Ten years ago, companies could get away with having one single online store. If designed well enough, that would help a business stand out from the crowd and facilitate sales. But as eCommerce became mCommerce and, now, social commerce, today’s competitive landscape is much tougher indeed.
We’re talking about omnichannel retail, a strategy that’s embraced by almost all of the world's most successful businesses. IKEA, Apple, ASOS, Walmart and Adidas are just a few examples of brands placing a strong emphasis on nailing their omnichannel shopping efforts.
When you see the results, it's easy to see why so much effort is placed on mastering omnichannel between online and offline channels. And if you're not prioritizing this strategy in your business, there's a good chance you're missing out and risk being left behind.
What is omnichannel retail in eCommerce?
Succeeding in an omnichannel retail approach means offering customer’s a consistentexperience across all of the channels you choose to sell through.
From an eCommerce standpoint, this would mean that customers can follow a clear and simple journey across your digital channels, from your Instagram page to your webshop for example. And if they reach out to you via Facebook Messenger on their mobile device and then, later, via email, you’ll route all the contextual information about their purchasing query from one platform to the next.
An omnichannel approach also trickles down to how you market your brand. You can collect data from your Shopify or Shopify Plus site — customer’s shopping habits, search engine activity, or chatbot conversation, then feed them your ads at specific times and places to maximize the chances of increasing sales.
Omnichannel vs Multichannel retailing - What's the difference?
It’s easy to confuse omnichannel and multichannel retail, but these are not one and the same.
- Multichannel = Reaching out to potential customers on different channels with the goal of gaining as much engagement as possible.
- Omnichannel = Creating the best customer experience possible by integrating all of the channels you sell through, including the physical store.
If you’re going for a multichannel approach, the strategy is to use as many channels as possible to reach as many potential customers as you can. The sole purpose is to drive traffic to your channels and maximize exposure.
Omnichannel retail, on the other hand, aims to make the entire shopping experience smooth and effortless throughout all the channels you provide — whether it is Shopify, Shopify Plus, social, or app. Consistency is king — and brands that can offer a customized shopper experience in omnichannel retail have the most to gain.
When you get an omnichannel retail approach right, both your business and your customers can reap the benefits.
What are the benefits of omnichannel commerce strategy?
An omnichannel approach has benefits for shoppers as well as retailers. Even though it may seem like an overwhelming task to set up and manage omnichannel retail, its benefits outweigh the initial work you put in. Here are some of the many benefits:
Benefits of omnichannel retail for shoppers
- Improved customer experience: One of the biggest benefits of omnichannel for your customer base is how it makes their shopping experience easy and simple. For instance, it offers a friction-free online shopping process and fewer steps in the customer journey, making sure a customer’s shopping cart is updated no matter what device—an excellent example of how you make customer experience smarter and savvier. The most effective omnichannel strategies are those that go unnoticed by customers. As the old adage goes: good design is invisible. In 2022, you're unlikely to get reviews saying how seamless the shopping experience was. But, believe us, the business results will be clear.
- Streamlined communication: When it comes to choosing platforms, customers are spoilt for choice—website, social media, and chat and messaging channels are just a few places where your customers spend time and shop from. The good news, via omnichannel commerce, they can have a consistent and streamlined communication experience. For instance, customers may reach out to you via live chat on your Shopify or Shopify Plus site once. The next time, they may continue the same chat on WhatsApp or Messenger. In omnichannel, different channels are synced and hence, the customer can pick up the conversation from where they left, not having to repeat their concern. Omnichannel removes siloed touchpoints.
- Better personalization: Omnichannel e-commerce enhances personalization, hence customers enjoy higher levels of personalized experiences. Retailers use data to extract insights about customers and transform that information into campaigns, offers, and communication relevant to customers. This ensures customers only receive highly tailored experiences.
Benefits of omnichannel strategy for retail sales
- Improved brand recognition: Omnichannel improves customer experience in many ways. For instance, brands can meet customers where they are, offer a good experience to customers across all the channels, making browsing and purchasing faster, and more convenient. In today’s eCommerce space, these factors help enhance a brand's recognition.
- Increased revenue: Another benefit of omnichannel retail is increase in revenue. Brands can offer more personalized experiences to customers by capturing data. In addition, brands drive traffic to and leads from multiple channels, as opposed to just one or two. All these factors lead to more engagement opportunities and sales.
- Reduced customer churn: By engaging with customers on various channels, brands can meet them at various stages of the customer journey. For instance, by offering omnichannel customer support, brands can ensure assistance in real time, ensuring customers’ are provided relevant solutions.
The ROI of omnichannel retail comes down to happy customers returning to spend more with your brand. Where multi-channel retailing casts the net wide to promote your brand to as many shoppers as possible, omnichannel retail takes this one step further: to customize the experience.
Let’s imagine a customer wants to know whether you have a specific shade of lipstick available in their nearest store — a common-enough behavior, as 46% of shoppers check a store’s inventory online before heading to a physical store. Omnichannel retail design would tell that shopper if they can purchase the specific shade in-store, for one. But it can also kickstart a custom retargeting campaign if the lipstick is out of stock. Emails, display ads, and social media can be used to update the customer of when that particular shade is available again — that’s the power of omnichannel integration.
This amounts to more sales — and less customer support work at the brand side as shoppers can get product information when and where they need it — resulting in a more efficient retail model.
Challenges of omnichannel retail
Let's take a look at the challenges that most companies face:
1. Proper inventory management
To offer a good omnichannel experience to customers, you have to ensure you have a grasp on your inventory in real time. For instance, customers may purchase from different channels. And if your inventory is not getting updated in real-time, you might end up showing products as available even when they’re sold out. Hence, for successful inventory management for omnichannel eCommerce, you require a tool that can help you give an overview of your inventory and keep it updated as sales take place.
2. Providing consistent customer support
Whether customers reach out on email, SMS, WhatsApp, or on social media messenger, you will have to ensure you respond to them in a timely manner. 96% of customers leave brands because of poor customer service. In omnichannel settings, it’s a must to manage customer support well. Your different communication and customer support channels should be synced and integrated. While this could be a challenge for many brands, with the right kind of eCommerce apps and tools, you can automate and integrate this capability into your Shopify and Shopify Plus store.
3. Identifying sales attribution
Correct attribution of sales channels is another challenge faced by omnichannel eCommerce stores. For instance, customers end up using multiple channels to make one purchase — browse products on social media, purchase it online, and pick it up in store. In this case, it’s difficult to attribute the sale to any one channel. And that can create complexity and mistakes in your tracking records.
4. Managing fulfillment systems
Another common challenge for omnichannel retail is the complexity of fulfilling orders on different channels. For example, customers may buy your product from your online store but might want to pick it up in store. This can get quite difficult and confusing to manage and track. Hence, for the successful fulfillment of orders, you require a tool or system that brings all the information in one place for easy order fulfillments.
How to create a successful omnichannel commerce strategy?
Follow these steps to craft a successful omnichannel commerce strategy for your brand.
1. Start with your business goals
To begin with, get clarity about your business goals. Do you want more sales from the online store, more leads via social media, want to increase walk-ins to your physical store or want to boost brand loyalty? Setting clear business goals will help you craft strategies that align with them.
2. Create buyer personas
Depending on the products and services you offer, you will have specific types of customers. And unless you know your ideal customer segments, you won’t be able to attract them with relevant messaging. For omnichannel retail, consider buyers’ preferred channels, purchase patterns, etc.
3. Create a consistent brand narrative
In an omnichannel commerce set up, you will have many platforms to look after. And one of the factors that can bind your different channels is your brand identity. It has to be consistent across channels. The solution is to think beyond logos and colors. Consider factors such as consistency in shopping experience, quality customer support across channels, tone and messaging, among others.
4. Streamline all data
There’s a lot of data you will generate from your omnichannel commerce setup. For example, data from customers’ browsing, purchase patterns, etc. In addition, you will interact with customers regarding many different matters, which brings into the picture your customer support management, inventory management, etc. It’s essential to have an overview of all this data to be able to make informed decisions.
5. Use data to personalize customer experience
73% of customers expect brands to understand their unique needs. Data collected from your different channels can help you personalize customer experience. For instance, you can understand customers’ likes, interests, needs and send them personalized and relevant recommendations.
6. Offer excellent customer support
In an omnichannel retail context, you will have multiple communication channels — online, email, SMS, in-store, social messengers, etc. You must ensure you offer support via all these channels. Besides, ensure you respond in a timely manner and with specific and relevant answers to enhance customer experience and to maintain efficiency.
7. Monitor and optimize your channels
The world of eCommerce is constantly changing with new trends and innovations. For omnichannel eCommerce brands, it’s all the more important to be adaptive and responsive to the changing trends. One way to do so is to consistently monitor your different channels and optimize them.
The four-pillar approach to omnichannel eCommerce functionality
Implementing an effective omnichannel strategy is by no means an easy task. It requires a lot of time and resource, as well as expert partners to help measure performance and guide the way.
But whether you’ve got a twenty-strong marketing team or are tackling the omnichannel retail experience solo, the process of building omnichannel retail follows the same key steps:
- Define your sales channels
Not all sales channels are created equal. Remember, this is omnichannel retail not multi-channel, so we’re here to integrate our channels to the best of our ability. Understanding your customers’ behaviors and preferences is key to integrating the right channels.
What social media platforms do they use most? Do people prefer to shop online or in brick-and-mortar stores for your products? Do you need a mobile app or is a desktop site enough?
Another key difference between the omnichannel and multi-channel retail experience is that omnichannel works to be customer-centric, not channel-centric; the right channels, at the right time, integrated to create the best customer experience.
- Design a customer-centric marketing approach
Now that you’ve identified which sales channels to use, you’ll need to attract your audience.
Just like step number one. Marketing & advertising is all about understanding your customers. The following are some of the digital marketing and advertising channels that are recommended:
- Social media
- Email & SMS
- Google shopping ads
You'll have to figure out which channels are best for your business based on your brand, products and customer base. Keep in mind that marketing strategies are practically infinite — and what works for other businesses might not be the perfect fit for yours. Are you meeting shoppers where they are? That’s the most important consideration for omnichannel advertising.
- Make sure your operations can deliver
Can you logistically deliver an omnichannel retail experience?
Connectivity is critical to omnichannel success. All your channels will need to be connected in order to automatically update inventory and to provide the customized experience that shoppers will come to expect.
In our soon to be published report, The State of Social Commerce in 2022, we found that 98% of online shoppers have experienced availability issues in the last 90 days. This becomes all the more irritating when the very same out-of-stock items then get re-advertised, despite being unavailable for purchase.
- Don’t let shipping and fulfilment let you down
Now that we’re at the final hurdle, and the customer has made a purchase, fulfilling their order is every bit as important as winning the sale.
An omnichannel retail experience only works if your entire structure and supply chain, including shipping and fulfilment, is geared up to facilitate it. Whether you employ a shipping program or a third-party logistics provider, making sure you have visibility into shipping statuses and quick delivery timeframes are fundamental to the total customer experience.
Remember that the goal of omnichannel is to give customers a seamless shopping experience from the moment you grab their attention until their order is completed and the order is in their hands. Missing even a single step can jeopardize your brand equity, risk a future sale and lose a loyal customer’s lifetime value.
The omnichannel retail toolkit: technologies and platforms you’ll need to use
Omnichannel retail wouldn’t be possible without technology. From headless e-commerce to CPaaS platforms, these are the partners and programs you’ll want to onboard along the way.
Setting up shop: your e-commerce infrastructure
Shopify and Bigcommerce both help facilitate an omnichannel retail experience; businesses can quickly set up online webshops as part of their omnichannel approach without being an expert on coding or web design.
Headless e-commerce and omnichannel retail design
Headless e-commerce is the perfect partner for omnichannel retail strategies. It’s more flexible, customizable, and agile than traditional e-commerce — you can tailor the webshop experience to consumers in a way that works best for both your customers and administrative users on the same platform.
Come back to read more about headless e-commerce blog next week.
Marketing your omnichannel retail brand
Customer data platforms
Data is the fuel behind modern marketing campaigns — and data carries equal power in your omnichannel retail experience, too. The more you know about how customers react to certain ads, and in which stages of the purchasing process most of your shoppers are lost, the easier it gets to solve those issues.
Customer data platforms collect data from all of your sources, such as e-mail, social media, website/webstore, and so on, in order to gain a full, comprehensive, channel-to-channel understanding of how your consumers behave. You can then layer over analytics tools to make sense of the feedback and optimize your omnichannel marketing and retail approach.
Loyalty and rewards
So far we’ve talked about the potential of omnichannel to retarget and recover lost sales, but you can also pull data from your omnichannel workflow to reward customer loyalty and encourage repeat business.
This can be particularly impactful in the context of social commerce, where shoppers interact with your brand and each other through the omnichannel retail experience.
Learn more about social commerce in this ultimate guide.
Customer service for omnichannel retail
With integrated sales channels comes a need for integrated customer support. Your support agents need a way to track a shopper’s interactions with your brand from channel to channel, without dropping the ball.
With Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) businesses are able to speak with customers through any and all channels in real-time, without having to build any back end infrastructure.
Purchase to delivery
Remember how essential we said the delivery and fulfilment part of omnichannel retail is? It’s here that having the right technology in place will make or break your process.
Automation in sales and inventory management is key here, to save your team from racing to keep up with increased sales — and to save your shoppers from stock-out disappointments.
Download our proprietary report "The State of Social Commerce 2022" and learn why customers do or don't buy on social commerce, tips for brands, and the latest consumer statistics from our survey.
Omnichannel commerce trends to watch
Omnichannel commerce has been rapidly evolving as well. Here are some of the trends to keep watch on:
1. E-commerce brands expanding to brick-and-mortar stores
An increasing number of online brands are opting for pop-ups and brick-and-mortar stores. Online stores require huge budgets to acquire customers. Physical stores are said to increase traffic for online stores within a couple of months of opening.
2. Customers like in-person shopping experiences
Customers like in-store experiences as they can touch and see the products, try them, etc. Moreover, in-store also offers the convenience of having sales persons around to answer doubts and queries. Omnichannel retail brands are taking note of this and offering in-person store shopping experiences via pop-ups and new brick and mortar stores.
3. Social selling is on the rise
Selling via social media platforms has been around for many years, but now, brands that are taking an omnichannel approach are taking it more seriously. Why? Because customers’ preference for shopping via social channels has increased over the years.
4. Multi-channel attribution
As there are various channels or platforms in omnichannel retail, brands are giving more importance to understanding each channel well so as to get a better grip on their marketing and sales processes. Brands track conversions and analytics of each channel to ensure better ROI and to better customer experience on all channels.
5. Building communities
Another aspect of omnichannel e-commerce that’s picking up is the need for building communities amongst customers. Brands are thinking creatively to offer unique community experiences to customers. For instance, organizing in-person local meets, creating online community spaces, combining social causes and socializing within communities, etc.
Omnichannel success - an example
Omnichannel retail can have more ways than one to succeed. Let’s discuss the example of ModCloth, a fashion and apparel brand. The brand reduced their customer acquisition cost by 50% by using SimplicityDX’s AI Social Storefronts. Here’s how:
Modcloth has a vibrant social media presence, which drives 52% of its sales. And hence, the brand wanted to double up to boost social sales. The idea was to meet customers where they’re already most comfortable shopping and spend a lot of their time — social media.
So, what did ModCloth do?
Incorporated SimplicityDX’s Store Front in the customer journey.
By introducing SimplicityDX, ModCloth created a self-learning social storefront. The storefront consists of clusters of social pages that revolve around a central landing experience. This experience serves as a link between the social ad and customers’ shopping journey.
How did SimplicityDX do this?
- Turned all content into shoppable posts
- Created comprehensive shopping storefronts for social media promotions
- Combined social content with commerce features
- Integrated the storefront with the e-commerce checkout flow
- Integrated with the existing tools and software, such as Shopify, Shopify Plus Nosto, Yotpo, etc.
Nail your omnichannel customer experience from the get-go
The key to getting omnichannel in e-commerce right is by knowing your customers and then providing the solutions that best meet their needs. Omnichannel retail has the ability to boost sales, establish customer loyalty and help you outperform your rivals — but it needs to be customer-centric and entirely seamless, end-to-end, offline and on.
SimplicityDX’s platform simplifies the buying process for omnichannel retail store experiences, ensuring real-time updates and awareness of revenue performance issues between the business and its touchpoints. Take all the guesswork out of your omnichannel approach and try simplicityDX today.