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      Omnichannel Marketing Automation

      What Is Omnichannel Commerce? Definition, Benefits, and Trends

      By Tessa Roberts

      Oct 18, 2022

      22 min read

      Omnichannel Marketing Automation

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

      Find out what an omnichannel customer experience means for your business today — and in the future.

      What Is Omnichannel Commerce?

      Simply put, omnichannel retail (or omnichannel commerce) is a multichannel approach to sales that's focused on providing seamless customer experiences, whether the customer is shopping online from a mobile device, on a laptop, or in a brick-and-mortar store. 

      According to Harvard Business Review, 73% 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.

      These e-commerce trends show that only when customers have gathered as much information as possible from a variety of sources to support their purchase decision will they decide to buy from a retailer. 

      So, a good omnichannel strategy is to 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 individually: 

      • 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 means you're selling 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 also takes place on multiple channels, like the multichannel commerce strategy, which is where it can feel confusing. Just keep in mind that 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 every platform.

      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 retail experience with seamless service between communication methods. As the number of touchpoints increases, so does 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

      While making your sales strategy omnichannel-ready isn’t that simple, it’ll definitely be worth your time and money.

      A study of 46,000 shoppers showed 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 four or more channels spent an average 9% more in the store compared to those who used just a 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 six 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, but 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 better serve their consumers 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 shop 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, and see personal recommendations. 

      Among this overload of information, personalized content is crucial in attracting 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 omnichannel 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. 

      This means that personalization is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must for today’s businesses.

      And this is where properly managing your data becomes key. You'll want to power your technology with a customer data engine that can take all your data, then visualize and activate it for omnichannel orchestration and personalization. 

      In this way, you can learn what your customers desire and personalize content for them at scale. As a result, your customers find what they need much faster, are more satisfied with their shopping experience, and businesses see a higher conversion rate.

      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 an omnichannel 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, or 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.

      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, having 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, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will give human agents context to understand who they're talking to. Also, chatbots and social media will continue to play a big role in being in contact with your customers at any time. 

      In digital retail especially, tapping into a cohesive e-commerce ecosystem will be an important way of staying connected with customers. To do that, you'll need the power of a Commerce Experience Cloud that combines product discovery, customer data and marketing automation, and headless content management to achieve true personalization. 

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

      Examples of Successful Omnichannel Experiences

      Staples


      Business challenge:

      Staples is a global retailer and a leading provider of business solutions with its digital operation ranking fifth in the Internet Retailer 500. 

      Staples boasts multiple websites across North America, including the consumer and SMB-facing Staples.com and B2B property StaplesBusinessAdvantage.com.

      With Amazon and other retailers threatening industry dominance, Staples needed to act quickly. It set out to find a data-driven response to market changes that provided personalization and relevance at scale. 

      The company had the challenge to automate the work involved in surfacing the relevant products that Staples’ customers were searching for. Its legacy system didn’t take into account customer behavior on the Staples sites or the wider web.

      Solution:

      Staples increased its number of stock-keeping units (SKUs) on its websites to two million — a 10-fold increase — and charted a course to become a B2B one-stop shop for businesses across the world. 

      In a three-way, head-to-head-to-head test across its various sites, Staples pitted Bloomreach Discovery against its legacy system and another competitor. 

      The Staples team compared revenue per visit (RPV) and conversion rate and the winner was clear and obvious: Bloomreach Discovery.

      Yves Rocher

      Business challenge:

      Yves Rocher is a worldwide cosmetics and beauty brand, and aims to offer high-quality, custom solutions for every skin type while being mindful of sustainability. 

      To that end, Yves Rocher wanted to provide better personalized product recommendations to both returning customer and first-time visitors in order to give each customer a truly custom experience. 

      Solution:

      To realize its mission of personalization, Yves Rocher turned to Bloomreach Engagement for its real-time and personalized product recommendations. While a lack of customer data history often means companies can't do much for first-time visitors, Bloomreach Engagement's algorithms were able to create personalized recommendations for first-time visitors as soon as they interacted with a product on the site (and within a fraction of a second!). 

      Thanks to this real-time personalization, Yves Rocher saw an 11x better conversion rate than a more generic "top-selling products" recommendation. 

       

      Are You Ready to Provide a Better Omnichannel Customer Experience?​

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

      Today, more and more brands are exploring the benefits of omnichannel — making your own shift from single-channel or multichannel to an omnichannel strategy will ultimately be worth your time and effort. 

      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? Bring effective omnichannel marketing automation and personalization to your company with Bloomreach — schedule a personalized demo today to learn more

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      Tessa Roberts

      Content & Communications Manager

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

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