The concept of omnichannel retail has taken hold to the point where many businesses have begun exploring the benefits of providing and integrating offline, online and mobile platforms aimed at engaging customers. 

This ability to reach out across platforms also opens up avenues for retailers to maximize customer engagement by taking a curated approach to doing business that relies on data to target their messaging and content.

It’s All About the Customer 

According to Vend’s 2017 Retail Trends and Predictions Report, data-driven retailing and channel omnipresence top the list of ecommerce trends that will continue to gather momentum. 

In many ways that’s not surprising, since combining an omnichannel presence with data analytics allows retailers to provide better customer experiences through personalization which, in turn, enhance the likelihood of conversions and repeat transactions. 

In other words, this year — and every year — it’s all about the customer.

Shopping for Quality, Convenience and Instant Gratification

Today’s consumers want quality, convenience and instant gratification. Omnichannel retailing paves the way for providing the right mix of all three by creating the opportunity to personalize customer relationships. 

Yet even though shoppers may use multiple devices to make their purchases, it doesn’t mean that those customers don’t differentiate between in-store experiences and digital experiences. They do and what’s more, they take advantage of those distinctions during their purchase journeys. 

For example, in PwC’s 2016 Total Retail Survey, 58 percent of survey respondents cited convenience as the primary reason why they shop online. However, they also cited sales representatives with deep product knowledge and ease of check-out as reasons why they chose to visit physical stores. 

A winning formula? Physical stores that can replicate the ease and convenience of doing business online. 

Additional Channels Level the Playing Field

Omnichannel experiences let retailers reach multiple audiences in different ways. Brick and mortar stores with limited budgets have an especially huge potential to level the playing field against big retailers by embracing additional channels such as selling through social media or ecommerce marketplaces. 

In fact, another of Vend’s predictions is that specialty stores will make it big this year, particularly specialty stores that cater to millennials for whom an online presence is a big plus. 

Omnichannel retailing also creates a virtuous cycle by helping businesses gather more customer data, which can then be used to curate and customize experiences even further for customers who may then choose to share their exceptional experiences on social media.

Learning Opportunities

With almost 60 percent of the world's population now on mobile devices and 68 percent of US internet users on at least one social media platform the potential for a virtuous cycle becomes greater, moving from contact, to data collection, experience refinement and ideally leading to customer advocacy.   

Online Research Is the New Window Shopping 

The retail industry’s ability to interpret curated data from customers and prospects can provide businesses with an edge in optimizing customer offerings, but customer time remains an important factor. That’s because today’s consumers have shifted from window shopping to researching. Even before they step into a physical store, most consumers already have some idea of what they want.

The downside of this degree of customer certainty is that if you’ve lost a potential customer online, you’ve already lost the sale. Customers simply will not spend countless hours walking through aisles of merchandise anymore. Instead, they browse for products online, and curated content helps them make the kind of happy decisions that lead to exceptional customer experiences. 

Think Beyond the Sales Funnel

In addition, curated data from POS systems or social media helps retailers make stocking and inventory decisions by helping them analyze trends and predict future purchases.  

That’s only one reason why companies should think beyond top-of-the-funnel activities when evaluating the potential of curated data. It can also help significantly when identifying upsell or cross-sell opportunities, optimizing post-sales operations, listening to customer sentiment over social media platforms and analyzing automated feedback forms.

In short, when retailers start listening to their customers across channels, good things happen. 

Future Trends in Curated Retailing

Chatbots and artificial intelligence are other important retail trends to watch. Expect to see artificial intelligence become more accessible for targeting and personalization, while chatbots are used in conjunction with live chat to retain customer attention and engage customers in real time. 

Other emerging trends include so-called virtual retail, which melds offline and online shopping experiences and co-shopping where multiple family members share household shopping responsibilities. 

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