An Introduction to Omnichannel Retail
Retail has changed beyond recognition in recent years, and it's all down to technology. Thanks to omnichannel retailing, shops can integrate the customer experience seamlessly across multiple channels and touchpoints, driving more sales and better customer relationships. It’s all about enabling people to buy wherever they are while communicating in a way that's directly connected to why they use a given channel, and proving you're consciously aware of the stage they're at in the customer lifecycle.
This guide will take you on a journey through the amazing world of omnichannel retail, revealing exactly why retailers need to adopt the technology and understand where it’s going in future.
What is omnichannel retail?
Single-channel retail defines a retailer's efforts to connect with customers through just one channel, whether it's online, a printed catalogue, a mail-order offer, face-to-face sales, or an actual shop. While the marketing costs involved are low and it's a simple way to proceed, single-channel retail misses out on a plethora of opportunities to engage with consumers, inspire them, and build an ongoing relationships, all of which ultimately means you sell more.
In today's digital age it's a whole lot easier to identify and take advantage of all the touchpoints where a customer might be approached. And that's what omnichannel retail is all about. Your more savvy competitors are probably already taking advantage of this customer-centric approach, changing people's expectations via multiple channels and multiple devices, and the pressure is on to keep up.
Omnichannel retail means you can be everywhere your customers are. It offers a fully integrated approach to commerce, giving shoppers a unified experience across every channel or touchpoint, going far beyond bricks and mortar to let people browse on their mobile, harness online marketplaces, use social media, and find you wherever they are online via retargeted adverts. And all of this means customers spend more. In fact, an omnichannel approach is the only way to tap into the impressive potential of each and every touchpoint.
Benefits of omnichannel retailing
Studies by respected bodies like Harvard Business Review, Google and more reveal how a high percentage of shoppers use multiple channels to complete their purchases. So what are the benefits of omnichannel retail? In short, it's marketing gold dust.
An omnichannel approach comes with improved customer retention. Brands adopting it experience a 13% improvement in customer retention rates. This matters a lot when every good marketer knows it is cheaper and more efficient to maximise the potential of existing customers than attract a constant stream of new ones while there's a percentage of current customers constantly dropping off the other end.
Increased turnover is another great benefit since plenty of studies have proved omnichannel customers are 30% more valuable. And all this comes with enhanced levels of customer satisfaction, simply because when you deliver excellent service, people come back again and again. This breeds customer loyalty, which in turn means people talk positively about your brand, sending word of mouth recommendations your way. At which point they've become the most valuable type of customer of all, an actual brand advocate.
Improved customer data collection is another clear advantage of omnichannel retail. In a retail landscape where data means more than ever, it gives you the opportunity to delve deep into people's motivations, likes, dislikes, buying habits and more. When you track consumers across multiple channels, you quickly gain a deeper understanding of their needs and desires.
It's about brand building, too. The more touchpoints at which you delight people, the more frequently they come across your brand, and the more they buy from you, the better your brand equity will be. Your brand becomes steadily more popular, more respected, and better known to an ever-wider group of people.
Why is omnichannel important for retailers?
At the end of the day, adopting an omnichannel retail strategy lets your business, as a brand, meet the fast-developing expectations of today's hyper-connected consumers. You're probably a hyper-connected consumer yourself! Today more of us than ever take a multi-channel approach to shopping, whether it's the weekly supermarket shop or something special.
Maybe you spend an hour in the evening browsing online via your mobile or tablet, doing your initial research. You want to know which of a number of similar products is the best for your circumstances and budget, so you visit eBay and Amazon to compare and contrast the product's features and benefits. Then you might explore several retail websites offering the product to see what they're saying. You could even hop over to a reviews website to check out what other consumers are saying.
The next day you might call a friend to see if they have anything useful to say about the thing you want to buy. Then you hop on a bus and go to a few shops to check the item out in real life, taking photos before coming back home to buy it via your desktop machine from the best online retailer you can find. 'Best' can mean many different things, from the closest to home to the cheapest to the fastest delivery. Whatever you want to buy, wherever you're going to buy it, the journey you've gone through is complex and covers multiple channels.
As a retailer, you can't benefit from these journeys unless you have a presence at every touchpoint and on every channel. It makes a lot of business sense to consider every single potential channel and touchpoint that's relevant to your operation and, in every case, figure out what you can do to perfect the customer experience.
At the moment around 80% of retailers know they're failing to deliver this kind of unified shopping experience, and half of those acknowledge they're not moving towards omnichannel retail anywhere near fast enough. Is that you?
Moving beyond omnichannel
Wise modern retailers are working hard to link the consumer buying experience across their website, mobile, social media, apps and offline. They're overcoming challenges around a lack of organisation and customer analytics, trying to find ways to identify customers cross-channel and exploring IT systems designed to support the magic. In the omnichannel world, customers expect to be able to engage with the retailers they love on one channel, make enquiries via an entirely different channel, and actually buy the goods or service using yet another. And they fully expect all this to happen seamlessly.
In the near future, the evolution of omnichannel retail will focus on getting to know customers much more deeply, enabling intelligently personalised customer experiences across every channel. That's your challenge if you want to stay ahead in a retail world that has been changing super-fast for years, and which the pandemic has forced to change even faster. Are you ready to welcome in the new age of shopping?
There are so many exciting, positive aspects of a great omnichannel retail strategy, both for your retail business and the people you sell to. When you're there for consumers whatever channel they happen to be on, you grow strong long term relationships. When you delight people at every touchpoint they tell their friends about you, and your brand becomes more popular. When consumers want to make choices, you help them decide on the best choice however they approach the task of buying. You become more trusted, liked and respected. And your bottom line booms.