Progressive stores had already been using ecommerce to pump up sales, but when COVID hit, the retail world was shaken to its core. Customers were hesitant to shop in person but found that the experience of ordering online and getting the purchase delivered on time was often inadequate.
Brick-and-mortar retailers were forced to quickly rethink the already evolving customer experience to remain viable. The sector needed a cohesive, innovative strategy to help customers find new ways to shop. COVID clearly accelerated the need for a united, omnichannel experience, bringing digital line management to the forefront to improve the customer experience.
The importance of omnichannel
There is much to be learned from the economic crash in 2008. Retailers who had a viable omnichannel approach recovered better than those retailers who did not. They had a shallower downturn, rebounded quicker, and achieved three times the total shareholder return in the long run compared with the market average, according to McKinsey.
So, what does that mean in today’s environment? Over the past decade, retailers have taken this learning to heart, creating a unified omnichannel strategy. Present-day customers have the ability to customize their shopping experiences for what best meets their needs. With safety at the forefront, shoppers can schedule an appointment, get real-time data about a store’s capacity, jump in a virtual line, avoid long waits, get in and out more efficiently, plan a pickup, or set up a delivery. In other words, customers now are able to shop wherever and whenever they want. Whether online, mobile or in-store, omnichannel provides the seamless ecosystem that today’s customers demand.
Taking the digital path
If omnichannel is the blueprint for successful retailers, then digital line management is the key that connects each of these channels. It used to be that buying online or walking into a store were disconnected purchasing experiences. But for today’s shoppers, whether their purchase begins online, on a mobile app, or in the store, they are most likely guided through an integrated queue management system or full customer journey management platform as we like to call it.
A perfect example of this can be seen in the shift that has taken place within automotive retail. Yes, there are some people out there who love the whole car shopping experience, walking the lot, kicking the tires, taking it for a test drive. And there are others who don’t. Automotive retailers have taken note and want to delight their loyal customers regardless of their buying styles.
Car buyers today can now go online, select a car, arrange financing, and then schedule their pickup. Those wanting the face-to-face experience can find the dealership with a location-based app, schedule an appointment with a knowledgeable salesperson, check in via a kiosk upon arrival, and receive text updates about the process. Regardless of channel, the car buying process can be completed without hassles because digital line management is at work.
Digital line management provides what customers want — personal attention. According to Epsilon, 80 percent of customers crave personalization, which leads to more purchases. Customers want the retail experience to cut through the noise, break down the barriers, and give them options that put them in control. A customized customer experience will make the shopper feel more emotionally invested, more engaged, and better served by the brand. It increases loyalty, positive word of mouth, and, yes, creates more sales.
However, personalization goes well beyond your salesperson knowing a customer’s name. Today, personalization allows retailers to provide an in-store experience that is tailored to each visitor. This, of course, requires knowledge of the customer first and foremost. Information gathered from customer loyalty programs, visitor scheduling systems, check-in kiosks, and mobile shopping apps all provide a digital map to how best to serve a customer. Customer feedback closes out the experience. By offering this option, customers are not only able to share their personal experience — both actual and perceived — it also provides telling data on how to improve the next visit.
Whether it is a messaging service that keeps visitors informed and updated or a salesperson that is prepped with information about the customer and purpose of the visit, personalization allows the retailer to create a seamless, omnichannel experience for the shopper.
A customer-centric evolution
It’s clear that retail is evolving. Customers are demanding more than ever. They want a seamless experience: online, mobile, and in store. And a digital line management system is key to uniting that ecosystem. With capabilities such as mobile tickets, online appointment setting, check-in functionality, automated messaging, business intelligence, and customer feedback, moving from digital to in-person has never been more holistic. When the retailer creates a more customer-centric experience, it in turn creates a more successful shopping experience for everyone involved.
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