Abuse the omni-channel at your peril

Retailers have great opportunities to nurture customer relationships through technology, but there’s some risk involved

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I didn’t think of myself as an omni-channel shopper, but when my family and I moved into our new home a few weeks ago, one of the big things we needed to buy was a refrigerator. Although this would have been unthinkable to me a few years ago, we bought it online, without seeing it in the store. The fridge is great, but buying it made me feel like I had a target on my face.

Not long after it had been delivered we got a call from the manufacturer. I let my wife answer it, because I assumed it was one of those “Thank you for shopping with us” kinds of messages. But it wasn’t. They were calling to see if we were interested in purchasing the extended warranty, which either hadn’t popped up or which we had ignored when making the online purchase.

Related: The off-the-shelf retail experience that will keep customers loyal

Related: The transparency (and scrutiny) omni-channel shopping is putting on retailers

My first reaction was to start thinking about how many calls the manufacturer’s contact centre would have to make and how many warranties it would have to sell to justify the telemarketing rates (this is the way my mind works, unfortunately). The second reaction was to feel a little creeped out. There was something a little … icky about feeling that our transaction had not only been recorded but sent to the call centre for a followup. I thought of complaining about this on social media, but then I was worried someone from the manufacturer’s social media team might pop up on Twitter with a cheerful, “Hey Shane! Sorry we creeped you out!” Which, of course, would have made it worse.

Choose your omni-channels wisely

This is the thing with omni-channel retailing: there are so many customer touchpoints, and all kinds of opportunities to cross-sell, upsell or improve service. But that doesn’t mean there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to using those channels. In our case, we chose a specific channel — the e-commerce portal — in part to avoid dealing with salespeople. Having someone follow up via phone to keep on selling creates a poor experience. A followup e-mail, on the other hand, might not have been so bad, and it probably wouldn’t have arrived at the dinner hour, when the telephone call did.

Last week GE Capital Retail Bank released its second annual Mobile Shopper Study, which showed that omni-channel shoppers will spend up to double the amount of those who only shop in physical stores. I suspect that’s because omni-channel shoppers are doing more research, taking more time and making deliberate choices about how they want to interact with an organization. Retailers need to ensure they make all channels accessible and easy to navigate, but also learn more about preferred channels as they nurture customer relationships.

This holiday season will be a test of how well retailers are making that transition. If they fall flat, customers will not be lacking the channels through which their complaints can be heard.

Visit the resource centre: Enabling Omni-Channel Effectiveness in Retail & Financial Services with research from Gartner Inc. and more. 

Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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