So, which retailers are delivering on this promise in 2022?
— Pets at Home (@PetsatHome) July 5, 2020
Louis Vuitton was recently named as an ‘omni-leader’ in Newstore’s Omnichannel Leadership Report 2022. More specifically, it was recognised for its performance in the category of ‘Associate Enablement’, which is defined as ‘solutions or capabilities that make it easier for retail employees to provide omnichannel customer experiences.’
Walmart’s interactive stores
Since Stephen Langford joined as online director in June 2020, M&S has been on a mission to ‘turbocharge’ its online growth, implementing a number of omnichannel initiatives such as a new digital click and collect service, and the expansion of ‘brands at M&S’.
Walmart recently unveiled a new interactive store format in its incubator location in Springdale, Arkansas, as part of its efforts to improve its omnichannel offering. This follows on from last year’s redesign of 1,000 Walmart stores to enhance navigation (and create a digitally-enabled shopping experience).
Post-pandemic, there has been an increased demand for omnichannel retail, as consumers crave fast, easy, and frictionless retail experiences across channels.
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Pets at Home’s store network
Interestingly, alongside the live chat feature, Sephora also rolled out a same-day delivery service to its customers. By partnering with Delivery Solutions in the US and Canada, Sephora is now able to offer on-demand fulfilment, enabling customers to get their beauty items delivered with the same speed that they would groceries or other household items. With continued investment in both communication and fulfilment strategies, Sephora is able to create a seamless shopping experience for customers across channels – one that is designed to keep them coming back for more.
— Sephora (@Sephora) November 2, 2021
Four retail brands using live streaming to drive omnichannel strategy
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Alongside benefits of its VIP scheme – which include personalised offers and savings – fast and easy delivery is also key to Pets at Home’s omnichannel strategy. Its Click and Collect model and recently-expanded ‘Deliver from Store’ service enables Pets at Home to fulfil one third of all online orders through its store network, which the retailer says embeds “best-in-class fulfilment for customers and generating operational efficiencies relative to a fully centralised model.” As part of its ‘Deliver from Store’ model, Pets at Home has also successfully trialled a two-hour delivery service, adding to its already vast array of delivery or click and collect options for customers.
M&S’ live video consultations
With Walmart’s ecommerce sales on the up – seeing a rise of 8% for Q3 2021 and a whopping 87% on the past two years – the retailer is keen to ensure that its physical stores remain a vital part of the customer experience, and one that truly aligns with digital.
This new design involves ‘amplified corners’ where customers are encouraged to ‘touch, feel, and try’ products, ensuring that they are able to later buy online with confidence. Furthermore, Walmart is taking its ‘store within a store’ concept to another level, effectively highlighting its own and third-party brands that customers might overlook online. Digital elements also remain integral to the concept, with QR codes strategically placed throughout, in order to offer customers more information about key products.
Sephora is rated highly for its mobile app, which it uses to drive personalised omnichannel experiences, such as booking in-store appointments and offering recommendations based on both in-store and ecommerce interactions.
According to CI&T’s Connected Retail report, 68% of consumers intentionally seek out retailers that offer omnichannel experiences, with convenience (and a shopping path that requires the least effort) being the main driver of channel choice.
Louis Vuitton’s in-store tech & AI
M&S is surely hoping that live shopping will further capture the attention of online shoppers in previously dwindling categories including clothing and homeware. Sales of these categories are on the up, increasing by 3.2% in the 13 weeks leading up to January 1st 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels, driven by a 50.8% overall leap in online sales. Live streaming – which McKinsey predicts could account for as much as 10% to 20% of all ecommerce sales by 2026, enables retailers to combine aspects of the in-store experience, such as customer service, with elements of ecommerce such as ease and convenience.
Intent on enhancing this personalised customer experience, Louis Vuitton owner LVMH forged a strategic partnership with Google Cloud in 2021 to tap into its AI capabilities. “AI will increasingly touch every part of the operation at LVMH, from product development to the supply chain and interactions between employees and customers,” said the companies in a statement. This involves enhancing demand forecasting and inventory optimisation, and understanding the customer better in order to elevate CX through personalisation.
The latest initiative is ‘M&S Live’ – a live shopping service that enables customers to join live broadcasts hosted by experts, where they can view product demonstrations, ask questions, and buy anything featured. M&S Live launched with a broadcast centred around its Goodmove activewear range, and featured yoga teacher and health coach, Rosie Underwood, alongside M&S head of lingerie design, Soozie Jenkinson. According to the retailer, initial trials generated positive feedback from customers, with an average dwell time of over 75%.
Sephora’s live chat & same-day delivery
Pets at Home is another retailer generating success from omnichannel investment, with omnichannel revenues rising 16.7% year-on-year for Q4 2021. Total group revenues also rose 5.8% year-on-year. This growth has partly been driven by the Pets at Home VIP Club loyalty scheme, which saw a 13% rise in active subscriptions to reach seven million members. According to the retailer, this group of consumers regularly shops across channels, with 27% of all VIP Club members buying across more than one channel during Q4 2021, up 18% year on year.
Uberall’s Kimia Meshkinyar: “omnichannel is the future of commerce”
Last year, Sephora relaunched its live chat function on the app, now known as ’Live Beauty Help’, which recreates elements of in-store customer service. For example, it offers expert product advice, application tutorials, and ultimately, helps to facilitate a seamless path to purchase regardless of the channel that the customer eventually chooses to purchase from. Sephora also says that the chat function is a by-product of the pandemic, as it provides greater flexibility for beauty agents to work from home or work non-traditional hours (rather than rigid working hours in-store).
For Louis Vuitton, this involves equipping store associates with the right technology to blend the power of digital sales with in-store customer service. As Newstore notes, however, “they are no longer just sales professionals, though—they are brand ambassadors and style influencers who support each service across the customer journey.” This, too, is what defines Louis Vuitton as a luxury brand, with LVMH’s chief financial officer, Jean Jacques Guiony, insisting that customers will continue to head to stores due to the experience they receive.
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Walmart’s most recent concept, called ‘Time Well Spent’, is centred around ‘amplifying the physical, human and digital design elements’ in stores, which it says aims to inspire customers and elevate the overall experience, and ultimately, make them want to spend more time in physical locations.