As retail moves from traditional brick-and-mortar storefronts to mixed models, concepts like omnichannel commerce are becoming more and more relevant. Businesses that take full advantage of the many ways that customers shop today tend to be more successful and more likely to thrive over time.
While 64% of Americans still prefer to buy in person or in-store compared to online, that may be changing. Millennials, for example, now make up 60% of online purchases. As those individuals become the driving force in the economy, having an effective online presence will be critical. In addition, even those who are purchasing in-person will also research online before they buy—88% of consumers do some research before they purchase, regardless of whether they are online or in-person.
Due to the connectivity between an in-person and online presence, having a cohesive feel across each connection you have with a client is important. The concept of omnichannel commerce (sometimes spelled omni-channel) addresses this cohesiveness.
The Basics of Commerce Channels
When discussing commerce, the term “channels” refers to the various ways that a business sells products or services to a client. They are a crucial part of the overall customer journey.
Single Channel Commerce
In single-channel commerce, there is only one way that customers can purchase products from a business. If you run an online store, for example, customers can only buy your products online. If you have a brick-and-mortar store with no other option to purchase goods or interact with customers, clients must come to your establishment to complete their purchases.
In this type of arrangement, you have several ways that you can sell products to your customers. For example, you may have both a brick-and-mortar store and an online store, and clients can place orders through either method. You can also interact with your clients in several ways, such as in-person and on social media.
Omnichannel commerce goes well beyond single-channel commerce and is a type of multi-channel commerce. Without multi-channel, there is no omnichannel. However, it is much more in-depth compared to multi-channel marketing.
What Does Omnichannel Mean?
The omnichannel sales approach provides clients with a seamless shopping experience, regardless of their shopping method—in-person, from a desktop, on a mobile device, and even via phone. The look and feel are not only similar but customer information is also shared and accessible, no matter which shopping method the customer chooses to use. This is really the distinguishing factor between omnichannel and multi-channel.
Omnichannel is a multi-channel sales approach that integrates the customer experience across every platform that the customer might touch as part of the sales process.
What is Omnichannel Marketing?
Omnichannel marketing focuses on delivering a consistent message and experience among every platform that the customer sees. It uses the customer’s perspective and interests to optimize their experience and consistency of the overall marketing messages. It provides interpersonal interactions through:
- Social media
- E-commerce purchases
- Direct sales staff
- Customer success managers or customer service representatives
- Direct mail
- Print advertisements
- Curbside pickup
- And any other way that a company connects with its customers
According to a study by Harvard Business Review, 73 percent of customers will use multiple channels to move through their purchase journey. As customers work through the sales funnel, omnichannel marketing simply sets out that each customer's experience with your brand will be consistent, regardless of how that message is delivered.
Tailored marketing and consistent branding and messaging are the ultimate goals of omnichannel marketing.
What is Omnichannel Retail?
Omnichannel retail (or omnichannel commerce) is similar to the general concept of omnichannel marketing, but it also has some key distinctions. It reaches customers wherever they are—in the store, on social media, online marketplaces, etc. Each touchpoint has a consistent message and personalization.
Unlike other business formats, retail locations face the unique task of often offering products both in-person and online. For the retail space, the challenge is ensuring that every platform provides the same message. Unlike other businesses that operate exclusively online, delivering a consistent message and experience, no matter where the customer is shopping, is a huge challenge for those in the retail space.
In a survey done by Periscope in 2016, 78 percent of retailers admitted that there was no single brand experience across their channels. Today, those numbers are better, but some industries lag behind others. Unfortunately, those who are falling behind are not meeting current customer expectations—and their bottom line will feel that disappointment.
What Are the Benefits of Omnichannel Retail Marketing?
Meeting Changing Customer Demands
Just over 15 years ago, the average customer used two touchpoints when buying an item. At that point, only about 7 percent of customers used more than four touchpoints. Today, customers use an average of six touchpoints on every purchase. Roughly half of the customers use more than four touchpoints.
These statistics all point to the realization that single-channel commerce simply may not work any longer. Instead, customers expect to be able to interact with you and your business in a variety of ways, long before they make a purchase.
Meeting Customer Expectations
When surveyed by UC Today, 9 out of 10 customers reported that they wanted seamless service between each communication method with a business. Another 73 percent of customers expect that a company will know their purchase history regardless of how they contact the company.
Only the omnichannel commerce or retail method delivers on this type of customer expectation. Having multiple inconsistent channels will confuse and frustrate customers, rather than giving them a good overall experience.
Increase Sales and Traffic
In a survey of 46,000 shoppers, omnichannel customers spent more than shoppers reacting to a single-channel model. They spent an average of 4 percent more on each shopping occasion and 10 percent more online. In fact, with each additional channel added, the customer spent more in the store.
If businesses want to boost sales, adding several additional touchpoints to interact with the customer is the best way to do it. Further, when customers have an omnichannel experience, rather than a simple multi-channel experience, customer satisfaction rates increase in addition to sales.
Creating Repeat Customers
In the same study of 46,000 customers, Harvard Business Study found that if the customer had an omnichannel shopping experience, they were 23 percent more likely to repeat a shopping experience within six months. In addition, the likelihood that these customers recommended products to family and friends increased as well.
Omnichannel commerce often creates a “story” along with your brand. If that story is compelling and seamless, customers will keep coming back for more. That also means that the business can cut down on “gimmicky” sales and promotions—customers want to come back because they like the engagement with your brand.
Better Data Collection
Omnichannel retail tracks customers across several platforms. By doing this additional customer research, a business can understand their target customer better—and create a better experience for that person.
Ultimately, the omnichannel commerce experience not only makes the customer experience better but also collects information that you can use to ensure that the customer experience keeps improving.
Creating an Outstanding Customer Experience through Omnichannel Commerce
Businesses should not just create a marketing channel for the sake of creating a marketing channel. Instead, they need to strategically place themselves where their target audience will be. Knowing that information can be challenging, and it will require some research into customer habits and preferences.
Many retail businesses make the mistake of assuming that they know what their customer wants and why. However, actually talking to customers and getting their feedback on marketing efforts can shed light on unexpected problems in current marketing strategies. Talking to customers to discuss their interests, behavior, and preferences can go a long way to create an effective omnichannel retail experience.
You can ask questions in several ways. You might want to try:
- Formal customer surveys
- Informal conversations in person
- Polls on social media
- Social media and website analytics and tracking
Once you determine how your customers want to connect with your business, you can start to develop different types of content for each touchpoint.
For example, you may have a specific email or phone number for questions. You might have a Twitter account that only provides news and updates. You might send out emails with specific promotions and information about your brand. Whatever channel you decide to use, be sure that it has a purpose, and not every message is exactly the same—you want consistency, not canned or duplicative information.
At Ombori, we offer several ways to connect with your customers. Adding these additional touchpoints can be a great way to meet client expectations and make their experience even better than expected.