Mar 20, 2017 | By Alexa Wilcox

The omnichannel landscape in 2017

Group of people at Fenchurch Restaurant

In a gathering of app advocates, the app aware and the app curious, our first hosted event of 2017 saw retail heavyweights come together to discuss the growing importance of apps in an omnichannel strategy.

At the top of the famous ‘Walkie-Talkie’ building, looking out over the Sky Garden and London’s skyline, experts Martin Shaw, Head of Research at Internet Retailing, former House of Fraser CCO Andy Harding, and Poq’s CEO Øyvind Henriksen, were joined by representatives from leading brands in the retail space (most of which feature in the IRUK Top500).

Here are our key takeaways.

The app gap

Introducing Internet Retailing’s research on the UK’s top ecommerce and multichannel retailers, Martin Shaw shared the findings from the Mobile and Cross-channel Performance Dimension of the latest report.

Explaining why apps are included as a ranking indicator in the IRUK Top500, Martin explained that as a direct and personal channel to a consumer, apps are increasingly an essential component of the leading retailers’ offerings.

He highlighted that there is a growing gap between the retailers that are leading the way in the adoption of apps, and everyone else. With the early adopters introducing new features and functionality year on year, while the number of retailers in the UK Top500 with an app has not moved much alongside, those without an app are falling further behind the curve.

He also drew attention to the fact that having a poorly performing app is detrimental to a brand and was considered a negative in assessing a retailer’s position in the market, with 29% of those retailers with an app having notable bugs.

View Martin’s full presentation below.

Driving multichannel customer behaviour

Referring to his experience at House of Fraser, Andy Harding noted three key drivers in ‘going app’ in an omnichannel strategy.

Firstly, he identified that a retail app is a clear opportunity to drive conversion whilst engaging users with an optimised customer experience. Showing a clear correlation between engagement and customer satisfaction, he said, an app offers constant opportunities to evolve the ways in which customers can engage with your brand.

In addition to this, the ability to rise above the noise of email and text messaging, apps offer another communications channel, not just for marketing, but for order updates, and post-purchase messaging. App messaging is quick and easy to manage for the user and when used sparingly, generally welcomed by the consumer.

The real value of an app, concluded Andy, is to view an app as a remote control for engaging digital users in the physical store environment. Creating that seamless experience across multiple channels, apps encourage customers to seamlessly transact across channels resulting in higher customer satisfaction, and greater customer value than those transacting on an individual channel.

Stay ahead with SaaS

Andy also highlighted the differences between a bespoke agency-designed app, and a platform. With an agency, he said, you end up with a series of functionality based on what you’ve designed, which you can develop over time, although this won’t happen before you ask for it. He acknowledged that this has some advantages, but with a SaaS platform, you get constant development in line with consumer behaviour changes, from a specialist that is driving the market forward.

Poq’s CEO Øyvind Henriksen added to this by emphasising that a platform opens access to the wider network of cloud-based technology used by retailers. According to Øyvind, Software as a Service is only just getting started and the future landscape will offer an easier reality, featuring a fully integrated platform-based ecosystem which is easier to maintain and faster to innovate. Tying this into a seamless customer experience, he gave the example of checking stock availability, processing returns and taking orders through an app on the shop floor, instead of on a desktop in a corner of the store!

What lies ahead?

Staying abreast of the multichannel landscape, Martin will be researching the relationship between mobile website visits and app usage, and considering whether the release of an app in a territory drives or follows a retailer’s customer growth.

What is apparent is the need to keep up with and adapt to consumer behaviour, which all three speakers expressed as a key driver of app adoption.

App commerce does not just mean Android/iOS, stressed Øyvind, with apps applying to all new channels that surface. The best question to ask yourself is: “where are your customers spending 90% of their time and how do you connect your customer experience into that?”. At this point in time, that device is the mobile phone, but as time move on, this may shift to devices such as Amazon Echo or smart watches.

Naturally, AI received a hat-tip in the future forecast, with the technology predicted to have a huge impact on all industries in the coming years. One to keep an eye on!

Looking back at the retail landscape only 20 or 30 years ago, there were not even multiple channels to consider. The future offers a completely different world from the one most of us grew up in, and it’s our job to adapt to new channels and help define it.

Here at Poq, we believe that apps lie firmly at the centre of omnichannel strategy and that app commerce will very soon overtake ecommerce.

We’re planning to host a series of similar events throughout the year. Register your interest below.

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