Preparing the omnichannel experience for the holidays

Industry Insight

If you haven’t thought about it already, summer is the last opportunity retailers have to improve the omnichannel experience before it is too close to the busy season to risk making changes.  Every year the holiday season seems to be starting earlier and lasting longer, but it’s been growing consistently and retailers need to be prepared to deliver the shopping experience customers are expecting.

Delivering consistency for browse online, buy in-store

While many people think of the holidays as a cheerful time of the year, there is no denying they can also be immensely stressful. People not only have to deal with everyday stressors, such as paying the bills and doing their jobs, they also have to take care of additional holiday-related activities, such as planning parties, booking travel arrangements and, of course, shopping for their friends and loved ones.

For retailers, it is critical to avoid website crashes, customer service disasters, backorders and delivery issues during the holidays. One study conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner made it clear that retailers are walking on thin ice during the holidays.

While retailers always want to avoid negative shopping experiences, it is critical they remember that emotions run high during the holidays, so merchants must put in the extra effort to please their shoppers. A single bad experience, even if it is not directly the fault of the merchants, can lead to frustrated customers. Convenience is a major contributor to the shopping experience, and is one area in which many sellers could improve. Browse online and buy in-store is one approach to bolstering convenience.

The lack of consistent data and information across channels can make or break a sale.

Browse online, buy in-store is a natural progression of omnichannel shopping. For many customers, the shopping journey starts on their mobile device or on a computer – they do their preliminary research, read reviews, compare prices and poll their social networks from the comfort of their own homes. However, making the actual purchase online is not always the last step in this process. People may find it more convenient to pick the item up at a nearby store – perhaps they are attending a party with late notice or just could not find the time to shop.

In this case, the lack of consistent data and information across channels can make or break a sale. For instance, what if a customer is looking at an item on the online store and discovers it is discounted, but the same promotion is not currently running at the local brick-and-mortar shop? This can be frustrating for customers in multiple ways – they either wasted their time driving to a store and not getting the item they wanted, or they are paying more money than intended to.

Consistent data across all channels may encompass a number of different pieces of information. Prices, inventory count, product descriptions, various configurations (such as an MP3 player with different models and storage sizes), size, style and color – these are all important data points that must be consistent across all channels. Product information management solutions can be used to unify data across all channels and present customers with consistent information regardless of where they shop.