Digital Détente: How Omnichannel Retail is Fostering a Truce Between Online and In-Store Customer Engagement

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on April 15, 2021

In March of this year, a little-known documentary was gaining clicks and downloads on the popular video streaming service, Netflix. The documentary: The Last Blockbuster. For those who haven't yet pressed 'play,' The Last Blockbuster is an engaging look back at the rise and fall of this once indestructible American-of-American brick-and-mortar chains that, at its peak in 2004, boasted 9,000 retail locations and $5.9 billion in revenue. It's also a story of the Bend community in Oregon, home to the country's last remaining franchisee and how the retail store's manager, Sandi Harding, and her team go the extra mile to maintain customer engagement in an increasingly omnichannel world.

The degree of "through the looking glass-ism" is extreme. Netflix, the digital behemoth (with a stock price of over $512 per share), had a lot to do with busting Blockbuster's in-store success. After all, what's better than sitting on your couch, tapping a few buttons on your smartphone screen, and letting the streaming service recommend movies to you versus driving to a store? It is convenience personified. Yet, Sandi's genuine connections with her customers are the primary reason this lone Blockbuster remains. Something authentic, something unique, is happening.  

For retailers, The Blockbuster-Netflix/streaming services standoff underscores the epic battle that all ecommerce and brick-and-mortar retailers have continued to wage.

That is, until now.

Make Profit, Not War

Call it détente, call it a truce, call it Channel Wars Part III. Whatever you call it, call it real. Thanks in part to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, there's been a powerful blurring of the lines that separate these once-hostile camps.

Now, hybrid models are popping up with breakneck speed. That is especially true in grocery (31 percent of US households used an online grocery app in March 2020, an 18 percent jump from August 2019), food and beverage, and convenience stores where apps and digital wallets join forces to enable shop-from-home convenience (and safety) while encouraging limited, carefully controlled in-store experiences, namely a pick-up order, or a time-sensitive in-store promotion. Or in other retail outlets, a focus on less bulky items, products with more "showroom pizzazz." And they are promotions tailored to previous online buying and spending habits, captured via these apps and wallets and the intelligent software underneath their hoods. Personal offers via digital customer connections.

Recently, a report by Eagle Eye, a global digital marketing technology company that helps brands and retailers create strong digital customer connections delved into this topic further. The guide, Using Ecommerce to Create Profitable Omnichannel Customer Connections, discusses how ecommerce has reshaped consumer buying behaviors. It also examines why and how brick-and-mortar retailers can harness the power of digital to improve their operations and revenues while growing direct customer relationships. And that is achieved by nurturing the coveted omnichannel retail customer.

According to the report, brands looking to enhance their digital customer connections while upping their in-store engagement should adopt these critical guidelines:

  • Employ omnichannel promotions — In-app digital wallet promotions mean that coupons can be issued and tracked through any channel (in-store, email, etc.) and then redeemed either in-store or online. Use omnichannel promotions to boost end-to-end shopping journey visibility and attribution of both known and anonymous shoppers. Establish a single customer view to track interactions with a registered customer across all channels.
  • Track (and share) all transactional data — Not just order and sales data, but other data sources related to customer interactions with promotions and rewards. Use a customer's history to help them find or remind them about regularly purchased products or highlight new products in related, frequently shopped categories. Use customer data-driven insight to create targeted, personalized offers or recommendations. In other words, use a "think like (Blockbuster) Sandi" approach.
  • "Have you forgotten?" — A consolidated view of a customer's transactions across channels tied to the identity of that customer enables the recommendation of products online previously bought in-store. When trying to get a consumer to repeat purchase something (e.g., where a customer has started to purchase specific categories from a retailer), these suggested products could be incentivized using a discount or points-based loyalty promotion.
  • Ecommerce/loyalty integration — Using centralized digital wallets allows for seamless integration with digital and ecommerce user experiences that can then be extended into and integrated with physical store services, including geo-located offers and scan-and-pay services. Using ecommerce login details as a wallet identity enables a loyalty program member to use all rewards and promotions during online transactions. Points can also be earned and spent in-store, allowing for a seamless application of a loyalty program in-store and online.

'Fast-forward' to the Future of Omnichannel Retail

Of course, the above list only scratches the surface of the online/in-store synergy that omnichannel retail represents. There are additional ways brick-and-mortar retailers can benefit from digital customer connections, specifically warehouse technology. Regularly unnoticed by customers (as intended) is the degree of sophistication these "smart" warehouses increasingly exhibit.

Just like how an app or wallet can identify recent purchases and predictive analytics can suggest likely buys, the smart warehouse can automate inventorying and rapidly replace/restock diminished supplies based on peak purchaser demand. Not surprisingly, all of these real-time adjustments are based on the shared, comprehensive data collected from customers navigating their online, in-store, and "click-and-collect" buying journey, shared and distributed in a seamless omnichannel retail fashion.

While predicting the future is an almost impossible proposition, one thing is for sure: as it relates to the topic of omnichannel retail, digital customer connections, and personalized offers, the lines between online and in-store will continue to blur — long after the Covid-19 pandemic is as far back in our collective memories as VCRs, 2-day rentals, and the dreaded late fees are to us today.

To put it in "Blockbuster blunt," for grocery stores, F&B establishments and convenience stores, adopting the tenets of omnichannel retail is the best way for your customers to echo the famous video store's commercial and declare, "Wow! What a difference."

To help establish your own path to omnichannel retail success, get your copy of Eagle Eye's Using Ecommerce to Create Profitable Omnichannel Customer Connections available on their website now.

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