Omnichannel 101: Bridging the Gap Between Your Online and Brick-and-Mortar Stores

David Taitelbaum, Marketing Strategist

David Taitelbaum, Marketing Strategist

Author Bio

As the leader of Bronto’s west coast strategy services, David Taitelbaum consults with brands on digital marketing strategy and customer engagement campaigns throughout North America and Asia. He has over 15 years of experience leading ecommerce organizations and developing successful marketing campaigns for companies of all sizes. Most recently, Taitelbaum oversaw global ecommerce operations for City of Sleep, including support, marketing and channel distribution. He is a regular contributor to Bronto’s Commerce Marketing blog. When he is not guiding Bronto’s clients to strategic marketing success, he is spending time at home with his lovely wife, raising their two children.

Retailers with both an online and brick-and-mortar presence have a unique opportunity – two ways to establish the brand and win the conversion. The challenge: Combine these two worlds into one seamless brand and shopping experience. If you recognize the benefits of offering your customers a true omnichannel experience, these strategies can help you use your strengths to your advantage and bridge the divide.

But first, a quick story. The coffeemaker we received as a wedding gift recently brewed its final pot. As a java junkie, I was not looking forward to waking up the following morning without my infusion of french roast. So, near the end of the day, I began the search for my new coffeemaker. As I work with clients in Australia, I don’t typically leave the office before 6:30 p.m., so I knew the route to go was a local retailer with late hours. I started by searching various websites for a model of the same brand with features similar to those of our previous machine.

Sur La Table ended up getting my business, thanks to selection and price, but also because they had their inventory online and I knew I could stop in and pick up the machine on my way home. One call to the store to be sure it was in stock and placed on hold for me, and I avoided missing a single morning of piping hot coffee.

Let’s look at a few opportunities for bringing a similar omnichannel experience to your customers.

Bring Your Rewards Points Online

I work with many clients who are starting to offer rewards points. These points are a fantastic way to create store loyalty, and if you have an omnichannel business, you’re uniquely positioned to promote your rewards program. Simply bring the data into your ESP and build out a dynamic element in your email template(s). Here is a simple logic flow of how this would work:

CTA examplesSuch an easy way to put your best foot forward and keep those customers coming back to shop with you!

Show Subscribers Their Local Store

Take a page from the big brands’ playbook, and provide the address and phone number for the closest brick-and-mortar location. Here are a few examples from emails I’ve received:

Nordstrom

NordstromWilliams-Sonoma

Williams-SonomaREI

REI

All this requires is collection of either zip code or Geo IP as shoppers subscribe to your emails. Then, segment your list based on distance from each store’s zip code. A snippet of dynamic code will populate the nearest address so your customers can easily shop at one of your stores.

If you don’t want to go this route, simply put a store locator link in your header or footer that sends customers to the store locator page on your website.

Offer Click and Collect

It doesn’t get more omnichannel than placing your order online and picking it up in the store! Click and collect has been wildly popular in Europe, and it looks like it’s becoming more and more popular in the States. Home Depot recently reported that more than 40% of its online orders in Q3 of 2016 were picked up in the store. It’s an impressive number, but there’s no question your logistics and inventory have to be on point in order for click and collect to run smoothly.

If your inventory isn’t completely reliable in real time just yet, you might try what Sur La Table recommended when I was searching for my new coffeemaker. Here’s the screenshot:

Cuisinart

If you’re not quite ready to display availability, you could skip the availability status and offer contact details to invite customers to check the status and reserve the item by phone. This allows you to confirm the inventory for them before they make a trip to your store. Click and collect is the definitely the ideal way to go; however, call and collect can be a nice alternative to promote your physical stores and still encourage a conversion from that online customer.

In addition to click and collect, consider offering free and easy in-store returns to make the purchase process even more attractive to customers. According to a survey by Retale, 64% of customers prefer in-store returns to shipping unwanted items back.

As we head into the new year, consider which omnichannel tools make the most sense for your business. Prepare to be an early adopter of these customer-focused tactics, and you’ll likely see a lift in both your online and brick-and-mortar business in 2017.