Omnichannel is the latest buzzword for brands when considering their customers, and it has complex implications in particular for the high-tech/electronics industry.
Literally meaning "all channels," omnichannel is more than just a fly-by-night concept. Companies are facing increased pressure and demand from consumers to transform the traditional shopping experience into one that transcends dimensions and challenges traditional expectations. While familiar to the high-tech/electronics industry, this trend is permeating all aspects of the experience, from browsing to purchases to making a return. Consumers want access to a seamless cross-channel shopping experience that tests the capabilities and innovation of high-tech/electronics manufacturers and developers. This, coupled with the short product lifecycles of high-tech/electronics products, creates an environment of significant challenge and opportunity.
The UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study conducted in early 2013 by comScore highlights what customers want from their pre-purchase, purchase, delivery, and post-sales (or reverse logistics) experiences, revealing that mobile and social platforms are increasingly influencing consumers' preferences, behaviors, and expectations.
According to the study, in a typical three-month period, half of online shoppers who use a smartphone and nearly 60 percent who use a tablet make purchases on these devices. And seven out of 10 online customers use a digital channel to purchase a product like a new cellphone, computer, or gaming console when there are multiple purchasing options. Most significantly, additional comScore data shows that, in the last quarter of 2012, online sales of mobile phones and portable devices themselves were more than 40 percent higher than in 2011, making digital devices and channels an important area of focus and growth for the industry.
The growth of e-commerce, along with shopping from mobile devices, is aimed at simplifying the shopping experience for customers buying that new phone, computer, or tablet, but it can complicate things for high-tech/electronics companies -- especially when you keep in mind how important the fundamentals of the shopping experience remain in the mind of the shopper.
Along with increased demand for an omnichannel experience, consumers continue to value an easy checkout process (81 percent), a variety of shipping options (73 percent), and ease of returns/exchanges (62 percent). It's important for high-tech/electronics companies to bear these essentials in mind when building their omnichannel offering, along with their shipping and reverse logistics plans.
Having a robust reverse logistics plan is vital for the high-tech/electronics industry, where products have a high value and can often be refurbished or recycled to regain some of that value. The ability to return an item in-store or have free return shipping encourages 81 percent of the online shoppers to make a purchase when debating completion. Electronic equipment is one of the top products returned by consumers, so having a flexible and convenient return policy is important.
The capacity to cater to the ever-evolving expectations of the modern phone, computer, or tablet customer is becoming essential to success and a differentiator among competitors. As emphasis on the omnichannel experience grows, incorporating these priorities into the electronics purchasing experience will be increasingly important.
Even more so, the recovery and gradual shift of the economy back to a consumer-driven market will place a greater focus on the ability of the high-tech/electronics manufacturing industry to keep pace with these trends.