Offering customers the ability to seamlessly move from online shopping to brick and mortar and back to online is the crux of the omnichannel experience.
Shoppers can buy products 24/7, go to a physical store for an in-person inspection, and then make the purchase using either channel based on convenience.
Increasing numbers of retailers are incorporating omnichannel aspects into their business plans, including buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS), endless aisles and curbside pickup.
Creating efficient and profitable omnichannel strategies is a challenge for any business, yet their importance is well understood.
A recent study by Multichannel Merchant and Brightpearl found that 87% of retailers agree omnichannel is a critical business function, yet only 8% believe they are proficient at implementation.
That indicates a long road ahead: Retailers are clearly overcome with the technical challenges and customer expectations that are large parts of implementing an omnichannel presence.
What Walmart is doing
Recently, retail powerhouse Walmart has taken up the omnichannel challenge.
Walmart introduced its shoppers to a new e-commerce feature: 3D virtual shopping. Viewers can "walk through" an apartment outfitted with home goods sold by Walmart.
Certain items are designated as being available through the retailer, and by selecting an icon, the shopper can view a brief description and is offered an option to place it into a shopping cart.
The experience offers shoppers the benefit of seeing how items look in context: How an object will look in a home, rather than on a shelf in a store with dozens of similar items next to it.
Furniture stores have been using similar staging techniques forever. But Walmart, like other big-box retailers, has no space to devote to setting up faux living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms.
So using e-commerce site — where space is plentiful — is the perfect solution.
The apartment showcases roughly 70 different items, and it is easy to see how the virtual environment can be used an infinite number of ways.
Walmart plans to add "Buy the Room," which lets customers add groups of coordinated products to their shopping carts at one time.
Aimed initially at shoppers for dorm-room items, five curated collections will be offered.
Such unique online experiences can help create a seamless omnichannel experience for shoppers.
For example, a mom and daughter go shopping for the daughter's first apartment. They arrive at Walmart, but are overwhelmed by the selection and can't visualize how items will look in an apartment.
Pulling up walmart.com on a mobile phone offers a 3D apartment tour, helping put the items in a more familiar environment.
Some of the items can be purchased while they are in the store — and others may be only available online.
Both sales channels are used to provide the customers exactly the items they desire.
Customers want a better, integrated shopping experience
A recent Accenture study found that 32% of consumers said that the integrating the mobile, website and in-store shopping experience is the biggest improvement retailers need to make.
The old “customer-centric,” multichannel approach is being replaced by a more assertive, customer-driven approach.
It is not enough for companies to simply know each customer, but they must also respond dynamically to customers who are constantly re-evaluating what they want to buy and where they want to buy it.
Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash