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    Omnichannel. You’ve probably heard and read this buzzword many times. In your sales meetings, on your favorite marketing blog. Occasionally, you might even drop the word yourself.  

    But when the word is everywhere, it can get confusing what people actually mean by it.

    In this blog post we'll answer the question 'what is omnichannel?' once and for all.

    And explain the difference between omnichannel, multichannel and single channel commerce.

    Find out what omnichannel means for your business today - and in the future.

     

    What is Omnichannel Commerce?

    Omni-channel retail (or omnichannel commerce) is a multichannel approach to sales that focus on providing seamless customer experience whether the client is shopping online from a mobile device, a laptop or in a brick-and-mortar store. 

    According to Harvard Business Review, 73 percent of all customers use multiple channels during their purchase journey. Only when the customer has gathered as much information as possible from a variety of sources to support their purchase decision, will they decide to buy from a retailer. 

    Omnichannel operations focus on the entire customer experience—not the customer’s individual experiences on different channels.

     

    What is The Difference Between Omnichannel and Multichannel?

    Let's break the terms down one by one: 

    • Single-channel commerce means you're selling your product via one sales channel only. This could be your brick-and-mortar store, your web shop or an online marketplace like eBay. This alone can work perfectly well. But, if you want to give your customers a richer experience with your brand,  it's wise to look into additional channels where you can sell your product. 
       
    • Multichannel commerce sells your product to your customers on different channels, both online and offline. You interact with your customer via social media, by phone and in your physical store. Your online presence is on point and your customers know where to find you. Multichannel is already a great strategy to get people engaging with your brand.
       
    • Omnichannel commerce takes place on multiple channels too, like the multichannel commerce strategy. Without multichannel, there's no omnichannel. The big difference is that omnichannel commerce connects all channels. This means your customer has a seamless experience across all platforms. 

    what is the difference between omnichannel and multichannel

    Now, let's see what omnichannel commerce can do for your business.

    Read this next: The State of Commerce Experience Before and During the Covid-19 crisis [Analyst Study with Forrester]

     

    Benefits of Omnichannel Commerce

    [Omnichannel Commerce Benefit #1]: Better Customer Experience

    What do your customers expect? Number one on the list is a unified experience.

    According to UC Today, 9 out of 10 consumers want an omnichannel experience with seamless service between communication methods.

    As the number of touchpoints is increasing, so is the need for a seamless integration from one touchpoint to another.

    Whether it's a social ad, an email newsletter, a mobile push notification, a conversion with your chatbot or a face-to-face chat with your store staff.

    By breaking down the walls between the channels in a business, the consumer is empowered to interact with a company in a way that feels natural to them. 


    [Omnichannel Commerce Benefit #2]: Increase in sales and traffic

    Making your sales strategy omnichannel-proof isn’t that simple. But it’ll definitely be worth your time and money.

    A study of 46,000 shoppers shows that omnichannel customers spend more money than single-channel customers. 

    omnichannel customers spend more in-store and online

    And with every additional channel they used, the omnichannel shoppers spent more money in the store.

    Customers who used 4+ channels spent an average 9% more in the store compared to those who used just one single channel.


    [Omnichannel Commerce Benefit #3]: Boosted Customer Loyalty

    Not only do omnichannel customers spend more, they're also more loyal to your brand.

    The same study shows that within 6 months after an omnichannel shopping experience, these customers had logged 23% more repeat shopping trips to the retailer’s stores.

    They were also more likely to recommend the brand to family and friends than those who used a single channel. 

    With an engaging brand story, you can stop pushing discount coupons, mid-sale campaigns and other traditional marketing tricks. Focus on customer loyalty and your brand will be safe.

    This means that an omnichannel strategy will not only increase sales, it will also improve your customer loyalty. Sounds good, right?


    [Omnichannel Commerce Benefit #4]: Better Data Collection

    Retailers who are able to track their customer over different channels can serve their consumers better with more personalized experience.

    Omnichannel approach allows business to gain insights on how to create content and offers that will encourage their customers engage themselves in shopping more - not only online but also at the physical stores. 

     

    Personalization in Omnichannel Commerce

    Your customers expect a personalized experience at every channel and touchpoint.

    Creating an integrated, personalized, satisfying omnichannel customer journey is not easy.

    According to Target Marketing, marketers do not feel overwhelmed by any aspect of the omnichannel experience. But they lack the cross-platform data,  customer recognition capabilities, and core technology to create the omnichannel experiences demanded by today's customer journey.

    challenges omnichannel commerce

    They basically need a digital experience platform (DXP) that enables customer data capturing and gives a unified 360 degree view of the customer to create hyper-personalized customer experiences.  Something that companies today need more than ever.

    How Do You Create an Awesome Omnichannel Strategy?

    Changing your single-channel strategy, from web-only or store-only, to a multichannel or even omnichannel experience takes a lot of time, effort and resources.

    But it will be worth it. 

    Here are 5 high-level steps to start off a channel strategy that works for your brand:

     Get to know your customer: Don't make assumptions. Research your target audience's interests, behavior and needs. Ask them questions, invite customer feedback and leverage social media and social listening tools. 

     Select the right channels: Find out where your customers are and what they're doing.

     Choose a clear purpose per channel: One channel mainly for interaction, the other for news updates and so on.

     Connect all channels: This is the hard part and only works if you execute it perfectly (omnichannel only). You'll need the right technology to follow your customer across all touchpoints: from reading reviews on your website, seeing social ads, window shopping at an online marketplace to finally purchasing at your physical store. 

     Maintain your channels: There's no time for leaning back, keep on testing and improving your strategy. Document these touchpoints well to serve your customers best. This way, you'll create a loyal customer who keeps coming back for more.

    Read this next: How Boden Personalizes Every Visitor's Experience [Customer Success Story]

     

    What's Next in Omnichannel Commerce?

    Web-only brands are now investing in physical stores.

    Take Amazon, which opened their first brick-and-mortar store in Seattle in 2015 and is expanding rapidly ever since with over 460 stores in the US, Canada and the UK. It's clear that the Amazon HQ understands that the future of shopping is connected. 

    Read this next: How to Compete with Amazon in 8 Ways [blog]

    And of course, mobile apps are getting more and more important too. Customers don't go anywhere without their mobile phone.

    Powerful app features enrich the omnichannel shopping experience by connecting online and offline touchpoints. For example,  a mobile barcode scanner for looking up product details and ordering out of stock products online while being in-store.  

    Lastly, the importance of customer service as part of the omnichannel experience continues to rise.

    IBM shows that AI-powered, automated customer service is the future. This doesn’t mean that human service agents aren’t needed anymore.

    According to IBM, AI and automation will give human agents context to understand who they're talking to. Also, chatbots will play a big role in being in contact with your customers at any time. 

    In the next few years, social media will take up an even bigger piece of the customer service pie.

    Customers expect to reach their go-to brands whenever, wherever. Being reachable for your customers at the channels of their preference is very important for a complete omnichannel experience - even after purchase. 

     

    [Success Story]: Steinhoff Uses Headless Architecture to Drive Omnichannel Strategy

    ecommerce business case study steinhof

    Business challenge:

    Jamie Danby is Head of Business Transformation at Steinhoff UK and responsible for seeing this challenge through.

    By comparing where Steinhoff is today to where the company wants to be in the future, he surfaced certain requirements that would make a seamless omnichannel journey possible:

    • A customized product experience
    • An empowered team who can complete tasks independently
    • The ability to drive conversion rate fast
    • Rapid and agile deployment

    Solution:

    By listing out where Steinhoff UK as a company wanted to go, Jamie was able to find the right technology to match his needs - which turned out to be a platform built with a headless architecture. As he puts it, “It wasn’t about saying, ‘We are going to go headless’ – it was about looking at the requirements and finding the right solutions out there to help us achieve our goals.”

    He highlighted two use cases in particular:

     A Personalized Experience: Quick vs Considered Buying

    For different products, a customer looks for a different shopping experience. Jamie makes the distinction most between a low and high price range. 

    The product defines how the customer will shop and the digital experience should support that. With Steinhoff’s current technology, customizing the digital experience per product is timely and expensive. But with the headless architecture, that’s all set to change.

     Augmented Reality

    The second initiative Jamie wants to kick off is to help the customers customize their purchase online and then visualize it. 

    That includes site visitors having the option to view how a product would look in a certain room in their house, or whether it would go with existing furniture. Bensons and Harveys already have this function on their customer mobile apps but it’s not yet integrated with the websites. 

    When Jamie launches the new website, this feature is high on the list.

     

    Are You Omnichannel-Ready?​

    Keeping up with the ever changing world of commerce isn’t easy.

    Today, more and more brands are exploring the benefits of omnichannel. Shifting from single-channel or multichannel to omnichannel commerce takes a lot of time and effort. But it will all be worth it. 

    A quick recap of the differences between single-channel, multichannel and omnichannel commerce: 

    • Single-channel commerce sells through one sales channel, for example as a store-only or web-only business

    • Multichannel commerce operates on multiple channels, both online and offline

    • Omnichannel commerce connects the dots between all channels, offering customers a seamless experience across all platforms

    Is your business ready to be introduced to omnichannel commerce? Ready or not, after reading this blog post you can feel confident to use the O-word..

     

    Tessa Roberts

    Tessa Roberts

    Tessa is a content marketer specializing in digital marketing, content strategy, social media strategy.             

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