize the in-store experience.
The North Star, of course, is to deliver richly tailored experiences across channels — that is, omnichannel personalization at its finest.
But a major problem stood in the way of the retailer’s ambitions. Customer data, content management and mobile app capabilities were not yet sufficient to reach its objectives, the McKinsey authors say. This led to a three-year commitment to shore up capabilities, such as cross-channel metrics, a data-housing platform, inventory visibility and digital talent.
The retailer also needed to tackle omnichannel in a realistic way. For e-commerce, the first step was to reach competitive parity before bringing in personalization capabilities. The retailer had to think through what personalization should look like, which would be different for a vertical retailer than a convenience store.
“As this retailer demonstrates, figuring out which version of omnichannel to embrace requires looking beyond the current horizon, reflecting on the company’s mission, and identifying where the experience can truly serve to differentiate an organization from its competition,” McKinsey authors say. “Moreover, when retailers try to leap to the next level without establishing adequate foundational capabilities, they often fail.”
Tom Kaneshige is the Chief Content Officer at the CMO Council. He creates all forms of digital thought leadership content that helps growth and revenue officers, line of business leaders, and chief marketers succeed in their rapidly evolving roles. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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