Today’s consumers are looking for fast, convenient and personalized experiences that suit how and where they want to shop. In response, merchants must have a deliberate omnichannel strategy in place to meet their customers’ expectations throughout the buying journey.
Many changes in consumer behavior that developed during the pandemic are now permanent. From mobile apps that allow shoppers to transact anywhere and anytime to new delivery and pickup options, consumers are seeking a more seamless experience.
While in-store shopping remains a preference for several demographics, e-commerce and digital channels continue to enjoy solid and steady growth. Reaching customers at every possible touchpoint and delivering payment choices that are simple and convenient should be the goal of merchants in this new environment.
Indeed, research shows that consumers overwhelmingly prefer omnichannel shopping across the entire purchasing journey, a key trend that has strengthened since the pandemic.1 A full 81% of consumers “now choose to research and browse across multiple channels before making their purchase—whether it be on a web browser, in a brick-and-mortar store, or through an app—for a single transaction,” according to a recent study.
As a result, businesses should consider the entire customer journey, from how customers interact with the brand online, on mobile and in-store, as well as technologies reshaping the shopping experience.
Below are tips that can help merchants build a more integrated omnichannel retail strategy to grow their business now and in the future.
The omnichannel approach starts online
One of the first steps to develop a comprehensive omnichannel marketing strategy is to conduct an audit of existing channels. And there’s no better place to start than with the website.
While consumers are shifting from browsing the web to checking their mobile device for news and updates, a website audit remains foundational to understand how consumers experience the brand. After all, the website—whether on desktop or mobile—is the online equivalent of a storefront. It’s the first thing customers see to help them determine if they want to come in and shop, and several key elements will help it succeed.
Some important things to consider when evaluating the quality of a website include site speed and design, whether content is optimized and engaging, and the level of user-friendliness when it comes to payments.
If the site doesn’t load quickly, is difficult to navigate, doesn’t include information that customers need, or has a confusing e-commerce shopping experience, visits are less likely to turn into conversions.
It’s no mystery: Mobile matters
While a merchant’s website is important, mobile optimization is important to a healthy omnichannel strategy. Mobile channels are growing and are indeed dominating payments experiences for younger generations of consumers. A recent survey from PYMNTS showed that 71% of Generation Z consumers and 68% of millennials used smartphones most for transactions in the 30 days before being surveyed.2
When mobile strategy is considered, two approaches should be kept in mind. The first is to focus on a mobile-optimized website using mobile-responsive design. With a responsive design strategy, websites can automatically resize to fit the device it’s being viewed on.
The second approach is to build a mobile app. In many cases, brands have both mobile-optimized websites and mobile apps. The key is to understand the audience and how each tool meets a particular need so that they complement one another rather than compete.
The role of brick-and-mortar in the omnichannel approach
While online and mobile shopping are becoming increasingly popular, many consumers still like to make their purchases in the traditional brick-and-mortar retail store. For example, research shows that 68% of consumers surveyed globally prefer in-store shopping over online because they want to physically feel and try the product.3
That means the same thought and attention that goes into building the online experience should be reflected in-store. Maintaining an appealing and consistent design aesthetic throughout the store, inclusive of color, signage and other physical properties, will help create a more seamless experience for the shopper.
It is also important to audit the typical shopper’s journey to see where there may be issues in the store layout. Is there anywhere that people find challenging, which might highlight how their experience might be improved?
One answer could be to incorporate emerging Internet of Things (IoT) technology into the retail store. Consumers increasingly want their in-store shopping experiences to be enhanced by digital technologies. Interests from consumers include technologies to speed up checkouts and immersive digital experiences, according to a recent study.4
Integrating online and in-store technology
One reason an omnichannel strategy is important is that consumers don’t just shop one way. A shopper might be doing a price comparison from their mobile device while they’re in the aisle. Another customer might come into the store after receiving an email about a one-day-only, in-store sale. In the UK, for example, consumers are more loyal to retailers that offer options such as the ability to shop in-store but finish the purchase online, or vice versa, according to research.5
Meanwhile, younger shoppers, who grew up with everything digital, demand flexible and convenient checkout experiences whether they are shopping in-store or online. Finding ways to integrate the online and mobile experiences into the brick-and-mortar environment may deliver better overall experiences for target customers and potentially generate more profit in turn.
Below are some common ways to bring emerging technology into the retail store:
- Increase the ease and convenience of customer checkouts by enabling sales associates to accept payments in-store by using a certified mobile device or tablet that accepts Tap on Mobile.
- Allow customers to make their purchases online, then pick up the order either in-store or at curbside for free.
- Provide a terminal or kiosk for customers to link their phone or app so they can access or print special coupons while shopping.
- For out-of-stock items, provide sales associates with tablets to help customers place online orders or check inventory for the item at other locations.
Closing the omnichannel shopping loop
No matter where customers are making their purchase—online, mobile or in-store—the key is to make it easy for them to complete the purchase. At a minimum, that means delivering a simpler, more secure and more seamless transaction.
One way to achieve this is to identify the most common payment methods, such as debit, credit, cash and, increasingly, contactless payment methods, including mobile wallets and QR codes. This will help determine what kinds of upgrades are needed to the payment experience to speed up checkouts and keep sales associates focused on customer service.
Ultimately, a great omnichannel strategy is one that is more seamless, which is why payments are such an important part of bringing it all together. They are the final key step in providing the type of customer experience that consumers now expect—and successful merchants must deliver.
1 McKinsey & Company, April 2023. “US consumers send mixed signals in an uncertain economy.” Viewed 17th May 2023.
2 PYMNTS, April 2023. “Mobile Devices Take Center Stage in Consumer’s Everyday Transactions.” Viewed 17th May 2023.
3 451 Research, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence, January 2022. “Global Merchant & Consumer Payments Survey: Key Findings.”
4 PwC Global, February 2023. “February 2023 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey: Consumers seek frictionless experiences in a world of disruptions.” Viewed 17th May 2023.
5 Adyen, 2023. “The 2023 Retail Report.” Viewed 17 May 2023.
The information provided herein is sponsored by Discover® Global Network. It is intended for informational purposes, and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.