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The path to purchase is rarely a straight shot. Research indicates 90% of tech users switch between an average of three devices a day to complete a task – and that doesn’t count attention spent on offline resources like print media, outbound ads, and storefronts. What do these consumers want? Ideally, seamless engagement, consistent messaging, and the ability to control the purchase process based on their own needs, availability, and preferences. It's no surprise that social media marketers commonly make mistakes.

Companies pulling these channels together for a holistic buying experience stand to gain a huge piece of a projected $1.8 trillion in cross-channel sales. More than that, brands employing the strategy retain 89% of customers, compared to only 33% for retailers with a weak omni-channel presence. To better understand what’s involved, we examined how nine leading brands are revolutionizing the customer experience.

1. Sephora

Featuring nearly 300 personal care and beauty brands in approximately 2,300 stores worldwide, Sephora is the mecca of make-up. What could be an otherwise overwhelming shopping experience – searching for just the right shade, sniffing your way to the perfect perfume – is brilliantly streamlined through Sephora’s omni-channel initiatives.

In-store, the company builds relationships with customers by offering beauty workshops, complimentary makeovers, and touchscreens for efficient product testing. Sephora’s guests can also log into their “Beauty Bag” account to view shopping history, scan items in-store, watch tutorials, find nearby locations, track rewards, virtually “try on” products, create wish lists, read product information, and purchase items.

Sephora makes it easy for customers to buy what they want, when they want, and every click helps the company shape future marketing efforts. Given that Sephora’s 10 million registered members spend 15 times more money on Sephora.com than the average customer, the integrated approach is clearly paying off.

2. Nordstrom

At the heart of omnichannel marketing is shopper convenience, and Nordstrom certainly nails it. Social media integrations on Instagram and Pinterest make it easy for users to click on a posted photo and be taken directly to the product page on Nordstrom’s website. There, they can order online or check store availability.

The store’s website and app also make it easy to schedule complimentary, in-person appointments with a stylist. And whether shopping online, in-store, or at outlet locations, Nordstrom customers receive seamless access to loyalty rewards and service.

3. Starbucks

A coffee shop is as brick-and-mortar as it gets, but Starbucks pushed the boundaries by going digital, too. Particularly attractive to tech-savvy, time-starved coffee drinkers, the Starbucks app makes it possible to avoid lines by ordering in advance. Use the mobile app to peruse the menu, specify any drink customizations, and view estimated prep time.

Every time a customer pays with a Starbucks card -- which can be accessed by app, website, phone, or cashier – rewards accumulate, and all information gets updated in real-time across all channels. The app also allows customers to locate nearby stores, send gift cards, view the menu, even identify what song is playing in-store and save that song to a personal Spotify account.

This integration of physical and digital makes Starbucks not just a coffee shop, but an experience consumers crave. In fact, more than 19 million U.S. customers now use the Starbucks app, and nearly 30 percent of company sales are generated through it!

4. Crate & Barrel

Mobile totes are the new shopping carts at trendy home furnishings retailer Crate & Barrel. Tablets enable customers to search for products and view real-time inventory. In addition, as shoppers peruse the store, they can scan barcodes to see product specifications, read reviews, and add items to their shopping lists. Head to the Mobile Tote checkout line, and an employee will even gather selected items for purchase.

That’s not the end of the journey for Crate & Barrel guests, though. Should a visitor not make a purchase in-store, they can opt to e-mail their wishlist to themselves. In that case, a cookie-based model allows Crate & Barrel to follow-up with personalized banner ads fostering continued interaction. In addition, as digital customers log in to the site, browsing data and shopping cart information becomes available across various channels, making it easy for someone starting a purchase on a desktop to finish by smartphone.

5. Neiman Marcus

Shoppers who seek an elevated experience will find it at Neiman Marcus. The company pores over analytics to create marketing that gets smarter every time a customer engages. For instance, the website is configured to remember size preferences from past searches and use geolocation to feature items available in nearby stores. In addition, new arrivals known to be of interest to the customer and information on local store events are woven into email marketing and direct mail campaigns, adding to the VIP feel.

The luxury brand incorporates technology into store visits, too. Shoppers can use the “Memory Mirror” to record 360-degree videos of themselves trying on clothing and save to the mobile app to view later. The company’s app even allows users to upload a photo of an item they like and view all similar items available at Neiman Marcus. The Snap-Find-Shop feature sifts through 25 different product traits to return the best results for immediate purchase.

6. Value City Furniture

Not many consumers buy a couch without first sitting on it. Choosing furniture is a somewhat emotional, decidedly physical venture. Value City Furniture gets it. The company’s “Easy Pass” platform connects the dots by inviting consumers to create a shopping list online and head to the store, where a sales associate will pull up the list and show visitors their selections. Customers starting in-store can also create a digital wishlist, receiving valuable decision-making information like product dimensions and photos, and even the contact info of the sales associate they met by e-mail.

Throughout the process, Value City nurtures the customer relationship through in-store e-mails and automated abandoned cart follow-ups. In fact, within a few weeks of launching the new effort, Value City captured 283% more abandonment revenue, 190% more in overall email revenue, and a 55% increase in shoppers reached.

7. Disney

The most imaginative brand on earth, no surprise that Disney brings the magic to marketing, too. The “My Disney Experience” is a one-stop portal connecting every detail of the theme park excursion. Typically linked to a wearable MagicBand, the account’s beacon technology allows guests to unlock their hotel rooms, board shuttles, check-in at attractions, and effortlessly handle on-site purchases, among other things.

“It’s amazing how much friction Disney has engineered away,” Wired Magazine says of the endeavor. “There’s no need to rent a car or waste time at the baggage carousel. You don’t need to carry cash, because the MagicBand is linked to your credit card. You don’t need to wait in long lines. You don’t even have to go to the trouble of taking out your wallet when your kid grabs a stuffed Olaf, looks up at you, and promises to be good if you’ll just let them have this one thing, please. This is just what the experience looks like to you, the visitor. For Disney, the MagicBands, the thousands of sensors they talk with, and the 100 systems linked together…turn the park into a giant computer — streaming real-time data about where guests are, what they’re doing, and what they want. It’s designed to anticipate your desires.”

Creating seamless touchpoints is what omni-channel marketing is all about, and Disney does it beautifully.

8. Amazon

Amazon is quickly developing a comprehensive picture of consumer behavior and preferences and using that data to engage with customers on an intimate level. Whether acquiring physical stores, like Whole Foods, or pushing into the entertainment industry with Amazon Originals, the company routinely experiments across channels to find what works and what doesn’t.

One recent win is the company’s Alexa-enabled devices, which enable customers to speak an order into existence and see it on their doorsteps in two days – or in some cases, one hour. Wi-Fi connected Dash buttons make reordering common household supplies as easy as…well, pressing a button. And nearly every aspect of a family’s day can now involve Amazon: sharing wish lists online, streaming music, watching TV or playing video games through the Amazon FireStick, ordering groceries, and even being fashion-fitted with the new Prime Wardrobe service.

No matter the device, Amazon is uniquely embedded in customer lives, and as the world’s biggest online retailer, the company is obviously doing something right.

9. Old Navy

This summer, value apparel brand Old Navy formally rolled out its omnichannel marketing strategy. The integration of digital and brick-and-mortar shopping proved successful in small-scale testing, so the company is now expanding efforts across the U.S. and likely to the brand’s portfolio of other brands, which include Gap, Banana Republic, and Athleta.

A major advance for Old Navy’s online customers is the ability to check store availability of items, and select a “buy online, pick-up at store” option for an altogether quicker shopping experience. Store signage points visitors to a designated online order counter for easy pick-up.

Conversely, in-store shoppers now receive the benefit of mobile checkout capabilities. Handheld devices equip employees to provide more immediate service, even using new technology to ship out-of-stock items directly to the customer.

“It’s not just about transactions; it’s about meeting expectations,” Old Navy’s Senior Vice President Blair Dunn said.

Indeed, successful omnichannel marketing puts the customer’s needs at the center and keeps their attention wherever they are. In fact, this kind of highly-personalized, unified shopping experiences will soon be the norm. Is your brand up for the challenge?

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Get more engagement from your user generated content—and turn social media into real ROI.

social roi

Get more engagement from your user generated content—and turn social media into real ROI.