As consumers become increasingly more connected, so too will multiple shopping channels. The industry has dubbed this shift the "omni-channel" experience. Here's how, by embracing this approach, two brands significantly increased sales

Last year was what many proclaimed the year of the consumer. At no other time have consumers had more power to make or break a company. The rapid growth of digital channels is giving them greater access to and influence over a retailer's brand.

Retailers, meanwhile, have awakened to the fact that their brand isn't based just on the quality of their products but also on how their customers perceive and experience their products. The proliferation of the mobile device has further empowered consumers, enabling them to connect with retailers, competitors, and online communities with the swipe of a finger.

Ease of use, greater accessibility, and superior customer service—anywhere, anytime in a 24/7 digital world—all play a critical role in driving customer loyalty.

IBM recently surveyed more than 26,000 global consumers to better understand how they prefer to shop. Though 90% of consumers said they visited a physical store before making their last purchase, 35% of these shoppers were unsure whether they'd make their next purchase in a store or online. And 9% of in-store shoppers used a mobile device during their visit to compare prices and read customer reviews—a digitally savvy demographic that is on the rise.

When shopping, the modern consumer isn't limited to a single channel. Retailers are no longer just brick and mortar destinations; many now operate multichannel enterprises that allow customers to shop via websites, social, mobile sites, and mobile apps, opening the door to new ways retailers can engage customers, increase sales, and build loyalty.

However, the big challenge is delivering a seamless, unified brand experience across those channels. After all, building loyalty is hard when your brand is offering different prices and messages online than in the store for the exact same product.

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image of Neal Berg

Neal Berg is a senior consultant for customer experience strategy & design at IBM. He is responsible for leading and managing teams of business strategists, digital designers, technologists, and Web developers from concept through execution, as well as for managing senior client relationships.

LinkedIn: Neal Berg