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Why a connected omnichannel strategy is key for brands to achieve customer loyalty
August 25, 2022
The rise of omnichannel retail is easy to see within our own habits as consumers. Today, a majority of our interactions with a brand span across multiple channels, technologies, devices and platforms. Yet despite widespread consumer adoption of omnichannel engagement, many brands still struggle to connect those experiences, instead leaving consumers to feel the separation between each channel. Here, Bloomreach looks at how seamlessly connecting the pieces of your omnichannel strategy is necessary for building customer loyalty that lasts.
According to a recent Google study, 98% of Americans switch between multiple devices throughout the day. It should come as no surprise that this behavior translates directly into how consumers shop, particularly since the pandemic, when the urgency and frequency with which shoppers switched between mobile apps, web and other channels grew. As a result, the past few years have seen brands pushing to integrate multiple channels across their commerce experience. And while in some cases this has helped to develop deeper relationships with customers and provided additional touchpoints for engagement, in other cases it has made the commerce experience more complicated and inconsistent — as if a customer were shopping with three different brands, rather than one brand across three channels.
This inconsistency has made it apparent that, alone, an omnichannel strategy is not enough to meet the needs of today’s consumers. For brands to succeed in a world of endless customer touchpoints, they need to prioritize connection — allowing customers to have a singular, seamless brand experience even as they move across channels.
Think outside the app
Mobile apps have become an influential part of the commerce experience and a critical driver of customer loyalty, with brands like Starbucks and Uber showing just how significant a channel the app can be. Yet as brands continue to invest in this channel, they have the potential to tap into even greater results when they consider it in the context of their larger omnichannel strategy.
For example, how does that app integrate with the in-store experience? The rise of buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) showcases a simple example of this cross-channel experience at work. Having grown in popularity during the pandemic, BOPUIS remains a strong customer preference to this day. Importantly, despite involving two wholly separate channels, a customer knows they can expect a seamless experience as they move from the app or web to the store.
How else can brands use their app to build these types of omnichannel connections? If a customer makes a purchase in a physical location, are they able to access that receipt from the app? Do ads on social media direct shoppers there? Are product recommendations in a brand’s email reflecting a customer’s app browsing history?
And as businesses consider these new points of connection, they also need to ensure they’ve done the work to repair any pre-existing gaps. If a discount shows up on a retailer’s website and not their app, for example, or if what a customer bought in the store doesn’t reflect what they’re shown on the app when they return a few days later, customers likely won’t stick around to see what else that brand can offer. From their point of view, the shopping experience feels fragmented, and the brand risks not only losing an app user, but losing a customer completely.
Loyalty across channels
Loyalty programs can offer significant opportunities for deepening customer relationships, allowing a company to regularly communicate with their customers while also providing frequent insights into consumer habits and preferences. They drive measurable results, too. According to a recent Antavo study, 93.1% of companies with loyalty programs reported having a positive ROI.
What’s most interesting to consider, though, is how loyalty programs can serve as a connection point across different channels. Take Starbucks, for example. If you’re a customer who uses the Starbucks app, you’re likely engaging with the loyalty program on a frequent (if not daily) basis. You place an order on the app, then receive an email updating you on your point status and letting you know when your order will be ready. You visit the store to pick up that order, which sits waiting for you at the counter. You may receive push notifications the following week notifying you of additional points you can earn with the purchase of a new drink. That customer journey spanned multiple different channels, yet it felt seamless because each touchpoint reflected your status as a loyalty member. You weren’t an app customer, or an in-store customer = you were simply a Starbucks customer.
Though Starbucks is an undeniable leader in this space, it serves as a prominent example for brands seeking to drive cross-channel connection. Loyalty is critical to every brand channel, and thus serves as a simple way to bring each of those channels together.
The rise of conversational commerce
Conversational commerce is inherently omnichannel, generally executed through multiple platforms, including WhatsApp, SMS, online chat bots, and even direct messages. Consumers often prefer a less static shopping experience, and with conversational commerce, they are given the opportunity to converse whenever they want with a brand representative or shopping concierge. There’s a human aspect to this channel that is similar to that of walking into a store and speaking with a sales associate.
Of course, this type of experience offers little value unless it’s connected. An online stylist sending links to items that aren’t in stock on a brand’s website does little to garner customer trust. And because there is such a personal element to conversation commerce, customer expectations for a trustworthy experience are high. Brands that are engaging in conversational commerce need to work diligently to ensure widespread connectedness.
Today, the customer journey has grown to encompass a wide range of channels, with each serving as an important touchpoint on the path to purchase. As businesses adapt their strategies to meet consumers where they are (which is, put simply, everywhere), they need to think about each of those channels as a puzzle piece, rather than the full picture on its own. The e-commerce site, the app, social media, SMS — each is important, but the true value comes from how those channels work together. Your commerce experience may span multiple channels, but to your customer, it should always feel like one brand.