‘Out-Conveniencing’ and the New Omnichannel Battlefield

There’s a lot of talk about how to ‘win’ at user experience, but the war is truly being fought on the convenience front. The standards are being heightened almost daily, driven by consumer demand and growing expectations. Being truly omnichannel means understanding the value of convenience in a rapidly changing e-commerce landscape.

To be competitive retailers must meet customer demand for convenient ways to shop,” says Graham Jackson, CEO, Fluent Commerce. “In the battle to win the hearts, minds, and indeed wallets of Australian consumers the fight is on to maximise customer experience and to out-convenience your competitors.” The battle for success in online retail was once thought to come down to price. Yet as the e-commerce space evolved, it became clear that success was about understanding the complete consumer journey. “To win and retain consumers, retailers don’t have to be the cheapest, but they need to be faster and easier to shop with than their competitors across any channel their customers want to buy on,” says Jackson. “Customers who engage with retailers across multiple channels and touchpoints are driving increased conversion rates, both online and offline, as they have more than one channel to aid in their purchasing decisions. For Australian retailers looking to thrive, a unified experience is paramount.”

Australia is not lacking for examples of successfully executed omnichannel experiences. In The 2017 Global Omnichannel Index Report by PwC, Australia placed third behind US and UK in terms of countries with the highest demand for and progress in retail omnichannel development. “Success doesn’t have to mean offering all possible omnichannel options,” says Jacksin. “A few done well can make a real difference. We can look at Woolworths, MonPurse, General Pants and JD Sports for examples of great local omnichannel experiences.”

Strategy is key when it comes to developing and maintaining a successful omnichannel shopping experience. But with the pace of change and evolution in the area, it’s important to have both long-term and short-term strategies in place. “When undertaking digital transformation break it down into three-month projects that deliver clear customer and shareholder value,” says Jackson. “Customers love simple, they love fast, they hate complexity and limitations. Retail staff feel the same. New retail, whether you want to call it omnichannel commerce, unified commerce or commerce anywhere, is more complex than the old world. It is, however, vital for this complexity to remain elegantly hidden behind the scenes and present an offering that is both seamless and simplistic for the customer, regardless of where they need to interact with you. That will determine if they choose to shop with you or someone else who does.”

So, what is Jackson’s advice for retailers trying to develop a unified omnichannel shopping experience? “Focus on range, price and convenience. Get the basics right and don’t be distracted by some non-essential aspect that would be nice to have. Focus on customer experience and offer the right item at the right price and deliver in the right way to delight your customer and keep them coming back.”

How can you get your edge? Learn from the mistakes of others. Jackson says that major issue he sees is retailers trying to build solutions themselves and becoming a software house. “They spend time and money building inferior technology solutions that aren’t agile and adaptative to market change,” he explains. “They focus on non-essential elements and forget that to succeed they need to do the basics well.” Get the important stuff right first and once the base is strong, expand on it.

Given where we’ve come from and where we’re headed, what does the future of omnichannel look like? “It will be quicker, cheaper and more convenient. All consumers make value decisions and faced with no compelling reason to stick with a brand, will defer to price. In the absence of an alternative, low cost wins. However, we will pay for convenience. This is the way to ensure success. Be more convenient than the next guy, with appropriate range and price and you will win. This is where retailers in Australia with physical stores can use them as a huge weapon against the potential loss of market share to Amazon (and others). If you can optimise your store operations, delivery networks and order orchestration process you can offer consumers a range of omnichannel fulfilment options and convenience that Amazon will struggle to compete with – certainly for the foreseeable future.”

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