Whether you call it multichannel, omnichannel, unified commerce, or converged commerce, retail experts have been trying to coin the approach merchants should take to best serve the fluid customer journey between physical and online stores. Over the past decade or more, omnichannel has been the buzzword slapped on virtually all advice, case studies, reports, and more.
However, with the rise of online shopping, especially mobile and social, the omnichannel strategy has proven to worn out its welcome. Consumers don’t shop by “channel” so retailers shouldn’t approach it that way.
Instead, retail experts are calling for a new approach, harmonic retail, that better describes how to create remarkable experiences for consumers as they interact with your brand across digital and physical touchpoints. In the end, it’s all about understanding your customers and providing the best shopping experience possible.
How Omnichannel Strategies Lead Retailers Astray
Experts and retail leaders have been using the word omnichannel for over a decade now. It was coined to describe how retailers should approach creating a consistent customer experience across evoloving digital and physical touchpoints. It was the evolution of the multichannel retail strategy that focused on meeting customers across multiple online touchpoints like marketplaces and eCommerce platforms.
Despite its consistent use, omnichannel approaches have always been problematic for retailers. First, it focuses on approaching retail with channel-centric thinking. Each online and physical touchpoint is considered a separate channel that consumers interact with. It also implies that each of these channels should be treated the same. Secondly, the prefix “omni” means “all” and thus suggests that retailers must sell everywhere possible.
This approach leads retailers down an unrealistic and unfocused path. Consumers don’t shop by “channel” or at every single touchpoint available to them, which there are loads of them today. Retailers shouldn’t be blindly focusing on being everywhere and treating each channel transaction the same.
While the terms and strategies have changed, one thing has remained constant over the years. Consumers want to shop how the want. No matter how they interact with your brand, they want the experience to be remarkable and consistent.
What is Harmonic Retail?
Keeping this in mind, that’s where the term harmonic retail comes to mind. Harmonic retail doesn’t focus on channels or selling everywhere. Instead, it focuses on being the right experience for your desired customers when it matters. It’s about eliminating friction points along the customer journey to improving the buying experience.
Another way to think about it is that each touchpoint doesn’t have to be the exact same. Each digital or physical interaction can be different, but they should make sense together. DeAnn Campbell, director of retail strategy and development at Harbor Retail, stresses that your digital and physical touchpoints should interact, even enrich, each other.
Today, a typical customer fluidly switches from digital to physical channels. For example, I frequently use a retailer’s mobile app in store to check inventory availability or product selection. If I don’t see the item online, I might even purchase from the app on the store floor to be delivered to my house. When designing your customer experience, it’s important to think of the context of your customers and why/how they’re interacting with you. Customer journeys aren’t linear experiences and shouldn’t be treated that way.
Harmonic Retail Focuses on eCommerce
Harmonic retail also differs in that it focuses on eCommerce and other digital touchpoints. Today, many retailers are digital-native and store or physical presences aren’t necessary for success. Stores, pop-up, kiosks, and the like are all just different ways that support your online presence.
Whatever your mix of storefronts is though, harmonic retail focuses on orchestrated interactions that stay true to your brand. The focus is on creating remarkable and memorable experiences that foster deeper customer relationships and engagement over time. It’s about removing any possible friction points along the way.
To do this, retailers need to know their customers, and well. They need to understand their wants and desires. They need to know the context in which they interact with their brand. Retailers also need to accept the fluidity of how customers shop. Online experiences can drive physical touchpoints and the reverse is true too.
Retailers embracing this harmonic approach are winning too. Look no further than leading brands like Casper, Warby Parker, and Dollar Shave Club. These direct-to-consumers brands are digital-first companies that bypass traditional sales models and are disrupting their industries. Even brands known for their physical stores like Best Buy and Target are escaping the retail apocalypse by implementing innovative ways to weave in and focus on their digital experiences.
When we look at the data, companies that have a harmonic customer engagement retain their customers 80 to 90 percent more than companies that have a weak multi-channel, store-based experience.” The results speak for themselves.– DeAnn Campbell
Are you orchestrating harmonic experiences across your brand touchpoints?