In just a matter of months, we have seen a major shift in how people shop and make decisions.
According to a Marketing Week 2020 survey, prior to the COVID crisis, “respondents’ main priorities when purchasing were quality (48%), price (47%) and brand (24%). Now, they’re mostly focused on availability (49%), price (36%) and quality (34%).”
While Omnichannel marketing has been widely adopted by top brands, what we [marketers] did not predict was that it would serve as a lucrative contingency plan in times of crisis and uncertainty.
So why is omni a saving grace?
Omnichannel marketing puts the consumer at the center of strategy, where every interaction is designed and implemented to make the most seamless customer experience possible. On the back-end of omnichannel marketing is cutting-edge technology that brings everything together and, more importantly, provides us with key insights into the changing needs, desires, and behaviors of the customer.
In the beginning of the pandemic, customers wanted to find supplies immediately, turning to online options as a way to get in-demand products fast. As quarantine restrictions have been lifted, the behavior has stuck around with customers still wanting easy, same-day pick-up or delivery, and shopping options both online and in-store.
However, what this crisis has shown us is that beyond improving the customer experience omnichannel marketing provides important elements that are now valued more than ever:
With many retailers such as Target, Best Buy, Walmart, and Starbucks adopting omnichannel early in the game, they had already built a strong base of consumers with apps tied to their phones. What this provided was a smooth transition and minimize disruptions in service.
As a Target-obsessed shopper, my ‘Cartwheel’ app is used to enhance my shopping experience as an all-in-one tool to price compare online vs in-store, scan for deals, track my rewards and savings, store my virtual wallet, and more.
During quarantine, it turned out to be a source for information and a way for me to stay connected to the retail experience. While I was not able to go to a physical location, I was still easily able to shop, place orders, check deals, and check for inventory of in-demand supplies. Target was also able to push messaging and updates to my device.
The one thing that has come out of omnichannel is the ability for customers to have both a seamless and safe customer experience. In-store pickup, curbside pickup, same-day delivery, and beyond have all proven to become a must in retail. From department stores to restaurants to grocery stores, consumers want quick, easy, and safe options that will get them what they need fast but with little to no contact.
While there are brands like Best Buy, Target, and Walmart that have apps to allow for these options, the most important element to omnichannel, even before COVID is the ability to deliver on promises.
And that’s where the human-side comes into play.
Where omnichannel truly shines is in its holistic approach to the shopping experience. Omnichannel is just as much about the human element. It fact, the best omnichannel marketing brings together superior service and technology to deliver an unparalleled experience. And especially in the wake of COVID, when people make the decision to walk into a physical location or pick up an item they are expecting organization, accurate inventory reporting, properly stocked shelves, cleanliness, and fast checkout.
IKEA, an exceptional example of in-store omnichannel, was ahead of the game with grocery stores taking their ‘one-way system’ retail layout to streamline shopping. Taking it a step further, many retailers have staff assigned at key points to manage shopper flow, greeters at the door to avoid overcrowded stores, attendants cleaning surfaces, more cashier, and self-checkout lanes open to avoid bottlenecks, and more.
It’s like the shopping experience we’ve been waiting for.
While omnichannel isn’t without its flaws, it is the approach brands need to take to stay in business during the new normal. Staying connected to the customer, ensuring safe options, and a strong customer service presence, are proving to be more relevant and important to the post-COVID consumer.