Building The Ultimate Omnichannel Ecommerce Stack

Omnichannel is – by definition – everywhere. What tech should you be leaning on – and how can a digital content experience platform help you future-proof your strategy?

Omnichannel is ubiquitous in today’s retail environment. With advances in AI, migration to cloud, 5G and edge technologies, the expectations of B2B and B2C customers are soaring. Interconnected experiences that move with us across channels, on or offline, are a basic expectation, with the bar for personalization being raised ever higher.

Technological advances are powering omnichannel’s success, unlocking new possibilities and enabling brands, retailers and distributors to enhance their offerings at an impressive rate. As a result, it’s important to stay informed and empowered when it comes to building out a stack that serves your strategy.

Don’t get left behind when it comes to the omnichannel opportunity. Yesterday’s advanced customer experience is today’s baseline expectation, and with younger, digitally-native disruptors entering the retail area, it’s never been more vital to command a stack that works hard and smart. For those leading the pack, omnichannel ecommerce continues to represent limitless possibility and promise.

What Is Omnichannel Ecommerce?

Let’s start by establishing a clear understanding of what is meant by omnichannel ecommerce within the modern retail market. Distinct from multichannel marketing, the concept of omnichannel is described by Frost & Sullivan, “seamless and effortless, high-quality customer experiences that occur within and between contact channels.”

As customers interact with brands across an ever-increasing array of devices, platforms and activations, it’s no surprise that expectations for a more consistent and contextual experience have risen. From the moment that commerce moved from brick-and-mortar operations and crossed over into the realm of ecommerce, the need to soften the digital divide has been evident. By providing an experience that follows the customer across channels, as opposed to a more rigid and broadly defined approach, a much more nuanced and contextual presentation of brand and product can be established.

At its core, an omnichannel approach is a marketing strategy – the goal is to provide a hyper personalized experience for the individual customer as they engage with a variety of touchpoints along the pathway to purchase. Leaning on data, omnichannel leverages deep contextual insights, enabling a better understanding of customer behavior, and as a result, better service, satisfaction and conversion. Companies investing in omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain on average 89% of their customers. In comparison, companies with weak omnichannel strategies can expect a retention rate closer to the 33% mark (Invesp).

The evolution of technology, somewhat ironically, both necessitated and enabled the rise of omnichannel. This guide will focus on six key areas in which third party specialism and expertise is helping retailers to excel.

1. POS Systems

POS or Point Of Sale has risen in prominence and sophistication in recent years. While retailers have always paid attention to their “IRL” POS experience, with the rise of omnichannel, the rule book has been rewritten. The customer payment experience in today’s physical retail stores needs to tally with a broader omnichannel approach, helping build a 360-degree view of the customer, and integrating a range of functionality and apps (loyalty, store credit or reviews for example) that are already being deployed across the retailers’ digital channels. 

Simply put, in today’s omnichannel environment, Point of Sale is about far more than the sale itself. There’s an expectation that elements of the digital experience (gift cards, past purchases, returns, etc.) will seamlessly carry over to their in-store persona. A strong POS solution should enable and empower the staff operating the system. Functions such as in-store appointment booking through to assigning store credit or applying discounts earnt through online interactions should support staff to improve the customer experience at the same time as learning more about them.

In this regard, great omnichannel POS is a win-win – benefiting customers and the retailers who serve them. One gets a more connective experience, and the other can leverage a more nuanced view of their behavior, applying this knowledge to improve outcomes across all channels.

Shopify’s recent innovation within the POS space is a good indication of the way that expectations around this particular technology are starting to level up. The ecommerce platform is known for their market-savvy innovation, so the fact that their POS has been redeveloped and relaunched with such fanfare is testament to the increased perception of its importance within the wider context of commerce systems.

2. Product Information Management

With the expansion of commerce across an ever-increasing range of channels, and the need for coherence and consistency across all of these interconnected touchpoints, it’s never been more important for retailers, brands and distributors to have a solid grasp of their product information.

Better control and delivery of content across channels matter today more than ever. It’s not only essential to providing an engaging customer experience, it’s also a critical component of brand trust and loyalty, as more polished brand control can be leveraged, unaffected by the demands of omnichannel.

What challenges do retailers face with regard to product information management in relation to an omnichannel strategy? For most, it’s a matter of scale. Expanding product lines, scattered across an ever-increasing range of channels and platforms, place a huge demand upon the handling of associated data and digital assets. Keeping control of relevant, up to date and compelling content across a range of channels is essential if delivery of a personalized experience is going to be made possible.

The solution? A rock-solid digital content experience platform. Digital experience management software has come a long way in recent years, and a good system will be able to help retailers deliver and navigate even the most complex of omnichannel delivery strategies.

A good PIM solution should leverage AI and automation to remove as much of the heavy lifting from your product team as possible. A platform that offers dual syndication will help to ensure that you have access to the most relevant information and assets, pulling directly from suppliers’ catalogs, streamlining the process of disseminating data across all channels.

Again, investment in this area of your technology stack benefits your customers as well as your own business operation. A better, more informative and immersive product and brand experience generates loyalty and keeps customers engaged throughout the entire buying journey.

The Effectus Content Platform offers a world-class PIM and DAM solution, combining intuitive intelligence with full syndication. Helping create optimized workflows, ECP reduces margin for error and helps to prevent the degradation of product content, helping you to leverage it effectively across your entire omnichannel structure.

3. Customer Service

The customer is always right – and today, they’re right in more places than ever! As an omnichannel retailer, there’s an expectation that your availability to your customers will be universal. The platform from which they choose to contact you should have no bearing on the service or response that they receive – from a phone line to a Facebook Messenger interaction, today’s shopper expects your representatives to have access to the complete picture when it comes to their interaction and history with your brand.

As a retailer, how can you be sure you are delivering a superlative service across all channels, in a way that makes sense to the consumer over the course of many “daisy chained” interactions and touch points?

Thankfully, once again your tech stack can ride to the rescue. Today, third party customer service solutions empower retailers to create an environment where connective, consistent and contextual interactions between brand and customer are available on any channel.

When it comes to great customer service, speed of resolution is everything. Chatbots can be very helpful in providing instant answers to questions, but the fastest and most effective method of getting your customers the information they need? Nothing beats self -service.

To empower your customers to find their own answers (or indeed, to negate the need for a question in the first place!) product content, once again, is king. Working with a digital content experience platform can help to ensure that accurate, fully syndicated content is available at every touch point – clearly telling the story of your products and services. 

If you’re looking to ensure that your customers can obtain the answers they need before they need to reach out to support staff, the Effectus Content Platform enables you to easily update attributes, FAQ type content and descriptive digital assets, as well as handling user generated content, which plays a significant role in query resolution ahead of purchasing decisions.

4. The Internet Of Things

One of the most exciting (and challenging) new areas for omnichannel retailers to capitalize on comes with the Internet of Things (IoT.) Connectivity and digital capacity continues to spread into new areas of our daily lives, and the IoT demonstrates how rapidly we can come to accept the convenience and novelty that these new technologies represent.

IoT represents an opportunity that goes beyond “more channels” – it gives retailers the ability to learn and respond to a much wider range of data, drawn from a much broader range of sources. This goes beyond customer-facing data, opening up a world of possibility when it comes to inventory tracking, supply chain flow, delivery logistics, stock preservation and much more.

The installed base of active Internet of Things connected devices is expected to reach 30.9 billion units by 2025. This places new demands on omnichannel strategy, but again, broadens the scope for the creative application of customer experience. Working with a digital content experience platform to ensure accuracy across these new channels, whilst streamlining workflows to enable efficiency within teams will become an essential component of evolving omnichannel stacks, as they grow to incorporate more devices and end points thanks to IoT expansion.

As technology advances, the cost of components drops and the commercialization of 5G continues to expand, the spread of IoT endpoints will spread across all conceivable verticals. When it comes to omnichannel, a situation which once felt a fair way down the line is rapidly becoming a core consideration for future roadmaps.

5. Augmented Reality

Another future-focused customer experience which is starting to earn its place within the retail arena is augmented reality. While AR has been a slow burner, the potential for it to gather traction for the omnichannel retailers of tomorrow is significant. Only 1% of retailers are currently using AR or VR (Virtual Reality) in their customer buying experience – but a significant proportion of customers (71%) said they’d shop more often if these experiences were provided.

The Coronavirus pandemic necessitating the closure of many brick and mortar stores helped drive more widespread adoption of the “try before you buy experience.” This was especially true of the homeware and furnishing verticals, which saw huge periods of growth, fueled by people’s desire to improve the living environments they were spending all of their time within. By enabling customers to visualize furniture, fabrics and colourways within their own homes, these retailers were able to inspire greater purchasing confidence in items that would otherwise have necessitated a trip to a physical store.

AR can play out across the full spectrum of omnichannel, from in store (often featuring some form of social engagement or gamification) through to mobile experiences. 52% of retailers currently feel unprepared to meet the requirements of this strategy, and so working with dependable partners with experience in the field is essential.

Of course, adding AR elements to your omnichannel customer experience adds a new set of digital assets which will require careful management and consistent, syndicated deployment. Working with digital experience management software such as the Effectus Content Platform gives efficient and effective control across the full spectrum of DAM requirements, enabling you to push AR assets to any channel from one central depositary.

6. Perfecting Personalization

To be successful, an omnichannel strategy must be able to take multiple touch points and interactions and make them feel like one familiar, coherent experience. This sense of seamless progression, as customers “change lanes” at will, is made possible (and perfected) by personalization.

The expectations placed by customers on personalization are rapidly changing. Today’s personalization strategies are nuanced, and thanks to advances in AI, and able to be delivered on a truly “1 to 1” basis, with unique experiences being presented to each and every customer, based on past interactions, preference and demographics. For a long period of time, the focus rested on personalization within the online space, but increasingly, and in line with the rise of omnichannel, advances within in store experience are also being made.

Today, personalization in the offline space is going far beyond the realm of a birthday discount at check out. Purchase history can be made available to store assistants, helping inform personalized recommendations. Targeted ads can be deployed, or promotional codes sent by SMS, triggered by an existing customer walking by the store in question. Higher tech touches add real excitement to the personalized shopping experience – a great example being Sephora’s Color IQ, technology that makes personalized make-up recommendations based on scans of customers’ faces. The opportunities for activation are limitless. 

In the online space, recommendations, cross-selling and upselling are all boosted by smart personalization. There’s simply no need to be delivering a generic experience, and so much to be gained from investing into a more customized interaction. When pushing personalized recommendations or cross-sells, it’s essential to ensure that these strategies are supported by optimized product listings, delivering rich product content and supportive digital assets. Again, digital experience management software is the secret to success here. The Effectus Content Platform provides content quality scoring across all channels, helping to ensure that all product pages are working hard for you, in support of your wider personalization strategy.

A great personalization strategy lives or dies by the data that drives it. As a result, when building out your omnichannel stack, be mindful of integrations and avoid silos. The more your data is able to flow between channels in the on and offline space, the greater your capacity for creating seamless personalized pathways to purchase will be.

Ready To Conquer Omnichannel?

The prevalence and importance of omnichannel within modern retail cannot be overstated. Carefully researched and supported with smart integration decisions, the six areas outlined in this guide can help to underpin a strong strategy for retailers selling within any vertical. Looking for tech partners that can assist with each of the six categories will help retailers to be evolving their offering – essential if they are to keep pace with accelerating customer demands.

Omnichannel is here to stay and will only continue to grow in complexity. As a result, the need for a seamless customer experience has never been greater – and this rests on complete control of your product experience, as well as consistent brand representation, across any number of retailers or distributors.

The Effectus Content Platform helps to underpin the heart of your omnichannel strategy by optimizing your product information and digital assets for exactly this kind of control and cohesion. The beauty of a solution like ECP lies in its ability to scale with your business and the ever-evolving retail landscape. No matter how many channels your brand expands to incorporate, our digital experience management software can adapt to help their effective and efficient management – giving ongoing commercial advantage and competitive edge.

Take control of your omnichannel strategy with ECP’s leading digital experience software.