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Retail brands now face rising expectations to deliver omnichannel customer experiences

Brian Lannan, vice president of retail experience at Avtex, discusses how to build a strong omnichannel retail strategy.

Across retail segments, the last two years have been a roller coaster ride. Prior to the pandemic, many customer journeys were carried out across a singular channel. Customers selected the path — online or in store — that worked for them and followed it through to purchase and fulfillment. This was especially true in retail pharmacy, where customers have historically been presented with two options: brick-and-mortar stores and mail order prescription services. 

The pandemic has rewritten these well-worn customer pathways completely. As digital capabilities have evolved and fulfillment expectations have changed, retail brands now face rising expectations to deliver omnichannel customer experiences that predict and adapt to each customer’s needs. 

What is omnichannel retail?

Omnichannel retail represents an integrated approach to customer engagement that focuses on enabling customers to navigate a singular customer journey through a variety of different channels, including the physical store, social media, the web, phone, text chat and more. 

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There is no one-size-fits-all solution to omnichannel success. In every retail subsegment — including retail pharmacy — there are key nuances that will dictate which channels and digital solutions actually benefit the customer and which ones will lead to unnecessary confusion and frustration.  

The first step in your omnichannel transformation: Mapping out the customer journeys

Customers come to pharmacies for many different reasons. There’s the obvious reason, prescription drug pickup, as well as over-the-counter medication and health and beauty products. But sometimes customers also pop in for a quick snack or to schedule and receive an annual flu shot. As you can imagine, each of these reasons results in a very unique customer journey. 

The key to delivering a strong omnichannel retail strategy lies in the data. Customer data provides the underlying insights retailers need to learn about existing customer preferences and behaviors. Armed with these insights, retailers can more confidently map each type of interaction to the right channels and messages to facilitate that journey. Without these critical insights, retailers run the risk of delivering disjointed experiences that can lead to user friction, frustration and, ultimately, abandonment. 

“The pandemic has rewritten these well-worn customer pathways completely.”

As a result, the best place to start is mapping out your brand’s current state — including the existing journeys, motivations and customer segments that are most common for your brand. For example, once you know how customers investigate and purchase things like baby Tylenol versus the flu shot, it becomes much easier to decide which digital and in-person road maps can be woven together to facilitate those journeys. Only when the digital, in-store and human elements of the customer experience are unified and working together can brands achieve the retail Holy Grail: engaging customers in the moments that matter — wherever that moment is taking place.

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There are a few different best practices to consider when it comes to creating a powerful 360-degree customer profile and journey mapping engine that can generate these sorts of game-changing insights:

  1. Maximize data capture processes: Make sure you have the right technology and processes to capture customer data and journey analytics as accurately and efficiently as possible; 
  2. Unify data management in your tech stack: Ensure you can easily identify where valuable customer data lives and how you can bring it all together to create a more complete picture of the who, what, where, when and why of each interaction; and
  3. Read between the lines: As supporting tools, Voice of the Consumer exercises and customer journey safari exercises can help uncover the unique challenges or frustrations your customer data may be hiding. 

While the deployment of new channels, personalization and automation capabilities play an equally important role in omnichannel retail success, first and foremost it’s a challenge of customer understanding. Starting with the right research steps up front can save valuable time, energy and frustration later on. Once you have this first phase complete, it will help validate every decision your team makes going forward.

Brian Lannan, Avtex

Brian Lannan, vice president of retail experience at Avtex

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