Learn how Steinhoff Uses Headless Architecture to Drive Omnichannel Strategy
Tessa Roberts

Jul 19, 2019

What is Omnichannel Commerce? Definition, Benefits and Trends

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.

Here you can skip straight to:


The Difference Between Multichannel and Omnichannel

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. 

multichannel and omnichannel definitions

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

Does Omnichannel Really Work?

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.

 ✏️ Read this next: Digital Commerce Explained in 6 Minutes [Blog]

Increased 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. 

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


customer expectations of omnichannel strategy

What Do Your Customers Expect?

Number one on the list is a unified experience.

That's what the 2019 customer wants. 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.

Your brand has to have one voice across the entire customer journey.

Secondly, your customers expect a personalized experience.

Don't be mistaken: customers won't mind giving away a few personal details in exchange for a personal shopping experience.

But they only will do so if you explain why you’re asking for these details.

For instance, when you ask them to fill out their birthday, let them know they’ll receive a free product when they’re having their birthday.

This way, customers will be more likely to share their details. Remember to keep your customers' data safe. Privacy should be your top priority at all times. 

When that's all set, make sure your remarketing is also personalized.

📕Read this next: 12 Steps to Perfect Personalization [Guide]

Did a customer abandon his online shopping basket with a pair of sneakers? Be sure to retarget him with the exact same sneakers and not some random All Stars.

Or even worse: being retargeted with the same product you already ordered.

Companies that are able to leverage what they know about their customers outperform their peers by 85% in sales growth and 25% in gross margin, according to the behavioral economics of Gallup.

Last but not least, you need to earn your customers' trust.

According to Nikki Baird from Aptos, trust is the big inflection point of omnichannel commerce in 2019. Social proof plays a big part in trusting your brand.

Customers are reading reviews, checking your social presence and - of course - looking for recommendations.

Make sure your brand has a unique personality with a story only you can tell. 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.


omnichannel strategy

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: research your target audience's interests, behavior and needs

 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)

 Maintain your channels: there's no time for leaning back, keep on testing and improving your strategy

Why is connecting all channels hard (step #4)? 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. 

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 nextThe Ultimate Guide to Headless Commerce [blog]


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.

📌Read this next: How Shoppable Instagram Stories is Driving Change in eCommerce [Blog]

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. 


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..

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