Omnichannel commerce seamlessly integrates multiple channels, ensuring a cohesive experience for customers across various touchpoints. Whether customers are reading reviews, chatting with a brand on social media, checking out a magazine, opening an email, going to a store, or watching a video online, omnichannel keeps the experience consistent and personal for them. Making this smooth journey for your customers also helps your brand by keeping things consistent between your physical store and online shop. Why is this good? Well, studies say most customers like to shop this way (73 percent, according to Harvard Business Review), and it helps them stick with your brand – a smart move for omnichannel strategy! This article explores omnichannel commerce and how to build an effective strategy for your business.
The Difference Between Omnichannel and Multichannel Commerce
Multichannel strategy involves a brand being present on various platforms that customers can use to engage with the brand. These platforms range from apps, websites, and mobile sites to emails, physical stores, and social media channels. The key is to offer a seamless experience across all these channels so that customers don’t feel disjointed when interacting with the brand.
Omnichannel e-commerce takes the multichannel approach a step further by recognizing that customers may initiate their search on one channel and then transition to another as they progress in their online purchasing journey. The goal of omnichannel is to enhance and optimize the multichannel strategy for the preferences and behaviors of contemporary online consumers.
Benefits of Omnichannel Commerce
- Cohesive Messaging – Omnichannel ensures that customers receive consistent messaging about the brand, regardless of the channel through which they encounter it.
- Understanding Customer Journey – By collecting and merging data from multiple channels, omnichannel e-commerce provides a comprehensive view of customer interests and behavior, allowing for a deeper understanding of the customer journey.
- Personalized Customer Experience – Understanding the customer journey enables the creation of personalized experiences. This personalization is crucial, as omnichannel customers tend to have a 30% higher lifetime value compared to those who stick to a single channel.
Challenges with Omnichannel E-commerce
- Stock Discrepancies – Maintaining consistency between in-store and online stock levels can be challenging. The risk of products being sold out in-store while still available online is a common issue that needs strategic handling.
- Infrastructure Limitations – Implementing an omnichannel strategy may reveal inadequacies in existing technology, affecting the smooth operation of an omnichannel approach.
- Choosing the Right Partners – Success in omnichannel requires effective partnerships with logistics, shipping, and e-commerce service providers. Selecting the right partners is crucial for a seamless omnichannel experience.
Building an Omnichannel Marketing Strategy
Building an omnichannel strategy, also known as orchestration, means creating a personalized journey for customers across all the marketing and sales channels that matter to your business. Below are some simple steps to help you tailor your strategy.
Understand Your Customers
Split your customers into different groups using factors like income, location, age (like millennials or Gen X), online habits, values, and how they interact with your marketing. Why is this important? It helps you create a strategy that speaks directly to each group instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach.
Remember, your strategy will be unique to your business. Choose the channels that align with your goals, and adapt your operations based on what works best for your specific needs. Once you’ve identified these customer segments, you can dive deeper into customizing your offerings for each group.
Understanding Customer Channels
Figure out which channels your different customer groups use. Merchants, depending on their size and target audience, adopt new channels in similar ways. They usually start with big platforms like Amazon, Google, or Facebook, then get more specific as they grow—like using Snapchat and TikTok for Gen Z.
Imagine you’re shopping for a gold watch. Where you look depends on the type of watch you want.
- If you want a vintage or rare watch, you might check eBay.
- For a modern, trendy watch, you could explore Instagram.
- If you’re after something super high-end, a physical jewelry store might be the place to go.
It’s the same for any product and audience. To connect with customers at the right time and place, you need to know how they behave, where they shop, and what drives them to buy.
To make smart choices about your channels, use a mix of talking to customers for insights and tracking key performance indicators for a broader picture. Analyze which channels bring in profits, work efficiently, or attract new customers. Then, focus on making those channels provide the best shopping experience.
Understanding the Customer Journey
Figure out how and why customers shop in certain ways, not just where. Mapping the customer journey helps businesses understand what customers are thinking and what’s working or not.
Think about a silver necklace that you’re eyeing for a fashion-forward look. Here’s a possible journey from searching to buying.
- Search “silver necklaces” on Pinterest.
- Check out Instagram profiles of eye-catching brands.
- Click on retargeting ads from jewelry brands that catch your eye.
- Sign up for email newsletters from favorite brands’ websites.
- Look up reviews for your top contenders.
- Finally, narrow down options and make a purchase from the brand’s ecommerce site.
The journey could have gone in many directions, but customers expect a smooth experience. That’s a big challenge in omnichannel, as customer journeys are not simple and linear. They involve handoffs between traditional and digital channels, and understanding what customers really want is crucial.
Offer Support Across Channels
Customers today want to buy where it’s easiest, and the same goes for getting help. If you’re active on various platforms, you need to ensure you can assist customers wherever they are. Imagine a customer who saw a product on an Instagram ad, clicked the link, but it didn’t work. Now they’re stuck. Who should they contact – Instagram or the vendor? If support is separate for each, the customer might feel lost, and the sale might not happen — a situation that nobody likes.
By setting up support that works across different channels, organizations can avoid these issues and assist every customer, no matter where they are in their journey or which channel they’re using. Consistent, reliable support can boost the value of customers over time and turn them into loyal consumers.
Integrate Your Technology
It’s crucial to blend your tech tools as much as possible, and one of the key reasons is your inventory. When you’re selling on different platforms, you need a real-time, unified view of all your inventory. It’s also handy to have one central place for product info, so you’re not entering details separately for each selling channel.
Use tools that can help bring together your data across various channels, and platforms let you connect and sync accounts on Amazon, eBay, Google, and Walmart.
The perks don’t stop there. When your marketing and e-commerce efforts are closely linked, you can gather important data to understand performance and spot opportunities. Seamless connections between channels also make a big difference in customer support. For example, if your phone agent is already aware of an email conversation with a customer, they can seamlessly continue where the email left off.
According to McKinsey, excelling in customer support, with the help of advanced analytics and technology, has the potential to significantly increase customer satisfaction by creating impressive “wow moments.”
Harness the Power of Automation
Productivity experts suggest focusing on high-leverage tasks that really make a difference in your business. The key is to ask yourself what moves the needle and brings long-term benefits.
Identify those impactful activities and concentrate on them to drive your business forward. Automation plays a key role, especially for tasks that are repeatable and don’t need critical judgment—these aren’t the high-value $10,000-per-hour tasks.
But automation goes beyond that. Below are some examples.
- Chatbots for Customer Queries – Use chatbots to handle routine customer questions, freeing up support reps for more complex issues.
- Integrated Tech Stack – Opt for a tech setup that seamlessly integrates, giving you a real-time view of your business for informed decision-making.
- Behavioral Triggers for Personalized Marketing – Set up triggers to deliver personalized marketing messages at the right moments in a customer’s journey.
- Abandoned Cart Programs – Use automation to encourage people to complete their purchases, regardless of where they started the interaction.
- Automated Follow-Up Messages – Thank customers for their purchase and offer future items, like discounts, through automated follow-up messages.
Develop a Testing Routine
Testing isn’t a one-time thing saved for the final days before launching. It should be a regular thing in your business, especially if you’re dealing with the complexity of an omnichannel journey. For omnichannel retail, testing should be ongoing and cover every part of your site—from checking how customers use your store on desktop browsers to seeing how your site handles customer decisions through software testing.
Test frequently and test everything. Try out different subject lines, content, formats, offers, and more. Experiment with your customer segments and see if you can break them down even further for better targeting.
Eventually, testing should become automatic, giving you real-time updates on how different parts of your business are doing and where you can make things better. Collecting data at every interaction point is crucial for making decisions that boost your business. Make sure you have a platform and partners that make it easy to bring together all your data and get valuable insights.
Customers want smooth shopping across all channels. Retailers today are adjusting to new customer needs and behaviors, rethinking their understanding of their target audience. For an effective omnichannel strategy, you need a solid foundation based on four pillars: sales channels, marketing and advertising, operations, and shipping and fulfillment.
According to McKinsey analysts, an omnichannel transformation is crucial to handle complexity, offer a great customer experience, and control operational costs. The right omnichannel marketing software allows you to manage all activities across your channels in one place. Your limitations will only be as big as your vision as a marketer and entrepreneur.