Time for QSRs to adopt an omnichannel customer engagement strategy

Aug. 28, 2012 | by Christopher Hall

Today's selling environment, whether it's in a big box retailer or a quick-service restaurant chain, increasingly calls for a consistent, omnichannel strategy that cuts across digital signage to mobile to online media and is consistent with the in-store experience, to engage with consumers.

According to a recent Wireless Ronin Technologies white paper, omnichannel retailing essentially means using a variety of communications technologies to maximize the customer experience — before it's too late:

International Data Corporation (IDC) defines an omnichannel retailing strategy as "enabling an organizational and technology framework for putting the customer at the center of a retail business strategy."

However, the growth of online/mobile information and commerce has many retail, auto and food brands finding challenges in maintaining a physical presence ... This strategy requires brands to embrace the various channels — both high-tech and no-tech — as part of the overall experience. The Harvard Business Review states that "...unless conventional merchants adopt an entirely new perspective — one that allows them to integrate disparate channels into a single seamless omnichannel experience — they are likely to be swept away."

One of the key elements, if not the primary one, in adopting a consistent omnichannel strategy is finding a platform that helps retailers or restaurateurs keep their messaging consistent across different channels and different devices, making sure that the message is updated consistently and that the channels aren't sending out conflicting messages, according to Jane Johnson, SVP of sales and marketing for Wireless Ronin.

"We talk to a lot of customers where that's their biggest challenge," Johnson said in a recent interview. "They have all this content they need to manage now, and they have one platform for their website, and they've got another platform for their tablet applications, another one for their mobile applications, and trying to keep that all synchronized is a big challenge for them."

Using technology, from self-service kiosks to mobile payments to in-store digital signage, increases the ways brands can interact with their customers, but it also increases the number of opportunities for brands to step on their own toes by providing conflicting, disparate messaging to consumers.

And it's not just about the relationships brands want to cultivate with consumers at a remove, via digital channels, according to Wireless Ronin:

Most think of the consumer technology framework in terms of how customers using computers and mobile devices are engaged through websites, social media and email campaigns. But the integration of a brand's physical location is emerging as one of the most important channels. The Harvard Business Review article states that reimagining stores as entertainment hubs with a variety of interactive displays will entice all segments of the family to visit more often and stay longer.

More and more in talking to customers and prospects, Johnson said, solution providers are seeing that retailers "are looking to give people reasons to come into the store" — and to buy once they're there, instead of using their space for "showrooming," or shopping in the physical space and buying online. Technology is playing a big part in getting the customer engaged in the store but also making sure that retailers don't lose the sale once the customer is in the store, say by using mobile payments to let shoppers or diners avoid long lines, using tablets to get associates out from behind the sales register, or using self-service kiosks to let customers help themselves, Johnson said.

"They are concerned about losing sales because people are going online and potentially going to a competitor," she said. "So how do they get them to come into to the store and want to come into the store and stay in the store? And so it's looking for interactive experiences that the consumer can have in the store."

Omnichannel is creating that customer engagement and experience, in the store, in the restaurant or in the showroom, she said.

"Research has shown that now people are simultaneously experiencing your brand across multiple channels at the same time," Johnson said. "It's a whole simultaneous interaction that they're doing while they're shopping, so that you need to make certain that your message is consistent."

Read more about customer experience.

Download the free Wireless Ronin Technologies white paper, "Maximizing the Customer Experience by Generating and Managing Simultaneous Customer Engagement," here on QSRWeb.com.

Topics: Customer Service / Experience , Digital Signage , Display Technology , Online / Mobile / Social , Operations Management , Systems / Technology

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