Today’s Consumers Are Shopping from the Beach!

By Janet Dorenkott

Today's consumers can be shopping online, returning product at a store, filing a complaint from their
home or researching products from a boat! The omnichannel is alive and well and manufacturers have to
accommodate these realities.

Companies need to not only sell their product, but they need to attract, inform, convert and delight their
customers! Addressing the omnichannel dilemma should be a top priority for consumer packaged goods
(CPG) manufacturers. It brings a wide array of new challenges.

The omnichannel is not just the “channel” a customer makes their purchase through. It is the full consumer experience – whether digital or in person. Too many people confuse multi-channel with omnichannel and therefore ignore new challenges. This happens for several reasons.

High-level management at any company will typically be from an older generation. Many have very little experience or understanding of the impact of social media or digital buying. Some might use Facebook or have a LinkedIn account, but they often make light of how influential social media can be. Aside from seeing their own kids on these sites, they don’t really understand how Millenniels and Generation X consumers are using sites like Amazon or coupons, or social media or blogs. That might sound harsh, but I can say that because I see it firsthand. Just the other day on CNBC I heard an analyst who was amazed by people who could have possibly guessed the impact of Google, Amazon, Uber and other sites three years ago. I, on the other hand, am amazed that an analyst would not have seen this coming ten years ago.

The omnichannel experience for an end customer, begins with research, analytics, and product awareness. The path to purchase starts with a search online. It could be my idea or something my friend mentioned in a post. It could be a personalized suggestion that pops up based on prior searches or it could be an idea they just saw on Pinterest.

Alternatively, the path to purchase might be more traditional. Maybe I had a specific problem to solve. Maybe I ran out of my favorite shampoo or maybe my friend told me about a new product they are using. Regardless of how a consumer heard about the product, the next step is typically research. This could be a simple Google search or even a trip to the store. Research today can mean scanning a bar code at your local retailer to see where they can find the product cheaper or asking a friend, checking blogs or going on opinion sites.

Even for inexpensive products these days, consumers often solicit the opinions of their friends. They will research themselves on sites like Angie’s List and Yelp, and they will ask their friends on social sites. They will determine where the best price is and identify what device, site or other outlet they prefer to use for purchase. Finally, they will actually make the purchase. This can be a fast process or it can take some time.

Today’s purchase goes beyond the receipt. Today, you must not only deliver, but make sure you delight your customer. Because if you don’t, your customers’ dissatisfaction will be seen by your followers immediately and could go viral overnight.

Some prospects are lost during this process. They may purchase competitive products or get distracted with completely different items that take your share of their wallet. Even those who ultimately purchase your product may not be satisfied. They could be your best champion or your worst enemy depending on how active they are on social media and how they feel about their buying experience and the product itself.

The omnichannel poses dilemmas for every entity involved and at every stage of the process.

Retailers often struggle with internal competition between brick and mortar, retail teams, and their own e-commerce teams. Brick-and-mortar sales teams tend to be older and have many years of experience. They think this experience means they know better. When it comes to retailer reporting, they generally do. But they have historically dismissed the importance and impact of social media and digital purchases. It is getting harder and harder for them to deny the impact today.

Those companies who lagged in implementing a digital strategy are hurting in sales and on the stock market today. E-commerce, digital and social media teams tend to be younger, more trendy and grew up with the internet and social media. They tend to have an attitude and they think that they know better. When it comes to digital and social media, they typically do. The two groups often clash and have little respect for the other teams’ knowledge.

Consumers face the frustrations associated with these growing pains. Non-responsive websites, pop-ups, shopping carts that don’t perform, coupons that don’t take, multiple searches to find the best price, and frustrating return processes will all send your potential customer elsewhere. Additionally, they are frustrated with in-store purchases where there are unfriendly personnel or poor reception that won’t allow them to download coupons or scan QR codes. Ultimately, these frustrations all turn into distrust of the manufacturer, the retailer, your website and/or the e-tailer they are purchasing from.

Manufacturers also toil with a phenomenon referred to as “coupon stacking.” Customers use discounts from multiple sources, thereby eroding profits. Manufacturers need to address this by partnering with companies that know how to integrate data and identify and stem common culprits. They also need to identify and correct common processes and errors that allow for this profit erosion.

Manufacturers and retailers also need to be aware of negative sentiment that targets their product or brand. Managing that process and controlling consumer sentiment is not something that can be ignored. It needs to be addressed regardless of how they purchased the product.

Manufacturers must tackle the continuing issues they are saddled with related to the omnichannel by integrating the necessary data sources, identifying impact, and tackling the problems with knowledge. This requires involving industry experts who have experience both in traditional retail as well as digital. Identifying industry experts that have expertise in both digital and traditional sales can take a fresh look at your existing architecture, review your current processes and provide you with a roadmap to solve issues associated with the omnichannel today and long-term.

Janet Dorenkott is Co-Founder and COO of Relational Solutions, a Mindtree Company. For more information:

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