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.
The State of Commerce Experience 2021 shows that almost half (44%) of B2C buyers and 58% of B2B buyers say they always or often research a product online before going to a physical store. Even when in-store, they will still go online to continue their research.
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 webshop 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.
Now, let's see what omnichannel commerce can do for your business.
Read this next: The State of Commerce Experience 2021 [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.
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 customers over different channels can serve their consumers better with a more personalized experience.
The omnichannel approach allows businesses to gain insights on how to create content and offers that will encourage their customers to 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.
Today’s consumers don’t just want quality products, they want them fast and to be able to get information about them quickly.
They want to go to your website and be able to search products easily, compare prices, see personal recommendations.
Among this overload of information, personalized content manages to attract consumers’ interest. While all other information hits them in the face and still gets ignored, personalized content talks directly to them.
It’s become even more critical to offer personalized experiences to your shoppers since 74% of online consumers get frustrated with websites when content appears that has nothing to do with their interests, and frustrated shoppers don’t buy.
Hence, personalization is no longer a nice-to-have but must-have for today’s businesses.
And this is where Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes to play. An AI powered eCommerce personalization software allows you to ‘learn’ what your customers desire and enables personalization at scale, so customers find what they need quicker, are more satisfied with the experience, and businesses see a higher conversion rate.
With the help of AI, you can show your customers products with certain characteristics - the products they’re likely to want to buy. At the same time, you hide products they’re less likely to be interested in.
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 an omnichannel 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.
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.
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.
How Companies Provide Omnichannel Experiences
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
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.
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.
Albertsons is aiming to provide a consistent and distinctive omnichannel customer experience, both in-store and through digital channels. As one of the first grocery stores to start online delivery back in the 2000s, Albertsons has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to eCommerce.
Now as they consider the grocery industry today, Albertsons is thinking beyond speed and convenience. They want to inspire their customers on what to cook for dinner, offer them multiple ways to shop, and serve up personalized, relevant content wherever they can.
Starting with the existing data, Albertsons realized the poor quality of search results in terms of accuracy and relevance. This naturally contributed to the high bounce rates Albertsons was also experiencing. They wanted to turn this around by elevating the customer experience and increasing basket size.
Central to this transformation was site search. “We clearly see that nearly 50% of our eCommerce online is attributed to search,”
They saw an opportunity with product search and browse solutions to reduce the time it takes to build a basket, increase basket size, and lift conversion rates.
After opting for Bloomreach , “We clearly saw huge improvements,” reveals Shanti, “it’s more than a search box. brSM powers our whole search and browse experience on our eCommerce site.”
We can also see from the data that customers are able to find products and add them to cart much faster with Bloomreach. Overall, our basket-building speed went up by over 25% since implementing Bloomreach.
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..