March 12, 2021
  |   Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, UX / CX

The Funnel: What Omnichannel Looks Like in 2021 & Beyond

Chris Guerra, Co-CEO at Blue Acorn iCi, is the latest guest speaker to join Blue Acorn iCi’s The Funnel: An Experience Driven Commerce Podcast. During the interview, Chris, a retail veteran and leader in the customer experience space, discusses omnichannel experiences, including:

  • Tips for B2C and B2B brands to deliver an effective omnichannel experience in 2021, including real-life examples 
  • What omnichannel will look like in the future 
  • What a brand can do in the next 30 days

Listen to the full episode or read the transcript below. You can also click the menu in the player to listen and subscribe on your favorite podcast listening app.

 

Episode Transcript

About the Guest Speaker

Shannon Abel, Senior Media Marketing Specialist at Blue Acorn iCi, interviews Chris Guerra, Co-CEO at Blue Acorn iCi, about what omnichannel looks like in 2021 and beyond. Chris started his career in brick-and-mortar retail at Barneys New York and Nike before pivoting to the digital customer experience space. As Co-CEO at Blue Acorn iCi, Chris works with B2B and B2C brands to create and implement customer-centric digital strategies that drive conversions and revenue.

What did omnichannel look like five years ago, and how has it evolved to today?

Omnichannel several years ago was clunky, and it was something that brands didn’t cater towards their customers. Let’s take a TV for example. You would go to Best Buy, look at 20 different TVs, and narrow it down to two or three. Then you would come back home, compare prices online, and complete the transaction online at a store other than Best Buy. 

Omnichannel was a very disconnected experience, and quite frankly, many brick-and-mortar retailers were losing business to those that were really focused on the online space. 

Today, according to Gartner, over half of consumers prefer in-person shopping experiences more for information and discovery rather than transactional now.

If you look at why customers like in-store experiences, it’s because it’s as personalized as you can possibly get. When you walk into a brick-and mortar-location, you typically have a sales associate ask questions about yourself. Then they curate the shopping experience based on the style or different types of products. They also have an opportunity to educate you about the products and explain features and benefits.

How are brands recreating the in-store experience online today?

Ecommerce is very much like a choose your own adventure. You go to a website, and you have a hundred different journeys that you could potentially take, but you don’t have anyone showing you around the website, or you don’t have someone saying go to this section and go to that section of the website.

How do you make the experience more linear? Data is the foundation for creating a personalized experience online. If you can learn two or three different things about your customer at a homepage level, then it allows you to better cater a category page to men’s or women’s for example. Instead of a customer having to go to a category, then click men’s, you put them directly into the section. When we look at making the experience linear, it’s about taking data that you have and putting a customer in a more relevant destination.

It’s also about how you recommend products and relevant content in a way that guides the customer through the shopping experience. Think about how you can take content blocks or featured sections of the website and personalize them based on data points.

What brands have successfully created immersive omnichannel experiences?

Lovesac is a great example. For those that aren’t aware, Lovesac is a home furnishings brand that sells highly configurable sofas. You can literally build your own couch, from colors and fabrics, all the way to the configuration of the sofa, whether you want an L or U or shape or a specific length.

Pre-COVID, customers would go into a Lovesac showroom and configure their couch right there in the store. But with COVID, Lovesac had to think more through an omnichannel lens. To help customers build a sofa online, Lovesac launched a custom configuration system on the website. We worked with Lovesac, ThreeKit, and Magento to build a solution where customers could easily configure their couch without stepping into a store. Download our Lovesac case study to learn more about our solution.

However, we still wanted to give the customer the opportunity to visit a showroom, so we implemented an appointment booking tool on the Lovesac website. By creating different flows or to and from the showroom, we helped Lovesac deliver an effective omnichannel experience and consistent brand experience.

Chris will be speaking with Sue Beckett, the VP of Digital Marketing and Ecommerce from Lovesac, at Adobe Summit on April 27. Click here to register and add session #S705 to your schedule in the Adobe Summit portal.

How are digitally native brands embracing omnichannel?

If you look at a Warby Parker or Marine layer, they built awesome brands online, but they don’t have the same level of customer visibility of customers the same way that brick-and-mortar locations do. The Warby Parker’s of the world ultimately want to attract new customers. They found that retail was a great opportunity for them to basically create a much more interactive billboard.

When you go into a Warby Parker store, there’s so many different hooks to go back to the website to capture an order. You may not buy glasses in the store, but there are calls to action to add the item to your wishlist in your online account. Once you add something to your wishlist, you can go back to the website and virtually try them on again. And so there are great examples of how these digitally native brands have used brick-and-mortar to attract new customers and close the loop online.

What I mean by that is we tend to think of abandoned shopping carts from an ecommerce perspective. But how often do we think about abandoned carts from a brick-and-mortar perspective? In many cases, you’ll go to a brick-and-mortar location. You’ll think about buying something, but you never hear from the store again once you leave. Warby Parker is saving information from your in-store visit to your online profile.

Many brands and retailers will look at omnichannel as simply doing buy online, pick-up in-store, but the reality is that omnichannel is much deeper than that. If you look at decoding what omnichannel means, it’s about integrating data to and from the retail locations and the website. 

The other interesting thing is how brands are overcoming conflicting goals between the online store and brick-and-mortar stores. Retail locations have very focused sales goals, and then the ecommerce team has separate sales goals. Now we’re starting to see brands use attribution models to ensure each function receives credit for efforts that achieve a sale.

We had a footwear retail client that offered buy online, pick-up in-store. However, in some cases, if the store associates saw an order come in from online, they would hide the inventory so they couldn’t fulfill the order. They didn’t want the online store to get credit for the order.

When you create conflicting goals across channels, you prevent omnichannel from becoming more mainstream. Companies are thinking more methodically about how the online and offline channels work together and how you create goals that work for the entire organization. 

How does omnichannel fit into the B2B world? 

I believe strongly that you’re going to see a big wave in B2B omnichannel initiatives. And I think a lot of that is driven by COVID. Retail buyers are a great example. My mother has a retail store in South Florida. She would always go to trade shows and showrooms to purchase product, but the lack of trade shows during COVID forced her to buy product online.

COVID is not going to last forever. Retailers have learned the convenience of B2B orders online, but eventually when those trade shows open back up, you’re going to see an influx of manual omnichannel experiences. Meaning you can see someone like my mother going to a trade show, picking out the items that she liked, then taking home those line sheets and potentially purchasing them online. 

Are there different things a B2B buyer might expect from their omnichannel experience versus a B2C buyer?

If you look at a B2B buyer, there’s less impulse. It’s much more of a strategic purchase and more of a financial commitment. One of the challenges with trade shows is that, in most cases, you’re being asked on the spot to place orders.

If your company can offer a digital customer experience that’s rich in relevant content and enables transactions, then it’s much easier for buyers to learn about new brands and ultimately complete the purchase. I think you’re going to see a lot of retailers buying new brands because there’s online experiences that they can learn about them.

Do you think there will ever be a time where consumers don’t visit stores? 

No. I am a big believer in touching and feeling product and seeing it firsthand, specifically for big purchases. While I’m more comfortable now using websites to make those purchases, there’s nothing that will replicate the experience of being in the store. I like going to the store because it’s an experience—the owners know my name, they know my likes, they know my interests. I can have a conversation and it’s much more of a social purchasing process.

What will the future of omnichannel look like?

I think you’re going to start to see a lot of different iterations of omnichannel in terms of how brands define these experiences. of this. One example that I find very interesting is Lululemon purchasing Mirror. A lot of times we look at omnichannel as a website or retail store, but I think the future of omnichannel is going to include different devices like a Mirror, video game console, or a TV. 

Lululemon see themselves at the forefront of omnichannel. When are you going to be most likely to purchase new yoga or workout apparel? Probably when you’re working out, right before or right after, and many of these customers are going to be using something like a Mirror. The future of omnichannel is how do you get your brand and your product on different devices and how do you think about it as much bigger than just a website or retail store.

What can a brand do in the next 30 days to kick off or enhance their omnichannel strategy? 

Start collecting customers’ information in the retail stores. If you have a retail location and a customer comes in, ask them if they’ve shopped online and ask them if they’ve created an account on the website. If they haven’t, ask them to create an account and give them a promotion code in-store. Once they have that account, you can start capturing data about the customer. This lays the foundation for personalizing the digital customer experience. After a customer leaves a store, send them an email with links to products they tried in the store.

It’s a manual omnichannel initiative, but it’s a great way to at least begin the process or start training your customers to use both the brick-and mortar-stores and the ecommerce site together.

If your company is ready to launch or optimize their omnichannel experience, reach out to us today. We’ve helped companies like Lovesac and SouthernCarlson deliver immersive omnichannel experiences that deliver results.

Shannon Abel
After graduating from Clemson University, Shannon started her career in marketing, focusing on content creation and engagement. As Blue Acorn iCi’s Senior Media Marketing Specialist, she keeps brand and retail professionals up-to-date on the latest trends and news in the digital customer experience space. She also produces and hosts Blue Acorn iCi's podcast, The Funnel. In her free time, she enjoys walking her dogs and hanging out at the local breweries in Charleston.
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