18 Future of Retail — Omnichannel

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share, while many SMBs will be left struggling to get heard. But I know that it doesn’t have to be this

way. For small retailers to survive in the increasingly crowded retail industry, they simply have to give consumers what they want and face the big retailers head on. Fortunately, it’s not only the big players who can “go omnichannel”. With an omnichannel strategy and new technology, small retail businesses and startups, unique and dynamic by nature, can attract more customers, improve customer loyalty and become more profitable. In short, omnichannel allows SMBs to claim the portion of the market share they deserve.

WHAT IS AN OMNICHANNEL STRATEGY? I define omnichannel as an approach to retailing that uses various technologies and techniques to build a consistent customer experience across multiple sales channels including ecommerce stores, social media and bricks-and-mortar stores.

AMPLIFY YOUR MARKETING REACH The typical purchase journey in the UK combines the bricks-and-mortar store and connected devices, such as laptops and mobiles. Most big players in today’s market have a strong physical, online and mobile presence to meet these customers wherever they shop. Even Amazon, the world’s leading online marketplace that helped propel the popularity of online shopping forward, recently became an omnichannel retailer by opening its first physical stores and pop-ups. This move may seem counter-intuitive in the context of the increasingly online and mobile nature of modern society, but actually enables Amazon to increase its reach to 21st-century consumers, who value the experience of in-store shopping as much as shopping on their smartphones and computers. In an industry dominated by big brands,

SMBs can have a really hard time getting new customers on board. How can you encourage consumers, who commonly shop with household brands, to switch to a little-known name? SMBs have an inherent disadvantage

because they are not widely known, and they have smaller marketing budgets than their well- established counterparts. In my view, the key to attracting more

customers is firstly to increase your brand’s visibility by building a presence across popular sales channels including online and mobile stores and social media. This increased visibility opens doors to new customers you simply couldn’t reach with a simple bricks-and-mortar shop. Having an online presence is vital for attracting customers who use mobiles along the purchase path, those who don’t live near your physical store, those who shop when your physical shop is closed and those who simply prefer to shop online. And with the vast majority of shoppers switching between online channels and in-store, having both an online and physical presence will help you reach customers at every stage of the shopping journey. But omnichannel isn’t just about being

present across multiple channels – this is defined as multichannel. An omnichannel strategy also involves creating consistent brand experiences across all channels. In the context of customer acquisition, this means establishing a solid, consistent brand across all touch points through coherent messaging, design and customer service. Data is central to an omnichannel strategy.

Any well-conceived omnichannel strategy involves analysing consumer data across all sales channels. This enables companies to better understand their target market – their demographic data, their shopping behaviour – and tailor their marketing strategy to this target market. Data analytics software is now largely affordable and gives SMBs access to the information they need to create personalised marketing campaigns that can lure consumers away from the big market players.

INCREASE CUSTOMER RETENTION Acquiring a new customer is notoriously more expensive than retaining an existing one. With this in mind, I believe that increasing customer loyalty and reducing churn rate should be a top priority for any company, especially SMBs.

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