Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Omnichannel is the future of retail in a post-pandemic era

by Roxanna Larizadeh, Commerce Lead at Starcom

The retail industry has undergone a seismic shift. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers
around the world are living, working and buying differently. In just one week between March 9 and
16 2020, online shopping increased by 55% globally.

However, since the removal of COVID restrictions in the UK, customers have returned to stores. In
fact, 73% of overall retail sales will still be offline in 2023 (Forrester) and these numbers tell us a lot.
According to a YouGov survey in April, 69% of UK shoppers said they would continue in-store
shopping post-pandemic. And even though that same survey found that 21% of British shoppers said
they enjoy in-store shopping less now than before COVID, they continue to rely on in-store shopping
options for ease, speed, and community.

UK consumers have predominantly become omnichannel shoppers rather than pure online
shoppers. We use digital channels to inform ourselves, compare prices and availability, explore
shopping, delivery and pickup options – all of which augment offline experiences. In a post pandemic
era, many consumers have resumed to shop in store for some or even all of their shopping. We
value the in-store experience which typically provides a personalised, engaging immersion with
brands. We visit to touch or try the product and feel confident in our purchase decision or to engage
store associates for specific services. And we enjoy the convenience of the physical channel, which
allows for the real-time, immediate purchase (or return) of a good.

Given the benefits consumers reap from the omnichannel experience, ecommerce brands looking to
succeed in 2022 and beyond will be at the forefront of implementing personalisation tactics.
Personalisation isn’t just about capturing someone’s name or understanding the consumer’s
demographic, it goes well beyond that. Personalisation is about understanding consumer behaviour,
needs and purchasing habits.

In the second half of this year, we will see successful commerce brands using personalisation to
reduce friction in the buying process. Smart marketers will be using personalisation to not only
increase revenue but also to increase trust and usefulness. And the time is now. This is the time to
start thinking about how to not only maximise revenue this festive year but how to retain and grow
these existing and new customers the rest of the year. Digital recognition, product
recommendations and virtual stores and dressing rooms are to name a few technologies that
provide better personalised services for today’s omnichannel shopper.

When it comes to leading omnichannel retailers around the world, Nespresso is a great example.
The brand has taken a more unique approach to omnichannel retailing by choosing to expose only a
portion of its offerings across all available channels, while withholding certain products for more
selective mediums. While customers can purchase their coffee machines through a branded app,
website and third-party department stores such as John Lewis, their own-brand capsules are only
sold through Nespresso itself. By doing so, Nespresso brands its capsules as an “exclusive product”, a
strategy that sets it apart from competitors such as Starbucks and L’Or.

Nespresso is also placing a greater emphasis on boutiques as an integral part of their omnichannel
approach. In October 2021, the brand debuted its new experiential boutique concept in the UK at Bluewater shopping centre in Kent. This concept included a personalised augmented reality
experience which gave people the opportunity to immerse themselves in the stories, heritage and
expertise behind Nespresso coffees and understand how the capsules are recycled.

A great personalisation example in omnichannel retailing that we’ve done is delivering display
creative for a leading Consumer Electronics client across several of their product categories based on
interest, device and purchase stage. By understanding which stage of the consumer decision journey
a user is at, their interests, desired product and user’s devices, we were able to deliver tailored
creative at scale. We have also deployed personalisation tactics to help guide consumers in their
quest to buy the right products according to specific criteria. As such we successfully drove
improvements in the experience and conversion rates on our client’s direct-to-consumer website by
featuring a ‘Help Me Choose Tool’ for one of their product categories which allowed customers to
find the perfect device based on the price and features that were most important to them. This
feature has now successfully been extended to a different product category within the brand’s

Alongside the rise and importance of omnichannel retailing is the fact that by 2024, third-party
cookies will become a thing of the past. Most brands and retailers however are still somewhat
reliant on cookie-powered targeting to acquire customers, and these organisations need to urgently
consider how they will adapt to a cookie-free world. To succeed going forward, brands and retailers
will need to focus on customer relationship management (CRM) and real identity, optimising their
owned channels and delivering relevant, personalised customer experiences at the most opportune
times. They should consider the end of cookies as a great opportunity to engage with customers and
focus on capturing first-party data, which will prove far more valuable to them in both the short and
long term.

The holy grail of omnichannel is only mastered by a few, however it is the future of retail, and
brands will need to play catch up if they want to remain successful.

Firstly, brands need to understand that today’s consumers no longer adhere to one channel only – their purchases are made both in digital and brick-and-mortar shops and blending digital and in-store tactics will be key for brands to remain relevant.

Secondly, in order to thrive in this future, brands should personalise the experience for the
consumer, from creating made-to-order products to leveraging AI and technology and offering
strong in-store personal relationships.

Lastly, with the future demise of third-party cookies, brands should have a clear first-party data
strategy and optimise their owned channels to fuel closer relationships with their consumers.