Today’s retail landscape is increasingly complex. Retailers face operational challenges caused by border restrictions, greater online competition between small and large companies, rising service standards, and increasing consumer demands that, at first sight, may even seem conflicting.
With conversations turning to recovery post-COVID-19 — yet little chance of a return to the way things were — retailers must rethink their strategies for long-term growth.
It takes a dynamic, integrated strategy to always be there for your customers in a way that drives sustained business growth.
Today, people want brands to meet them where they are: 9 in 10 Australians expect retailers to sell their products online.
For brands, the seismic shift in consumer behaviour has raised the question of how to show up for customers in more helpful, relevant, and meaningful ways. Some brands have done this by finding new ways to solve problems with technology, which can increase business value. But research shows that only 30% of such efforts have met or exceeded their target value and resulted in lasting change.
It takes a dynamic, integrated strategy to always be there for your customers in a way that drives sustained business growth. Your whole organisation — not just marketing — must be on board. And you’ll need the right resources to help you get there.
Here, we’ve provided tips on how to think strategically about omnichannel retail transformation, and we also have some practical steps for immediate action in our downloadable guide at the end of the article.
Rethink how online and offline platforms can work together
Today, an omnichannel presence that boosts business results must meet people's needs, wherever they are in their shopping journey.
Given new opportunities to bridge the online-offline gap thanks to advances in marketing technology, retailers have started to “rethink the line.”
Traditionally, becoming an omnichannel business meant establishing an online presence in addition to having physical stores, and then finding ways to connect the two experiences. But given new opportunities to bridge the online-offline gap thanks to advances in marketing technology, retailers have started to “rethink the line.”
A few examples include Zara and WooliesX, the digital arm of Woolworths. These two brands are pushing the boundaries of online and offline with digital resources that enhance the in-store shopping experience. Zara’s augmented reality app lets customers instantly shop the looks of virtual models, and WooliesX’s online grocery list tool helps customers quickly locate the aisles of the items they’re looking for.
Rethink the role of transformation beyond marketing
It’s tempting to think that the marketing department should manage all of the brand’s interactions with its customers. But this siloed thinking can prevent a deeper understanding of what people need before and after they buy.
Transparent, cross-functional, and cross-channel collaboration between internal teams is key to omnichannel success. Getting strategy, communication, and measurement teams on the same page will help you think more holistically about the customer journey.
It’s also important that different teams not pursue their own goals at the expense of overall business objectives. For example, evaluating online versus offline sales exclusively could cause internal competition that distracts teams from shared goals. Instead, unified sales targets and communication between teams ensures everyone is focused on enhancing the full customer experience — and better business results will follow.
Rethink the process of transformation
Business transformation can seem daunting when we think of it as a huge overhaul that disrupts how we’re used to working. This perspective can cause brands to treat change as a one-off, linear project, or hold off on transforming altogether. But both these approaches keep brands from making changes that can fuel long-term growth.
Australian psychologist Professor Lea Waters notes in episode two of “On the line” that when people think of uncertainty as untapped opportunity, they’re more able to adapt to new conditions. By approaching business transformation with a mindset of achieving iterative, incremental growth, it’s easier to unlock quick wins in the short term and keep growing in the long term.
Transformation is a value-generating cycle that unlocks quick wins in the short term and builds toward sustained growth in the long term.
Just like today’s retail journeys, transformation is not a linear process. While it’s true that you need commitment and resources, transformation can happen in stages.
And no two omnichannel ecosystems are exactly alike. Start by identifying opportunities to improve the customer touchpoints that are most important to your business. Transform these areas first to make short-term progress. Then, repeat the process with other parts of your ecosystem and continue to build on your earlier efforts.
Transformation is a value-generating cycle. The more resilient your business is to change, the more profitability you’ll find on the path toward omnichannel maturity. A resilient omnichannel framework can handle sudden shifts in behaviour or the environment because when you’re more connected to customers, you can be there at every step of their journeys.
No matter where you are on your way to omnichannel maturity, understanding how to use the right tools, technology, and talent is integral to business evolution. And it starts with introspection. Here are some steps to get you started:
- Lay the right (internal) foundations. Be sure your products, people, and technology are all working in sync toward the same goals.
- Embed memorable customer experiences. Ensure continuous and connected journeys throughout the customer experience.
- Learn from marketing cycles. Measure and analyse results so you can feed learnings back into your advertising strategies.
- Fuel growth through automation. Make data-informed decisions to grow at scale in today’s environment.
The good news is that even though transformation won’t happen overnight, every bit of work you do now leads to more positive change. With the right resources and regular nurturing, you can develop a business model that can survive, thrive, and reward you many times over in the seasons to come.
To help you find what’s most useful to you, we’ve broken down our omnichannel marketing guide into four key pillars. Dig deeper into these pillars for expertise, resources, and tools that will help you get the most from your omnichannel ecosystem.