When we say something is "omnipresent," we mean it is everywhere. Ironically, the term omnichannel commerce is everywhere today. We hear about it in sales meetings and read about it on marketing blogs. What does omnichannel commerce mean, and why should we care about it?
Omnichannel commerce addresses the changing demands of consumers. Today's shoppers expect a seamless retail experience regardless of the channel they use: website, mobile app, social media, or brick-and-mortar store. What emerged as a temporary tactic to support sales during the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed into a permanent strategy for businesses that want to remain competitive in today's market.
In 2021, the number of companies investing in omnichannel operations jumped from 20% to more than 80%. Therefore, it is crucial for retailers and consumers alike to understand this concept and embrace the challenges – and, more importantly, the benefits – of omnichannel commerce.
What is Omnichannel Commerce?
Omnichannel commerce leverages technological solutions, including Ombori Grid, to blend the physical and digital retail worlds. It allows businesses to connect with customers via a variety of platforms (laptop, mobile device, face-to-face, etc.) and provides them with an interactive shopping experience that translates into revenue.
It is most helpful to think about omnichannel commerce from the consumer's perspective – how they place an order, pay for it, and acquire it. Omnichannel solutions such as Ombori Grid focus on the customer's entire shopping experience across all channels – not just a single experience using one channel – and increase the opportunities for retailers to interact with customers throughout the shopping journey.
Omnichannel commerce promotes client interactions on multiple platforms: in-store; online; through a mobile app; on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.); via text, phone, or email; via online chat; or on a smartwatch or smart speaker. It also offers customers the ability to pay using cash, credit/debit card, PayPal, Android/Apple Pay, Mobile Wallet, etc. Additionally, it allows customers to make and acquire purchases in multiple ways, such as buying online and picking it up in-store or curbside, buying online and having the item shipped, or simply shopping in the store.
Today, nine out of ten consumers want an omnichannel experience with seamless service between communication methods. Therefore, businesses should focus on an omnichannel approach and adopt technology that integrates both online and in-store shopping elements.
Omnichannel vs Multichannel Commerce
It is important to understand the difference between multichannel and omnichannel commerce.
- Multichannel Commerce: In a multichannel arrangement, retailers have several ways to sell products to customers. For example, they may have both a brick-and-mortar store and an online presence, and clients can place orders through either method. Businesses can also interact with clients in several ways, such as in person or on social media.
- Omnichannel Commerce: Omnichannel commerce goes well beyond single-channel commerce and is a type of multichannel commerce. However, it offers customers a seamless experience across all channels. For example, it incorporates both online and in-store elements in a way that is easy for customers to use and for staff to maintain, thereby unifying the two platforms.
Why Customers Now Expect an Omnichannel Experience
In today's shopping environment, omnichannel commerce is no longer a preference – it is an expectation. Recent consumer trends reveal how this shift from preference to expectation has impacted retailers. According to a global survey,
- 74% of in-store shoppers who search online before going to a store say they search for something related to the store itself – proximity, location, in-stock items, hours, directions, wait time, and contact information;
- 51% of shoppers say they use Google to research a purchase they plan to make online ;
- 59% of shoppers say they use Google to research a purchase they plan to make in-store or online;
- 46% of shoppers check inventory online before going to a store;
- 70% of shoppers say the ability to shop in person is important when deciding which brand or retailer to buy from.
Based on this data, businesses that adopt an omnichannel approach are likely to increase customer satisfaction. By breaking down the walls between channels, the retailer empowers shoppers to interact with the business in a way that feels natural to them.
However, consumers are not the only ones to benefit from omnichannel commerce – retailers do, too.
7 Benefits of Omnichannel Commerce
Being reachable for customers at the channels of their preference is essential. Fortunately, retailers can profit from adopting omnichannel operations. Here are some of the primary advantages of using this approach.
1. Increased Traffic- The purpose of every business is to increase traffic both in-store and online. The best-case scenario is to capture the attention of prospective customers online and then prompt them to visit the store in person. These visits often result in impromptu purchases, driving sales. In fact, according to researchers, omnichannel strategies lead to an 80% higher rate of incremental store visits.
2. Higher Sales- To put it bluntly, omnichannel customers are better for business, and research shows they are more profitable than single-channel shoppers. According to Harvard Business Review, omnichannel consumers spend 4% more in-store and 10% more online than their single-channel counterparts. With every additional channel they use, omnichannel shoppers spend more money in the store.
3. Expanded Reach- Today, shopping is no longer a simple experience. It involves more than just creating a list, driving to the store, adding items to a cart, and paying for them at the checkout counter. As we continue to rely on digital solutions, younger generations have adopted a new mindset regarding shopping. Fortunately, an omnichannel approach allows businesses to connect with all generations.
For example, social media preferences vary by generation.
- Gen Z spends its time on YouTube, Instagram Feed, Instagram Stories, and Snapchat.
- Millennials spend their time on YouTube, Facebook Feed, and Facebook Stories.
- Gen X spends its time on YouTube, Facebook Feed, and Facebook Stories.
- Baby Boomers spend their time on YouTube and Facebook Feed.
By implementing a marketing strategy that touches all of these social media platforms, companies have an opportunity to capture the attention of all age groups and expand their brand to future generations.
4. Improved Retention Rates- Interestingly, identifying new customers is more costly to businesses than marketing to repeat customers. As a result, businesses tend to lean toward strategies that improve customer retention rates. Recent data shows that businesses that adopt omnichannel strategies see 91% higher year-over-year customer retention rates compared to businesses that do not. While retailers need to attract new customers, it is even more critical to retain the customers they already have.
5. Greater Customer Loyalty- Similarly, businesses rely on repeat customers for brand devotion – after all, customer loyalty is what drives profits. With dozens of shopping options available, both online and in-store, consumers often feel overwhelmed. Now, instead of looking around, they tend to remain devoted to the brands they already know and love.
At the same time, customers seek ease and simplicity. Omnichannel solutions provide this – they offer consumers the ability to shop according to their mood. When customers want to visit a store, they can; however, if they are in a rush and want to avoid the crowds, they can opt for online shopping, including two new options: buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) and buy online, pick-up curbside (BOPAC).
6. Upgraded Data Collection- In addition to attracting younger generations and retaining current customers, businesses can use omnichannel solutions to track shoppers over different channels and use that information to better serve them with a more personalized experience. Such data includes statistics related to website/in-store traffic, sales, advertising performance, etc., and can be used to evaluate which marketing strategies are most effective for specific customers.
7. Enhanced Customer Experience- Ultimately, better marketing leads to an enhanced customer experience. Today, people expect to pick up their mobile devices and instantly find what they are looking for. They do not think in terms of offline and online.
To them, a website, mobile app, social media outlet, and brick-and-mortar store are all the same: they provide a means for making a purchase. And a store is more than just a space to buy things; it is a place where customers can "experience" a product before purchasing it. To make the most of their shopping experience, businesses need to meet potential customers anywhere and everywhere.
Implementing an Omnichannel Approach
Adopting technology is the first step to implementing an omnichannel approach. Ombori Grid offers businesses several solutions to effectively bridge the physical and digital world. The system supports the seven fundamental principles businesses need to keep in mind as they market to consumers in a post-pandemic world:
- Design for multiple devices and channels
- Design mobile-first
- Design for integration
- Design for inconvenience
- Assume every process could be fragmented
- Communicate often and respect customer preferences
- Plan for continual change
Taken together, these tenets provide the basis for an effective retail strategy in an omnichannel market.