Connected Commerce Delivering On Omnichannel Promise

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The digital shift is rippling across channels, with buying journeys that often start on smartphones and conclude at curbside, as buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS), delivered to the door or in-store.

PYMNTS September Commerce Connected Playbook: Omnichannel Edition, done in collaboration with Fiserv, examines the new digital purchasing pathways that are leading inevitably to transactions that delight customers and are profitable for business.

Surging usage of digital payments and digital channels marked the year of COVID, bringing together isolated consumers with essential supplies and hot meals. It also brought payments preference forward as perhaps the most powerful loyalty tool now available.

“The health crisis is notably altering consumers’ preferred payment methods and many merchants are innovating to cater to them. Interest in contactless mobile wallet-enabled payments is such that 48 percent of consumers in one recent study said they would no longer shop at physical stores that did not offer contactless payment options. Businesses have understandably been eager to adjust their operations with this in mind, with 67 percent of SMBs in the same study saying that they have altered their payments approaches since the pandemic’s onset,” according to the September Commerce Connected Playbook.

Touchless Becoming Table Stakes

With nearly half of consumers saying they won’t shop at physical stores anymore that don’t offer touchless payment options, it’s put up or close down for thousands of businesses.

Noting the swiftness of change after the pandemic was declared in March, Fiserv Senior Vice President and Head of Global Digital Commerce Nandan Sheth told PYMNTS that merchants are doing their own shifting, trying to adapt to consumer behavior that’s leading the way.

“This adaptation includes merchants embracing a significant evolution in how consumers expect to interact at the point of sale. As shoppers sought out new ways to purchase goods in an entirely touchless manner, businesses began enabling integrated buying experiences that better connect digital purchasing to the physical world,” Sheth said. “At Fiserv, we have seen this include scan-and-go payments at large grocers, ‘buy online, pickup in store’ services across countless retailers, new use cases for voice- enabled commerce and new applications for merchants to leverage QR code-based payments to engage customers.”

He added that “it has … clear that there is a spike in consumer adoption of digital payments related to [the health crisis and] it is even clearer that the pandemic has been a jumping-off point for merchants to deliver more robust omnicommerce experiences well into the future.”

Mastering Omnichannel Psychology

Some of the transition underway is psychological, and not all on the part of consumers. Businesses too must decide where they fit and how to connect to omnichannel commerce.

Joan King, senior vice president of eCommerce for furniture and home goods retailer Crate and Barrel, recently told PYMNTS that consumers no longer anticipate different experiences based on where they shop or how they pay. Retailers must therefore focus on offering smooth service regardless of channel. Creating a robust omnichannel experience thus means retailers must stop thinking about various commerce channels as separate.

“Customers are definitely expecting that there is no difference in service when they shop and transact on different channels,” King said. “There is less and less tolerance [among customers] for having different policies in-store versus online, or different prices in-store versus online.”

For example, more than 40 percent of Crate and Barrel’s furniture sales were made online prior to the pandemic, but the crisis prompted changes in user behavior. “It was important to analyze how well customers can navigate [the] website to purchase large-ticket items,” King said.

That thinking is starting to permeate companies that survived the devastating events of 2020.

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