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Omnichannel (or omni-channel) is a sales strategy that assumes that all available channels of attainment and customer service should cooperate at every stage to ensure the convenience of shopping in the retail network.
Its general idea is simple: the more integrated tools a customer has available for their shopping, the greater their sense of convenience and loyalty in future purchases. After all, it is all about sales, but within this approach, sales are directly dependent on customer experience.
Merchants who implemented omnichannel strategies in their organizations believe that customers want to A) have a choice B) remain the same, coherent experience whatever they choose.
Omnichannel, as technology and strategy-based solution, implies the harmony of sales with customer service among such channels as:
- offline - retail store - phone call
- online - e-mail - social media - chat - mobile apps - desktop - wearables, etc.
The word “harmony” is, however, a key to correctly understanding the idea of omnichannel. It is not as much about endlessly multiplying channels as rather its seamless cooperation.
This is why there is a clear distinction between the multichannel and omnichannel concepts.
What are the differences between omnichannel and multichannel?
Multichannel marketing reaches the recipient from many different sources with the same information. It could include Facebook Ads, email marketing, paid search campaigns, or social media influencers. The effectiveness of multichannel marketing is measured by clicks (CTRs), and its primary goal is increasing sales.
Omnichannel marketing places the accents differently. Although the ultimate goal is also to increase sales, it focuses more on building a solid customer relationship with a brand. In practice, it may look like this: the customer receives a newsletter with information about a sale in his favorite store, then visits an online store via mobile, selects the items in the shopping cart, and leaves without finalizing a purchase, then he can go back to this time via desktop version, re-check the cart, add or remove something, and make an online purchase, and then collect the items in the store within a few minutes.
Omnichannel is all about convenience, as modern customers want to jump between devices and channels while one shopping spree.
The customer journey can hook a variety of on- and offline touchpoints, go back and forth. Based on the customers' choices, merchants tailor personalized content instead of bombarding them with the same messages from everywhere. If they get what they are interested in, there is a huge chance for a conversion.
- Every omnichannel approach uses multiple sales channels, but not every multichannel approach can be classified as omnichannel.
- You can have fantastic mobile marketing, advanced social media campaigns, and a well-designed website. But if these elements don't get along together, then it's not an omnichannel approach.
- Omnichannel is a natural transformation of multichannel. It's a mature and effective understanding of the customer's needs.
How COVID influenced online sales?
Last year, due to a pandemic, as the group of online shoppers has grown significantly, the eCommerce race speeded up.
COVID-19 forced the skeptics to break through, and merchants needed to take this into account. It includes adopting technology that allows them to keep up with the fast-paced changes and crafting a personalized offer and data-driven marketing strategy.
Read the article: What is headless architecture
It means freely mixing and switching channels, online and offline, depending on preferences and buying habits. Especially, that COVID-implied shift perspectiveis just beginning.
Sellers need to offer a unified but personalized shopping experience, regardless of the sales channel.
Personalisation in omnichannel
From the customer's point of view, omnichannel marketing targets the direct message to them; it helps make buying decisions faster and doesn't force him to dig through dozens of pages of t-shirts, shoes, cosmetics. The customer receives personalized information about discounts, sales, and new products, saving his time and crafting a bond with the store he visited once.
Read more about personalization: What is a Headless Content Management System (CMS),
Maintaining a smooth customer experience is a way to keep the customer retention (CR) on a satisfactory level, and the combination of all reaching channels is crucial to do that effectively.
Read the article: Which Headless CMSs Integrate with Vue Storefront?
One of the interesting omnichannel solutions you can implement in your store is the loyalty program, which can combine off- and online customer data. If the customer is provided with an appropriate platform where he can collect points, exchange them for rewards, and, if necessary, view the history of his purchases, this is a perfect starting bridge between the virtual and real worlds. Such an application can activate appropriate promotions and enable service staff to advise customers better when they appear in the offline store.
Another option is Click & Collect strategy, also known as BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup in Store) assumes that customers may want to buy and pay online but pick up the product from a brick-and-mortar store.
Click & Collect model has numerous advantages both for customers and merchants.
Benefits of Click & Collect model:
- lower final cost (the customer doesn't pay shipping costs)
- better customer experience (customers may speed up their shopping, which is especially important when it comes to groceries)
- trust (customers can instantly inspect the product and - when it is needed - return it)
- upselling (with the number of store visits increases the possibility of effective upselling)
Some chains have now gone a step further and are trying to persuade the customer to adopt the BOPIS model (Buy Online, Pickup in Store) - e.g., by offering additional discounts.
One of the drawbacks of online shopping is that it doesn't offer instant gratification. When customers visit a regular store, they can check and buy items immediately without waiting for the courier. If you show your customers the nearest store location on your product pages, they can opt for in-store pickup at checkout. Also, if you consider the closing time of that store, it creates an urgent need for customers to get that product on the same day.
Another omnichannel element you can use in your store is the ability to reserve products in-store. Does the user want to see how a particular blouse will look on them? A few clicks and the product is reserved for several hours. A similar element is checking the availability of products in stores - only instead of booking can we check if the products are available in the nearest store.
It requires reasonable inventory control. If someone books the last blouse in a specific size online and is currently on sale in the store, you can expect a lot of customer dissatisfaction.
One of the typical omnichannel solutions is a dedicated mobile application. Interesting solutions have been proposed by Starbucks, which in its application allows not only the standard collection of stars, which after some time can be exchanged for coffee (loyalty program).
In addition, the application serves as a kind of pre-paid coffee card. The company has also solved long queues with a mobile application that allows you to order and pay for a coffee. Instead of standing in a long line, you can wait at a table.
Other stores (e.g., Nike) only allow refunds of loyalty points in some cases - this is also where the app can be helpful.
Mobile applications also use geolocation, as in the case of the Rossmann brand - when the customer is near the store, they receive a notification, for example, about the current promotion. Advertising created based on personalized information about the customer is less intrusive because it responds to his needs.
Summary / TL;DR
- Omnichannel is a combination of various purchase channels, i.e., online store, offline showrooms, hotline, mobile application, etc., ensuring the flow of information between systems and the resulting consistent user experience.
- Using multiple different sales channels is multichannel, while an omnichannel is when an individual - or preferably all - channels work together and complement each other.
- Personalization in omnichannel is based on data analyzed in real-time and an individual approach to individual clients.
- Technological progress and expectations towards omnichannel have increased during the pandemic. There is no doubt that in the future, even the smallest companies will be involved in facilitating the customer's access to their products and services, no matter where they are, what they do or what device they use.