time lapse photo of lined up dominoes falling over
PHOTO: Mark Bonica

2020's holiday shopping season was unlike any other in history. Which was on par for a year that was far from ordinary.

But even with the ongoing pandemic and lockdown orders in effect across the globe, shoppers still made purchases in advance of the holiday season … they just did so in different ways, namely through digital and omnichannel customer journeys.

We’ve seen the trend toward digital and omnichannel shopping grow steadily over the past several years, but COVID-19 and stay-at-home guidelines have greatly accelerated this evolution. So much so that, according to Adobe Analytics, consumers spent nine billion dollars online on Black Friday, representing a 22% increase over the 2019 results. The trend continued on Cyber Monday, with shoppers spending $10.8 billion online, which set a new record for the largest US online shopping holiday ever.

Omnichannel Shopping Is on Consumers’ Minds

The incredible online shopping numbers might not come as a shock given that they had been trending up for years — and people were expected (and in some countries, required) to stay away from physical locations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But what might come as a surprise is that more and more consumers looked to omnichannel customer journeys as a way to check off their holiday shopping lists.

Omnichannel customer journeys — like Buy Online/Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup — have proven popular with customers looking to stay safe while shopping at their convenience. My company recently ran a global consumer trends survey to better understand how people planned to shop during the pandemic.

While we expected the results to show that consumers were foregoing traditional shopping methods, we were surprised at how many people planned to skip the in-store experience, with 47% of the 579 respondents reporting that they would not shop in physical stores during the holiday season. Compare that to the 93% of respondents who planned to shop online and the 71% who said they were more likely to buy from a brand that offers omnichannel shopping options, and it becomes clear that public perception has shifted to favor digital and omnichannel customer journeys.

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As the pandemic continues, and retailers fight to secure more market share, it seems that omnichannel options are a key battleground — especially as 68% of respondents in our survey said they were using omnichannel shopping options more often because of the pandemic.

Related Article: When Online and In Person Meet: The Challenges of Takeout and Curbside Pickup

Deliver Omnichannel Experiences That Keep Customers Coming Back

Just offering omnichannel customer journeys isn't enough. The journeys have to be safe and seamless to gain consumer trust and earn repeat customers. Thirty-nine percent of respondents in the Applause survey said they would leave a brand that offered a poor or unsafe omnichannel shopping experience.

Building omnichannel journeys that customers will love starts with putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. Follow the journey yourself, starting with the digital aspect through to the onsite pickup, and mark where the experience could be improved.

As you are moving through the digital portion of an omnichannel experience, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it easy to find what I’m looking to purchase on the website or mobile app?
  • Does the content on the page make sense and direct me toward a completed purchase?
  • Do the product pages and search functions filter correctly when I’m looking for a specific category or item?
  • Am I able to easily add/remove items from my shopping cart?
  • Is the checkout process seamless and secure?

The last point about checkout is especially important. According to our survey, 60% of shoppers will reconsider a purchase if there is an issue during checkout.

Then, once you complete the purchase on the digital phase, move to the onsite experience and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it easy to find where to park for omnichannel orders?
  • Is there signage identifying where I should go and what I should do to pick up my order?
  • Am I given the option of a completely contactless experience to receive my order?
  • Is the store staff trained to get me my item quickly and efficiently?
  • Am I given the correct order?

Running through a checklist of these questions will help you understand where your omnichannel experience works — and where it may be falling flat — across both the digital and physical realms. Once you’ve identified any points of friction, you can best take advantage of consumers’ appetite for contactless, digital and omnichannel customer journeys that won’t be going away any time soon. Even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, these shopping methods are here to stay.

Related Article: The New, No-Touch World of Commerce: Reimagining Customer Experience