A few months ago, our sales team was at Shop.org, and the hot topic was omni-channel commerce. So what is it and why does it matter? At Copious we’ve been talking about omni-channel commerce for years—but we called it “user-centered commerce.” It’s about designing the entire experience a customer has with your brand across multiple touchpoints, centered around their needs and how they want to interact with your brand and products.

Let’s step back to cover what’s changed for your users, how to best understand your customers’ needs and what you need to do as a retailer to support your customer base (and drive additional revenue).

Changes in Online Consumer Behavior

The way consumers interact and shop online has shifted dramatically in the last decade. Ten years ago the internet was slower, AOL was still relevant and consumer expectations of their shopping experience online were far lower. The dramatic changes that have taken place in technology and consumer behavior have forced us to challenge the way we must plan, design and execute a shopping experience for the digital world.

Users’ expectations have in large part shifted due to the technology they use to interact with the web: just over a decade ago only 51% percent of US consumers had home internet (only about 10% had broadband), and even though 148 million US consumers had cell phones, they were not powerful and elegant enough to drive online commerce. Today, over 70% percent of US consumers have high-speed internet (90% of all users with home internet access have broadband now), 64% percent of users with home internet have smartphones, and TV is often paired with a second screen experience.

In 2011 only 7% of ecommerce revenue was driven by native mobile apps/or mobile commerce. Today that number stands at 17% and is projected to top 26% in less than four years. All these trends point to not only the critical part mobile plays in direct online revenue, but also the overall importance of delivering an omnichannel digital retail experience to your customers.

Today’s omnichannel consumers demand digital products and experiences that extend the in-store experience, allow them to research products whenever and however they want and, most importantly, shop for products to be shipped when and how they want.

Today’s omnichannel consumers demand digital products and experiences that extend the in-store experience.

Online retail, not just ecommerce

Ecommerce used to be where people shopped when they didn’t want to go to the store, or when they were looking for something that wasn’t carried in brick-and-mortar retail. It was sometimes more convenient and often opened up greater product selection than you could find locally, but it truly was a different experience than you would find in store. Now, ecommerce is the core component of the overall online retail experience.

Do customers come to your website to buy your products? Yes. Do customers come to your website to research your products and compare them against your competitors? Yes. Do customers come to your website to look for products and then go to a retail store to purchase them? Yes. Do customers view your site on their smartphones to check for a better price ( i.e. Showrooming)? Yes. Do customers create wish lists and share them socially? Yes. Do customers shop online and then go into your store to pick the merchandise up? Hopefully. You get the point—your ecommerce site is visited by users for a wide variety of reasons.

Your website needs to serve users in different ways with different features and functions depending on who they are and why they are there for that specific visit.

Today, the consumer sits at the center of a host of devices (mobile, tablet, desktop). Where they are, what they are looking to do, and personal preference is driving what device is used.

Building an understanding of the omnichannel customer

To help our clients better understand the broader omnichannel world, we use a collaborative and research-driven process to create a product called a “Customer Journey Map.” Customer journey mapping involves bringing individuals together from across your organization who interact with customers through different channels (brick and mortar retail, ecommerce, customer service, etc.) and guiding them through a facilitated process where we visually map out each possible touchpoint along the journey and how that supports the users’ wants and needs.

The final journey map(s) create a powerful lens for the entire team to understand the users’ journey, and then architect and measure improvements to that journey. The Customer Journey Map helps different departments and teams work together, bridging channels and allowing the organization to enhance the entire customer experience with the brand.

Ways to learn about your omnichannel customer

Gaining a clear and potent picture of your customers’ needs takes time, but there are no excuses why you can’t start right away. The following ideas and tools are designed to help you dive in and begin to create the understanding of your customer that you need.

  • Customer Interviews – The best insights often come out of good old-fashioned conversations. Make sure to have a solid list of questions related directly and indirectly to your brand and their needs. Leave space just to listen – the gold is often here.
  • Internal Resources – Bring together different departments to talk and share knowledge about how they interact with your customers.
  • Site Intercepts – Kampyle or Foresee gather anonymous feedback from your current web users.
  • Heatmapping Tools – Crazy Egg or Clicktale build a picture of how people interact with your site in a deeper way than traditional analytics can.
  • Analytics – Pick your tool, look at how traffic comes into your site by device type and how each device interacts differently with your site. How do users interact differently with the shopping path on mobile vs. desktop?

Want to learn more about our views on omnichannel (user-centered) commerce or talk about how we can help your brand build and improve your digital retail experience? Read our thoughts on creating a user-centered ecommerce design strategy, or contact us below.