Ombori CEO Andreas Hassellöf recently sat down with Jason Coan, DGM for Retail and Future Operations at Landmark Group in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to discuss changing trends in retail and how technology is helping companies meet the new demands of consumers.
The two discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has catapulted retailers into the future, forcing them to adopt an omnichannel approach to sales and marketing. However, this comes as no surprise. Instead, Coan explains, "We always knew that [omnichannel retail], fulfilling our customers' needs on an e-commerce platform, and aligning it with brick and mortar [stores] was … what we needed to do."
It was the pandemic, however, that forced many retailers to integrate the necessary technology to meet these new demands. He concludes, "We perhaps understood that this would be a 10-year journey, and [now] we actually realize it's a two-year journey."
What is Omnichannel?
Omnichannel refers to a multichannel approach to sales that integrates technology such as Ombori Grid to bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds. "It allows businesses to connect with customers via a variety of platforms (laptop, mobile device, face-to-face, etc.) and provides them with an interactive shopping experience that translates into revenue."
Throughout the pandemic, businesses have been leveraging an omnichannel approach to help meet health and safety standards required by state and local officials while enabling customers to shop with confidence. As we enter a post-pandemic environment, many of the technologies that businesses have been relying upon remain a necessity and have proven to be critical to the future of shopping.
Benefits of Omnichannel Retail
The benefits of omnichannel retail go far beyond what was experienced during the pandemic. It offers businesses the opport
unity to accelerate sales and improve customer relations by meeting shoppers on every channel.
A study conducted by Harvard Business Review revealed the following:
- Retailers' omnichannel customers spent an average of 4% more on every shopping occasion in the store and 10% more online than single-channel customers. With every additional channel they used, shoppers spent more money in the store.
- Among omnichannel shoppers, those who conducted prior research on the retailer's website or sites of other retailers spent 13% more in the store.
- Omnichannel shoppers were also more loyal. Within six months after an omnichannel shopping experience, these customers had logged 23% more repeat shopping trips to the retailer's stores and were more likely to recommend the brand to family and friends than those who used a single channel.
Based on this study, retailers can assume the following benefits when adopting an omnichannel approach:
1- Increased foot traffic
2- Higher sales
3- Expanded reach
4- Improved retention rates
5- Greater customer loyalty
6- Upgraded data collection
7- Enhanced customer experience
While visiting, Hassellöf and Coan walk past various omnichannel technologies that companies rely upon today, all of which are available on the Ombori Marketplace. Here's a glimpse of the technologies that are improving the omnichannel world.
Early in the pandemic, retailers adopted BOPAC – buy online, pick up at curbside – and BOPIS – buy online, pick up in-store – to offset the need for shoppers to physically enter a store. These click-and-collect options allow customers to shop without the risk of entering a public space. Having grown accustomed to these technologies' quick service and simplicity, consumers are now demanding retailers continue offering them in the future.
Coan explains, "The demands of consumers have been so strong that we, as a business, have had to move at a phenomenal pace to make sure curbside collection [was available] during the pandemic. When people didn't want to come into malls, [we had to give them] click-and-collect options. … [so they could] get their products [and] be in and out of stores very quickly."
In fact, "In 2021, click-and-collect sales in the United States were forecast to grow 15.2% compared to the previous year. After an increase of more than 100% during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, click-and-collect retail sales were expected to keep growing at an annual rate of more than 15% until 2024."
Click-and-collect shopping is simple.
Customers first visit a store's website to browse inventory and conduct their shopping. During their online shopping experience, they can add items to a virtual cart. Once they are done shopping, they continue to the checkout, where they select BOPIS or BOPAC and then submit payment. Once complete, the customer is sent a confirmation via email or mobile device, and a notification is sent to the store.
The assigned employee gathers the items for the customer's arrival; once all items have been collected, the customer is notified that pick-up is ready. The customer can then travel to the store to pick up their items, either curbside or in-store, depending on their initial selection.
Today, this service is the norm for daily shopping. Those leaving work can easily place an order and pick it up on their drive home; or, those with children can avoid the hassle of entering the store. Click-and-collect has become an essential resource for our busy lives, and this omnichannel approach to sales is critical for maintaining customer retention rates.
"Digital Signage refers to an electronic display of information either on a single screen or spread across multiple screens. It is often used to advertise content, broadcast data, share messages, etc., to a specific audience. Digital signage solutions, [such as Ombori Digital Signage], … refer to digital signage that solves problems for its users. It can help businesses improve operations by assisting them in meeting their objectives."
Digital signage promotes an omnichannel approach via the use of talk and voice interaction and QR codes and can be used to improve the customer journey in brick-and-mortar stores. Common integration of digital signage for omnichannel marketing includes the following:
- Endless Aisle. Endless Aisle technology leverages digital signage to display a retailer's full selection of products on the interface. Customers can use the technology to view current inventory. When they find an item to purchase, they can opt to pay for it in-store or via digital signage and have it shipped to their home. They even have the option of scanning a QR code, which brings them to a virtual cart on their phone, allowing themto continue shopping on the retailer's e-commerce site.
- Selfie Mirror. The Ombori Selfie Mirror is an innovative technology designed to improve customer engagement. It allows customers to take a selfie while at the store and share their photos via various social media platforms. Additionally, specialized Selfie Mirrors, such as the H&M Selfie Mirrorlocated in Times Square, allow customers to view the retailer's latest fashions. A QR code allows shoppers to purchase desired items via a mobile device.
Every retailer can customize digital signs to meet the needs of its customers, thus ensuring their ongoing loyalty and increased sales.
Queue Management and Appointment Booking
Queue Management and Appointment Booking solutions simplify scheduling and check-in processes across all industries, including retail.
Queue Management solutions, including Ombori Queue Management, enable shoppers to wait in a virtual queue instead of a physical line. Using a self-service kiosk or NFC tag, or by scanning a QR code at the location, customers can enter the virtual queue and receive a confirmation that they are now in line.
They are notified again when it is close to their turn and again when it is their turn. As a result, customers never have to wait in a physical queue – instead, they can continue to enjoy the shopping experience. Those in a rush can opt to shop online. If they find their product in the store, they can add it to their virtual cart, checkout, and have the item shipped to their door.
Appointment Booking takes this process one step further. Prior to visiting a store, customers can book appointments with staff online. This can be beneficial for retailers like jewelry and watch stores.
Customers log on to the retailer's website and book their appointment. They receive confirmation and are notified about their upcoming appointment as it approaches. When they enter the store, they show their reservation details and are promptly assisted by store staff, thus avoiding any wait time.
Queue management and appointment booking streamline the shopping process by allowing customers to bypass physical lines and book time with sales associates.
The Future of Omnichannel
"All of these new relevancies have become very important to the way that we do business," Coan states. Omnichannel solutions "help retailers overcome infrastructure and inventory challenges. They connect mobile, online, and store channels to aggregate orders from various supply chains and provide a single source of information across retail channels."
As our world continues to rely on digital solutions, retailers need to leverage technology to offer customers an enhanced omnichannel experience—those who resist the change risk losing customers and becoming obsolete.
Andreas is Founder and CEO of Ombori. He is a serial entrepreneur who has founded several companies, starting in his teens. He has a background in cybersecurity, and has worked for companies such as H&M and Nordnet Bank. Andreas is a passionate believer in digital transformation, and is constantly seeking ways in which technology can change the way we work, shop, and live our lives.