What is omnichannel?
The number of users shopping simultaneously offline and online is steadily growing every day. Fewer and fewer people buy only online or only in brick-and-mortar stores. It is much more convenient to use several channels such as physical stores, mobile applications, social networks, and online stores for purchasing.
Regardless of which channel the transaction takes place through, a modern omnichannel approach means many touchpoints that influence the buying decision along the customer’s shopping journey. Thus, omnichannel combines multiple channels into a single system through which consumers interact with the brand.
A few conclusive numbers
Harvard Business Review partnered with a major US retailer to conduct a 14-month study to understand consumer buying behaviour. They surveyed 46,000 shoppers and found out that:
- 7% of shoppers were online-only shoppers;
- 20% were brick-and-mortar-only shoppers;
- 73% of them used multiple channels throughout their shopping journey;
- Omnichannel shoppers spend an average of 4% more each time they are in a store and 10% more when shopping online than those who only interact with a brand through one channel;
- Consumers who engaged with companies on multiple channels visited a physical store 23% more often over six months.
According to the Criteo shopper story survey, 83% of Millennials and Gen Z - the two largest groups of consumers - browse products online before buying them in-store. 81% purchase online after seeing products in retail stores regularly or occasionally.
Twenty years ago, buyers used an average of two communication channels with a company. In 2010, there were already 6 points of interaction.
Don’t mix up with multichannel
Multichannel allows customers to interact with brands through different touchpoints. For example, shoppers can call or write on Facebook and get quality service everywhere. However, unlike omnichannel, channels are not synchronised here. The same user will contact a brand in a messenger first and then over the phone a month later. The brand that utilises a multichannel strategy will consider this customer as two different customers.
Thus, using multiple channels is not the same as an omnichannel strategy. You can set up fantastic targeted advertising on social networks and have a bunch of sales via contextual ads. Both channels will generate sales, but they will not become omnichannel marketing if they are not linked into a single chain. Multichannel marketing is the simultaneous use of several communication channels with a customer without integration with each other.
Omnichannel success principles
1. Unified Database
Despite the touchpoint through which customers interact with a brand, customer data gets into one database shared by all channels.
2. Real-time Inventory Management
A single regularly updated product database with prices and discounts that match online and offline.
3. One Communication Strategy
Advertising messages should correspond across different channels. If clients receive contradicting ads in different channels - they will be frustrated. Also, online promos should work offline. However, if you want to run an online-only promo, it should be clearly said in the communication.
4. Single Order Processing Approach
As soon as customers have placed orders, they should be able to access information about what is happening with their orders with ease. Whether they visit their account on your brand’s website or call the contact centre, they should get the same information about the order.
How to implement omnichannel retail
Step 1: Consider Transition Strategy Goals
Before switching to the omnichannel strategy, collect such information as:
- Through which channels do consumers interact with your brand?
- Through which sources do they buy goods or services (website, mobile application, offline)?
- What information about customers do you get from each channel, and how is it used? Usually, brands collect email addresses, mobile phones, IP addresses, locations, and cookies.
Based on the answers, compose goals for introducing omnichannel: which channels, which information about users is needed and how you will use the information.
Step 2: Create a Channel Roadmap
At this stage, it is essential to understand how a buyer interacts with your brand and through which channels. Consider optimistic scenarios, how you would like to see customer journeys in channels: brick-and-mortar store, on the website, in the application, online chat, instant messengers, and social networks.
The roadmap should help put forward requirements for each channel and perhaps think about introducing new communication elements.
Step 3. Pick up the Tool
A marketing automation tool can be a good asset when switching to the omnichannel retail strategy. The choice of the tool depends on the complexity of the business and the goals of communication with customers. There are many ready-made solutions in the market. You need a tool to collect and manage users' data from different channels to send personalised offers consistently. Communication can be performed via email, push, SMS, social networks, or phone calls.
Shopify has a lot of sophisticated solutions that power your operations and let you integrate website, POS and fulfilment. One of such tools is Store pickup + Delivery which provides seamless integration with delivery providers making your customers’ experience an enjoyable shopping journey.
Step 4. Prepare Employees
Allocate responsibility for channels to employees. Think about training, motivation, and performance indicators to track your staff’s progress. If they don’t have enough resources, consider hiring additional personnel.
Step 5. Inform Customers
Once your brand has begun implementing a new strategy, it is time to plan a marketing campaign to inform your customers. Tell them about new opportunities and benefits that arise when the omnichannel approach is live.
Successful implementation of the strategy will give you plenty of advantages:
- Convenient communication with your brand
Users can find information or get help conveniently: by phone, in a messenger, by email, etc.
- More qualitative service
Users choose the most appropriate purchasing channels and experience excellent service.
All consumer information is collected in a single system, making it possible to create personalised offers and build more personal communication. Thus, your customers receive attractive, relevant offers that boost sales and strengthen their relationships with your brand.
- Communication without doubling messages
With omnichannel, users do not receive repeated messages through different channels.
- Communication automation
You set up an evergreen email or SMS campaign based on users’ purchase history to keep in touch and incentivise more sales.
- Seamless channel switching
With omnichannel, you can offer a seamless transitioning from channel to channel. A potential customer can pick up where they left off, regardless of the device. They add a dress to a cart via the mobile application and place the order on a laptop boosting your sales possibilities.
- Reducing the likelihood of losing a client
Even when customers change their phones, they stay available thanks to social networks, email, and push notifications.
- Efficient advertising
In different channels, you can show different ads to increase response from users. For example, a consumer gets acquainted with the product through search advertising. Retargeting shows the product that the user got interested in on the site. On YouTube - the instructions for the product and detailed information on the production. And finally, on Instagram - an attractive offer with a discount to convince them to purchase.
Switching from multichannel to omnichannel is not a one day task. It takes time to prepare a transition strategy, select and launch an omnichannel tool, train staff and inform customers. For more information, you may want to visit our Merchant Hub, where we publish helpful information prepared by industry experts on how to succeed on Shopify. Check out our recently published guide for Shopify merchants, where we collected best practices and illustrative examples on how to grow in e-commerce utilising the omnichannel retailing approach.