If there’s one constant in the world of retail, it’s change. In 2023, we saw shifts in omnichannel retail trends, from marketers adopting Generative AI with full force and the rise of conversational commerce to, as always, customer expectations reaching record highs.
As marketers, it’s our job to adapt to these changes, harness the power of new technologies, and continue to deliver upon our promise to our customers — to deliver the right content, to the right person, at the right time.
Looking back at the developments we saw in 2023, it’s clear that 2024 will be no stranger to change either. In this blog post, we’re diving into four of the transformative trends that are reshaping the future of omnichannel retail.
The Importance of Omnichannel Retail Marketing
Why is omnichannel marketing critical for major retail brands today? It’s simple: modern shoppers expect seamless experiences across all platforms — online, in-store, and on social media. This is the new norm that the world’s most successful retail brands have adapted to and turned into a competitive advantage.
Omnichannel marketing isn’t just about being present on multiple channels. It’s about creating a unified, personalized experience that flows effortlessly from one channel to another. Can your customers start shopping on their phone and finish in your store without missing a beat? This seamless integration is key to building a cohesive brand experience that fosters loyalty and trust. In a competitive market, this is what sets you apart.
Trend 1. Seamless Omnichannel Experiences
In the fallout of the global pandemic, retail businesses who had closed their doors saw a surge in shoppers flocking to their e-commerce stores. When stores reopened, brands faced a new challenge — how could they keep the customers they’d acquired during the lockdown coming back? The answer was creating a seamless omnichannel customer experience, and in 2024, it’s even more important.
Consider this: The Omnichannel Difference Report by Forrester shows that only 41% of businesses are now putting the customer at the heart of their strategy, leveraging data to understand and prioritize their preferred channels.
The opportunity here is immense, and it’s time to bridge this gap.
Retail brands that invest in understanding and nurturing customers throughout their journey don’t just gain transactions — they build lasting relationships. This approach shifts the focus from acquisition to omnichannel customer engagement that makes customers feel seen and understood.
Gibson Guitars has taken this in their stride, crafting extraordinary omnichannel customer journeys. In this behind-the-scenes video, they reveal how they’re leveraging predictive intelligence and automation to craft tailored, personalized experiences for retail store partners.
Personalized Shopping Journeys are the New Normal
With near infinite touchpoints available in omnichannel retail, mapping your customers’ journeys is no walk in the park, but for brands willing to invest, the rewards are significant. According to findings in The Omnichannel Difference, each stage presents challenges and opportunities in equal measure.
- Pre-Purchase: 57% of your customers are struggling with your website and chatbots, highlighting the importance of effective, real-time engagement. Think about using interactive quizzes and gamification to turn frustration into fascination.
- Purchase: 40% of retailers struggle to deliver relevant product recommendations, and 32% are lost in optimizing pricing. The solution is clear: know your customers well enough to surprise them with what they love, when they need it, at prices they can’t resist.
- Post-Purchase: The customer journey doesn’t end at point of sale. Timely renewal reminders and loyalty programs are stumbling blocks for 41% and 27% of retailers, respectively. The key? Keep the conversation going and make your customers feel valued beyond the checkout with personalized, relevant engagements across their preferred marketing channels.
Emarsys helps retail brands overcome these challenges with powerful automation and segmentation capabilities that allow you to execute campaigns based on a full view of your customer, allowing you to personalize the customer journey at scale.
Online and Offline Experiences Need to be Integrated
The magic of retail marketing in 2024 lies in blending the online and offline worlds, allowing you to personalize customer engagements from storefront to sofa.
The secret to delivering upon these expectations lies in technology. With the right omnichannel customer engagement platform, you’ll be able to unify your customer, sales, and product data, connect your online and offline channels, and deliver a consistent, integrated experience, no matter where your customers choose to shop.
Think point of sale syncing with email marketing to deliver cross-sell automations based on in-store purchases, Web Channel seamlessly informing customers of in-store availability, or Mobile Wallet — a new channel available to Emarsys customers.
Mobile Wallet helps retail marketers bridge the gap between online and in-store. It enables you to reach mobile customers anywhere with relevant rewards and offers without needing an app, remove the friction of in-store identification, and close the loop on the digital-to-in-store experience.
Integrating Touchpoints to Deliver Enhanced Customer Convenience
In 2024, the path to purchase is as diverse as the customers themselves. You can no longer squeeze your customers into engaging through the channels that best suit you — instead, your strategy needs to adapt to engaging customers on their preferred marketing channels.
This shift in approach means offering flexibility like never before and letting customers dictate their journey, choosing how, when, and where they want to engage with your brand. Whether it’s ordering an in-store collection from a mobile app, asking questions via WhatsApp, or returning in-store purchases online, each channel must be readily available and responsive to their needs.
Simply offering a multichannel approach isn’t enough — when customers expect consistency and convenience, regardless of the touchpoint, the secret to success lies in weaving them together. This means synchronized in-store and online inventory, data-powered customer service, and promotions and automations that view each customer’s online and offline journey as a whole.
By focusing on what the customer wants and ensuring seamless integration of various touchpoints, brands can deliver a truly next-level experience.
Trend 2. AI-Driven 1:1 Personalization
Artificial intelligence hit the world of marketing fast, and at Emarsys, we’re harnessing it to empower marketers to deliver 1:1 personalized customer experiences.
In 2024, AI is no longer a tech daydream, but a powerful colleague ready to help us save time in execution and propel our customer experiences forward into the future. Some of the best omnichannel retail examples
Using AI for predictive analytics
If you told marketers in 2015 that you could accurately predict customer actions before they’re made, they’d ask you where you keep your crystal ball.
In 2024, AI makes predictive analytics a reality for anyone who has the required customer, sales, and product data to offer.
By analyzing vast amounts of this data — from app and web browsing habits to purchase history — AI can accurately predict future buying behaviors. This capability enables us as retail marketers to anticipate customer needs before they know they need them, and deliver hyper-relevant, personalized engagements in real time, exactly when they’re wanted.
The result? A more proactive approach to customer engagement, where brands can meet demands even before the customer explicitly expresses them.
Growing engagement with personalized product recommendations
As we touched upon earlier, our core goal as marketers is to know our customers and make them feel seen, understood, and valued.
By leveraging AI technologies to create personalized product recommendations based on past purchases, browsing behavior, and frequently bought products by other customers, we can build personal relationships with our customers that make them feel like they’re in-store, shopping 1:1 with an assistant — all from the comfort of their couch.
This level of personalization leads to a domino effect where everybody wins — more relevant recommendations engage customers better and foster loyalty, leading to customers spending more, more often.
AI-powered chatbots for customer support
Remember the last time you needed quick answers while shopping online and all you got was a static FAQ page, or a chatbot that ran you around in circles before telling you to submit a ticket? With AI chatbots for retail customer support, those days are gone.
The beauty of these chatbots lies in their uptime and availability. Customers shopping in the evening who have questions about returns policies and product sizing will no longer have to wait until business hours for a response, when the impulse behind their purchase will likely have left. They can get their answers in the moment, near-instantly, from an AI assistant that has access to all of their order data and browsing behavior.
Trend 3. Enhanced Technology Integration
With the advent of new technologies comes new ways of creating meaningful engagements that bring brands closer to their customers than ever before. For a deeper understanding and real-world examples of how these innovations are being applied, explore our detailed overview of omnichannel retail examples.
Internet of Things (IoT) in retail
Imagine walking into a store where the dressing room recognizes the items you bring in and suggests accessories or other sizes without you having to leave the room.
Or, picture a scenario where your refrigerator, connected to the internet, reminds you to replenish your groceries and directly places an order with your preferred retailer.
These aren’t futuristic fantasies — they’re real possibilities with IoT.
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the network of physical objects embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet. And they bring with them a world of opportunity.
IoT can help you keep pace with ever-shifting customer behaviors, optimize the in-store customer experience, and deliver personalization in ways that were previously inaccessible to retailers.
By coupling this new-age technology with retail locations, IoT is helping retailers make their physical locations digital hubs for engaging customers 1:1. This technology is becoming more accessible by the day, and it’s set to redefine the retail experience.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) applications
Applications of AR and VR have yet to become widespread, but we’re already beginning to see real-world applications of this with larger brands, with sunglasses brands offering virtual try-ons, and furniture stores allowing you to design your dream living space in-app.
AR in Retail: AR blurs the line between the digital and physical worlds. Imagine customers pointing their smartphones at a product in-store and instantly seeing real-world applications, or visualizing how a piece of furniture would look in their home before purchasing. Or, for clothing brands, AR mirrors that allow customers to try on clothes or makeup virtually, eliminating the need for physical trials. This not only saves time but also enhances the customer’s decision-making process with a touch of fun and innovation.
IKEA allows customers to use their smartphone cameras to design new rooms.
VR in Retail: VR takes customer engagement to a whole new level. It transports customers into a completely virtual environment, perfect for showcasing products that require a more immersive experience. Think virtual store tours, 3D product demonstrations, or even virtual fashion shows where customers can explore collections as if they were physically there. VR offers a unique way for customers to interact with products, deepening their connection to the brand.
Blockchain for supply chain transparency
Blockchain isn’t just for cryptocurrency anymore — it’s revolutionizing retail with crystal-clear supply chain transparency.
Imagine a world where customers can trace the journey of their purchase, from manufacture to delivery, with just a click. That’s blockchain in action.
For the eco-conscious shopper or luxury goods buyer, blockchain offers peace of mind by verifying the authenticity and origin of products. It’s like giving your customers a backstage pass to the entire process, building trust through transparency.
But it’s not all about customer reassurance. Blockchain also streamlines the finer details of retail supply chain management. Real-time tracking reduces loss, deters counterfeiting, and cuts down operational slip-ups. The result? Smoother operations, fewer delays, and happier customers.
Trend 4. Data-Driven Decision Making
As we head into 2024, leveraging data will be a vital cornerstone for brands that want to make informed, strategic decisions that resonate with their audiences.
Real-time insights for agile marketing strategies
Real-time data analytics provides a fascinating window into your customer’s world. You get to know what catches their eye, what excites them, and even what makes them click the Buy button. This gives you the analytics to know what’s working right now, and the insights to know what will work next.
Personalized email product recommendations driving results? You can scale it to new segments immediately. Geotargeted in-store offers not getting the results you’re looking for? Real-time insights give you the knowledge you need to quickly pivot your strategy.
Collaborative work between marketing and IT
Effective omnichannel execution in retail is increasingly dependent on the collaboration between marketing and IT departments. Research from The Omnichannel Difference backs this up, finding that companies are actively adopting both strategic and tactical approaches to enhance this essential partnership.
- Regular Interdepartmental Meetings (82%): A majority of surveyed companies have institutionalized routine meetings between marketing and IT. This practice ensures open dialogue about strategies, progress, and any challenges, fostering transparency and alignment.
- Agile Data Infrastructure (88%): To reduce dependency on IT and enhance agility, a significant number of surveyed companies are streamlining their data infrastructure. This move grants marketing departments more autonomy in accessing and using data.
- Shared Technology Platforms (86%): Most companies are also using technology platforms that serve both departments. This shared use promotes better understanding and efficiency in operations.
- Inter-Departmental Shadowing (85%): To cultivate mutual understanding, a large portion of organizations practice shadowing between departments. This initiative allows team members to gain insights into each other’s workflows and challenges, promoting empathy and collaboration.
- Joint Training Programs (51%): Over half of the businesses surveyed are implementing joint training for marketing and IT staff. This approach builds a common skill set and understanding, enhancing teamwork and collaborative capabilities.
- Leadership’s Emphasis on Collaboration (79%): Leadership plays a pivotal role in fostering this synergy. By underscoring the importance of Marketing-IT unity, leaders are ensuring that collaborative efforts are a top priority and ingrained in the company culture.
Omnichannel coordination and execution
Modern-day marketing sees many retailers scratching the omnichannel surface, but for many, customer-centric engagement across channels is still just out of reach. However, the incentive to make the leap is there, as The Omnichannel Difference reveals significant benefits for those mastering omnichannel execution, both in customer relations and operational efficiency:
- Increased Customer Lifetime Value (46%): Nearly half of surveyed firms report a rise in customer lifetime value, suggesting stronger, longer-lasting customer relationships through omnichannel approaches.
- Enhanced Customer Engagement (45%): Improved engagement levels indicate that customers respond positively to seamless experiences across channels.
- Higher Customer Retention (35%): The ability to retain more customers points to the loyalty-building effectiveness of integrated omnichannel experiences.
- Operational Efficiencies (36%): Firms are finding better ways to manage customer interactions across channels, leading to operational improvements.
- Sales of Higher-Margin Items (35%) and Increased Order Values (28%): Selling more premium products and achieving higher order values highlight customers’ willingness to spend more for superior experiences.
- Revenue Growth and Cost Reductions (25%): A balanced increase in revenue and decrease in costs underscore the financial efficiency of well-executed omnichannel strategies.
- Frequency of Purchases (32%): More frequent purchases from customers indicate ongoing engagement and commitment to brands offering cohesive experiences.
In their quest for omnichannel mastery, retail businesses are zeroing in on AI’s power to harness quality data and provide a crystal-clear, unified view of each customer.
The trend of sharing data across departments is picking up steam too, with 59% of businesses now on board with integrating insights from sales, marketing, and IT in a bid to break down data silos. Although just 29% of surveyed businesses have started this journey, it’s a clear nod towards a more collaborative future.
But here’s where it gets interesting — while some companies are diving into predictive analytics to glimpse the future, others are busy ensuring their current data is spotless. This split strategy highlights a crossroads in AI-enhanced data usage, with a balance between forecasting what’s next and perfecting what’s now.
Emarsys is the Top Choice of Retail Brands
Emarsys stands out as the preferred choice for retail brands looking to excel in today’s market. With its advanced retail marketing platform, Emarsys equips retailers with the tools to create personalized customer experiences, integrate data seamlessly, and leverage AI-driven insights for strategic decision-making.
Discover Emarsys’ Retail Platform and join the ranks of successful retailers transforming their customer engagement and achieving their business goals.