4 Retail trends in omnichannel communications
The way retailers communicate with consumers is shifting as a result of digital transformation. There are new patterns emerging in how consumers are navigating the path to purchase, and new ways of communicating with them as a result.
Here are four important trends for retailers to consider in 2022:
Trend #1: Increased digital engagement for an improved customer experience
A lot of businesses today are using voice and email as their primary means of communicating with customers. The first step for them to meet consumers where they are today is to increase digital engagement by adding additional communication channels.
Data is crucial to increasing digital engagement. If you want to deliver a brand experience across multiple channels and touchpoints, and understand what those engagements are across channels, the data piece has to be in the center.
However, one of the biggest challenges today is that data is in different silos. The email marketing people know exactly what they’re doing, but they may not be sharing that data with people doing digital engagement on WhatsApp or through social media. Having a centralized view of data is essential for increasing digital engagement across channels.
The customer experience is increasingly the key differentiator for retailers today. Understanding different customer journeys and enabling or introducing those touch points and communication opportunities along the way is key to improving that experience. If the business can demonstrate empathy with the customer, and show that they want to benefit them, this demonstrates value. The customer will feel that.
We can all relate to an experience where we’ve shopped somewhere or had a business encounter in which the service has been great or we’ve gotten something extra–and we’re struck by it. And you tell somebody about it and that’s how you get hooked and you’re a loyal customer. Oftentimes, those aren’t heroic things; they can be very simple steps in the customer journey that make them feel like the retailer cared and was there for them–provided information proactively, whatever it might have been–but the customer is happily surprised and when that happens, and it’s a great experience.
Trend #2: From one-way to two-way conversations
As companies increase digital engagement by expanding to omnichannel communications, a logical step is to shift from one way to two-way types of conversations where you have conversational influence potentially leading to conversational commerce. This means moving away from the broadcast type of engagement of one-way messaging channels to engaging in two-way conversations in which the customer can initiate or reply back.
From a communications perspective, two really interesting players in two-way conversation are Apple and Google. Both have deployed rich business messaging solutions that feel more like an app than a text message. They’re creating a lot of engagement points where a customer can start the conversation, such as looking something up on a map or doing a search and visiting a website. There are all these available touch points where a business can initiate a conversation.
The goal here is really to bridge online and offline. If a customer is engaging through a messaging app, you can continue that relationship by providing them with information about a service or product they might be interested in. Maybe that drives them back into the store to make a purchase, or maybe they complete that purchase directly through the messaging app. This will be an exciting area to watch as companies learn how to bring the online, app, and in-store components together.
Trend #3: Automation with chatbots
This third trend of automation is very closely related to two-way conversation, as oftentimes, those initial two-way conversations are being managed by a chatbot. There are some really easy automation steps that you could implement around using bots.
For example: What are customers asking the most often? How can these responses be automated? These are low-hanging fruit opportunities where a business can eliminate a lot of busy work and customer service efforts with a bot. From there, a business can learn more about where the next tier of opportunities is. For example, understanding what criteria might indicate churn and kicking off some type of bot automation or campaign to reengage those customers. The technology is already here and being used. It just takes some thought to understand how it can be further leveraged.
Trend #4: Customer Data Platforms to pull Information together
One way to get the most out of all these trends is to leverage a Customer Data Platform (CDP) to gain an understanding of the customer and all of the touchpoints and events surrounding them. For example, if shipping information from a shipping provider is in the CDP, that information can be used to trigger a message to let that customer know where their package is. This is a way of stitching data points together to inform ongoing communications with a customer in order to improve the experience overall.
Often within a company, information is siloed; marketing may be doing something really amazing with one platform and customer service is doing something great with another platform. But they’re not working together. This is something that needs to be addressed at a holistic, company-wide strategic level.
Once we have that kind of holistic view and we can better understand the customer and who they are, we can decide: What channels are going to resonate with them? Where do we need to meet them? Where is our audience? Depending on the business, they’re going to be in different places, digitally speaking. And then, what’s that journey or what are the different journeys–this is what we must dissect in order to understand where those potential touchpoints are. From there, we can make that journey better, more fulfilling, and more valuable for the customer. And in the end, that’s going to differentiate the business and create a memorable experience for the customer.