Everywhere you look these days you see the phrase ‘Omnichannel Retailing’ – trade shows, industry publications, news blasts, etc. - but what does it mean and why is it important to online retailers? More importantly, how do you apply it?
Multi- vs. Omni- Channel – Same or Different?
There’s a lot of confusion as to whether or not Omnichannel is just a new hip way to say Multichannel, or if it’s actually different – the answer is … it’s different. Multichannel refers to the actual sales channels through which you are selling – storefront, online, mobile devices, etc. In the past, these channels typically worked independently of each other, which seemed foolish if you ask me. Our society is all about networking, so why wouldn’t a retailer ‘network’ between sales channels, after all it’s one brand. In the past, there’s been an emphasis on making sure the look and feel of the brand is consistent across channels, but what about cross channel promotion? This is one of the ways Omnichannel retailing comes into play.
Omnichannel retailing is the marketing term that came about as a result of multichannel retailing. Omnichannel refers to the ‘experience’ the customer has when shopping in one or more of your sales channels, making sure it’s consistent and emphasizes the importance of cross channel promotion. Obviously customers aren’t going to have the exact same experience shopping in your storefront versus on your website – you lose the ‘touch and feel’ aspect, no sales reps to help you find product, etc. – but there are a few keys things you can do that customers can expect to see across channels – consistent service, product availability and pricing. At the end of the day, you’re one brand, so you want customers to have a positive interaction at all levels.
Why is Omnichannel Retailing Important?
Retail has always been about the customer experience, and Omnichannel doesn’t change this, it takes it to another level. It’s now an end-to-end experience that begins whenever and wherever the customer orders, not necessarily beginning/ending in the same place. A shopper’s journey is no longer a linear one, meaning he or she goes to one sales channel and decides on a purchase. Today we see shoppers incorporating some, and sometimes even all, of the retailer’s channels into their decision process. That’s why it’s so important to be consistent, whether in messaging, prices, etc. If not, you risk tarnishing that customer’s experience and potentially losing them as a repeat customer. That’s critical, because it costs 5 times more to get a new client than to keep an existing one and existing clients are much more profitable than new ones.
There have been a lot of reports and surveys done recently on the benefits of applying an Omnichannel retailing approach, and the number one benefit is always ‘stronger brand identity/recognition’. This is key to your survival as a brand/retailer. Other benefits attributed to applying an Omnichannel approach include revenue growth, expanding your customer base, higher customer satisfaction, and it can be a competitive differentiator, at least until the rest of the retail world catches up.
How do you apply an Omnichannel Retailing Strategy?
There are lots of ways to apply an Omnichannel retailing strategy. Some of the easier ways include: making use of social media, integrating customer reviews (for online channels), offering cross channel services, and the easiest of all – providing consistent pricing across all channels! I’m sure most of you use, or know others who use, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. Social media is an easy, free way to get in front of your customers. Additionally, it can help you expand your reach! Each time a customer ‘follows’, ‘likes’ or ‘retweets’ something you post, each and every one of their connections now sees it – essentially it’s like free marketing!
Customer reviews are great for boosting online sales, especially for those products are harder to sell due to the lack of ‘touch and feel’ aspect. And I’m sure many of you have seen retailers offer the option to ‘buy online, pick up in store’, but what you may not have realized is that this is an Omnichannel retailing strategy. In this example, two of your sales channels are working together, your website and storefront. These are just a few quick examples. We’ll talk more about applying an Omnichannel Retail Strategy in future posts.
An Omnichannel retailing strategy is a necessity for those of you working in multichannel sales environments, and it makes sense. You’ve worked hard to build out each of these channels, now let’s start using them to our advantage!
For a more in depth look at Omnichannel retailing, along with additional examples on how to apply the strategy and then how to evaluate the success of your efforts, check out our webinar, Omnichannel Retailing – Finding Value in a Multichannel Sales Environment .