Retailers Are Going Cross-Channel, Just Like Their Customers

Just a couple of years ago, retailers worried that showrooming—the trend of shoppers checking out products in the store and then buying online—would siphon sales away from their stores. Instead, cross-channel shopping has become the new consumer normal. In fact, digital shopping has proven to feed, not starve, physical sales: Forrester Research recently found that U.S. retail sales that start digitally but are completed elsewhere will reach $1.8 trillion by 2018.

Also, shoppers who buy both in-store and online are proven to be more loyal and spend more. A recent IDC study found that these consumers have a 30% higher lifetime value than single-channel purchasers, while Accenture discovered that in some industry segments (such as drugstores), these consumers spend almost three times as much per month.

Three Retailers That Are Bridging the Online-Offline Gap

As consumers move easily in what has become a cross-channel universe, an increasing number of top retailers are working overtime to align ecommerce with the in-store experience. For example:

  • Nordstrom has found a lot of success by letting customers who purchased online return items to its Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack stores. This feature has been very popular, and means that customers are taking a trip to the store rather than the post office, giving the brand another chance to make a sale.

The retailer is also experimenting with smart fitting rooms that feature full-length mirrors that are actually interactive screens, a technology provided by eBay. Shoppers are used to accessing a store’s online inventory on their smartphone, and these smart rooms give shoppers easy access to that information when they’re in the store itself.

  • Gap has already succeeded with its reserve in-store and ship-from-store programs. Now it’s testing mobile point-of-sale technology, which will give its salespeople enhanced ability to engage with customers, place orders straight from the fitting room, and reduce the emphasis on its front-of-the-store registers.

The retailer also just announced a partnership with Virgin Hotels, where travelers staying at the hotel can reserve Gap items from the hotel’s app, and a few hours later find those items hanging in their hotel room closet.

  • The growth of Ann Taylor’s online business has allowed it to close its underperforming stores, and turn the brand’s focus to seeing all of its stores as fulfillment centers. The retailer has also touted the roll-out of its “endless aisle” technology, which puts all of its store inventory online, removing the silos between its offline and online inventory. This makes it easier for customers to buy items from any Ann Taylor store, and keeps the brand from having to mark down prices, by selling them full price at other locations. So if a store is stocked full of sweaters during a warm spell, they can simply shift that inventory to a region experiencing colder weather.

Ann Taylor also focused on evolving its culture, ensuring that its incentives for store associates matched the brand’s sales goals across the entire landscape, not just in-store.

For Cross-Channel Success, Retailers Must Connect Data and Identity

These efforts to align retail’s digital and physical channels are exactly what today’s cross-channel consumers expect: consistency, relevance, and personalization throughout the buying process, no matter what channels they choose.

Those retailers that make the most progress towards gaining a 360-degree view of their customers will be the ones that come out on top — and not just in terms of current efforts to align ecommerce and in-store. They will be the leaders who gain the long-term loyalty of today’s omnichannel consumer.

Here are a few tips for retailers seeking to keep their brands relevant in today’s cross-channel world:

  1. Put the customer first. Consider what your customers want and need at every touchpoint in the shopping experience, and how you can make their cross-channel journey as smooth and engaging as possible.
  1. Treat identity as a valuable currency. The key to creating seamless experiences is the ability to recognize your customer as the path to purchase crisscrosses digital and physical worlds. Master cross-channel identity as a new marketing discipline to create rich, holistic customer profiles that help you personalize interactions and improve targeting.
  1. Think beyond campaigns. Customers want to be treated as individuals, not as a number or a segment. Marketers need to evolve from product-centric campaigns to engaging them continuously throughout the customer journey, with real-time messaging that caters to their interests and intent.
  1. Be a catalyst for innovation. Today’s consumers are quickly bored with the same old, familiar experiences. They want new products and services and new types of experiences. Captivate your customers by surprising and delighting them with the unexpected.

Retailers know they need to execute data-driven marketing strategies that bridge both online and offline properties, since their customers are constantly moving between web, mobile, store, and call center environments. Signal Fuse helps retailers solve the cross-channel identity puzzle, so they can focus on delivering great customer experiences.


Originally published July 13, 2015

Brad Havertape

Brad Havertape was formerly VP of Sales at Signal.

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