Consumer shopping behaviour is rapidly shifting and competition has never been more intense for retailers to own their piece of the market. More and more, brands need to provide effective in-store service and digital apps which persuade customers to return and buy time and again. Understanding that once a competitor’s store or app has been experienced as effective and efficient, it is incredibly hard to get them to shift and try something else. So how does a retailer stand out from the crowd and how is the omnichannel retail evolution aiding them in this endeavour?

Considering South Africa’s shifting retail landscape

This landscape is growing at a staggering rate, with an increase of more than 60% between 2019 and 2020. According to a recent Wunderman Thompson survey, 74% of South Africans prefer to shop with a brand that has both a physical and online presence, with 80% admitting to researching online but then purchasing in-store. So it is really critical that retailers provide a seamless shopping experience that effectively closes the gap between online and physical store environments. This is leading to retailers placing focus on a ‘phygital’ (physical/ digital hybrid) offering. Meaning that retail spaces need to be reimagined and omnichannel enters the scene. 

What is omnichannel?

Omnichannel refers to the cross-channel digital and analytics community where the customer can start the sales journey on either the digital or physical side of the operation but then complete it on the other platform, without needing to share or transfer info in a manual way. This cross-pollinating functionality provides customers with a seamless retail experience that weaves between the retailer’s various touch points. This is known as omnichannel retail.  

What is multichannel?

Multichannel means that wherever a sale is initiated, it needs to be completed. Multichannel is the starting point for businesses to become omnichannel, as multichannel retail can be upgraded and connected. This relies on collecting and collating customer data in order to deeply understand the customer’s behaviour and preferences. This requires retailers to think carefully about how to physically adapt their in-store experiences in order to please customers' changing needs and expectations. If apps or online stores are able to ‘remember’ what the customer likes, then in theory this information can be stored and used when visiting another part of the retail channel. This requires a strong data management system where info is gathered, mined and appropriately applied. 

The bottom line

When integrated effectively, data can be used to successfully evolve retail into omnichannel environments.  So that multichannel operations develop from siloed channels to a highly intelligent interconnected web of customer intelligence. Backed by research, strategic thinking and strong organisational structures, omnichannel is really the future of retail. The expectations are high for this new type of fused, seamless and intuitive retail experience. Where ultimately shoppers won’t see channels, they will only see brands. 

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