Retailers Tell Us the Biggest Omnichannel Trends for 2020

Blog | 6 mins

Omnichannel retail is a dynamic space. With every year, new challenges—and solutions—appear based on consumer habits, new technology and new ecommerce (and brick and mortar) best practices.

In the past few years, we’ve seen a growing awareness of the need for broad omnichannel support to enable a seamless customer experience across devices, platforms, and brick-and-mortar retail locations. Major innovations were focused on helping retailers manage cross-channel shoppers, with a focus on consistent branding.

Looking ahead to 2020, we spoke to ecommerce retailers and surveyed the ecommerce landscape to pinpoint the following three major trends companies will focus on in the year to come. While many retailers are up and running with the basics omnichannel best practices, customer experience can still get better, especially for SMBs.

1. Striving for Superior Support

In 2018, $75 billion of business were lost due to customers switching because of bad customer service, according to NewVoiceMedia. That’s up $13 billion from 2016—omnichannel best practices simply haven’t kept up with customer expectations for support.

One channel that will get more attention in 2020 is live chat. While many big ecommerce retailers have adopted live chat, mid-sized and even small ecommerce companies need to take advantage. Why? At the end of 2018, HubSpot research found 90% of customers want immediate help with customer support. Live chat is one of the best options for satisfying that need—the satisfaction rate is 92%.

For SMBs, having a 24/7 service number may be impossible, but automated responses can be a way for customers to get instant support online. Now, you can set “human hours” where customers know they’ll reach a person, and offer a full range of FAQs and documentation through the chat interface when a service agent isn’t available.

And live chat can be implemented on any page at any part of the customer’s purchasing process. Theresa Sim, Partner at CRAFT Group and Digital Marketing Strategist for Ken and Dana Designs, says that giving customers a nudge at the right time is key for their customer service efforts going into 2020. “We are always testing the right moment (frequency, targeting) to inject ourselves into the customer’s journey to determine how we can help them. We’re focused on trying to answer some of those questions up front, and being as accessible as we can for our customers to easily and quickly reach out to us. ”

Whether it’s a product page, a pricing chart or at checkout, live chat can be the resource your customers need to feel confident making a purchase. In fact, customers who chat are more likely to purchase from you and more likely to spend more than those who don’t chat, according to live chat powerhouse Intercom.

Bain and Company found that companies could grow 4-8% above market rate from superior customer experience alone. There are many options for support, but live chat is now a flexible option for SMBs that need to tap into targeted support and 24/7 availability.

2. Perfecting Checkout

2020 is the time to finally get checkout up to speed. Checkout has traditionally been a point of frustration for customers, and cart abandonment at checkout has been a point of frustration for retailers. Why? Desktop checkout UX often requires too many steps, among other problems. And mobile checkout is still often inferior to desktop checkout and is clunky and awkward for shoppers.

The good news is that we know what to do about bad checkouts—the Nielsen Norman Group advised a full rundown of checkout best practices in 2019—and retailers need to implement them. Some key points that still aren’t being fully realized include:

  • Making it easy for users to navigate through more than a few pages while checking out.
  • Making it easy for shoppers to move back and forth between checkout steps.
  • Offering one-click checkouts for people who are logged in on your site if they choose to store their payment information.
  • Giving customers clear information about additional fees and shipping costs before checkout.

While best practices will get you started, keep your pulse on what your customers are frustrated by in terms of checkout. Ankit Parmar, Ecommerce Manager and Senior Data Engineer at Jennifer Furniture, recommends checking in with those on the front lines. “We conduct regular meetups with our sales team to try and streamline the majority of issues customers face during checkout.”

If you have a specialized or nontraditional sales model, checking in with customers is even more important. Theresa Sim says, “As a custom jeweler, though we are not a traditional ‘add to cart’ kind of shopping experience, we have nevertheless discovered that free shipping still matters to our customer.”

3. Connecting With Customers

In 2020, we will start to see more opportunity in augmented reality (AR) to forge and strengthen customer connections, especially as it has become easier for customers to access on smart devices. Mike Callender, Executive Chairman at REPL Group, says omnichannel retail needs to understand that “customers are looking for deeper relationships with the brands they engage with.”

AR connects customers more viscerally to products even when they can’t see them physically in a store. That makes it a superior tool of omnichannel retail, which aims to give consistent customer experience across digital and physical locations.

For retailers, it has the bonus of getting your offerings into a customer’s home and life without the shopper ever stepping out of their front door. They no longer have to wonder what that coffee table would look like with their couch; they can use AR to place it in their living room. That connection primes customers to be more partial to those products. Parmar says, “We believe there are more chances of customers moving forward with augmented reality experience and artificial intelligence. The important part amongst all is to build relationships and identify the needs of our visitors, even before they may start looking for a solution.”

Sites like Shopify are now offering AR options for vendors, and there are a number of options for businesses that want help adding alternate reality as a feature on their websites. These aren’t just digital features—AR has a place in brick-and-mortar as well. Take jeweler Helzberg Diamonds, who have a virtual try-on in their stores to let customers see any and every ring possible option “on” their hand.

Omnichannel experiences aren’t about pushing products to sell, they’re about a superior way to connect with customers, and a superior way to help customers find value in your products and services. The newfound accessibility of AR for even SMB retailers without large digital teams will do just that.

Continually Refining Ecommerce

There is still progress to be made in omnichannel retail, from streamlining ecommerce basics to taking advantage of new technology. While online shopping may be light years away from when it started, customer expectations raise with each innovation that gets rolled out. Companies that want to compete in the ecommerce space must continuously refine their ecommerce practices to keep up.

What new innovations will need to be implemented by 2021 may be a mystery, but any business that doesn’t nail their customer service, their checkout experience, and start to experiment with new technology will be scrambling to update their omnichannel experiences for customers.