All You Need to Know about Omnichannel Retailing
One reality of today’s highly digitalised, interconnected world is that customers now, more than ever, want to access their favourite retail brands across multiple channels. The data supports it — This Omnisend’s Omnichannel statistic for 2022 reports that omnichannel brands record purchase frequencies 250% higher than that recorded by single-channel brands. Plus, customer retention numbers go up.
So, the omnichannel retailing model has understandably become one of the biggest business trends of the past few years in the industry. In this article, we take a deep dive into what omnichannel retailing is; putting together everything you need to know to build a viable omnichannel model for your retail business.
What does omnichannel retailing really mean?
In this 2017 study involving 46,000 respondents, Harvard Business Review found that only 7% and 20% shopped exclusively online and in physical stores respectively. The majority, 73% preferred to shop across multiple channels - omnichannel customers.
In simple terms, an omnichannel model in retailing is a structure where a retailer establishes its presence on multiple platforms and then allows consumers to glide seamlessly across these multiple points of interaction.
The next new frontier in innovation in the Retail Industry, Omnichannel also involves integrating various channels such as online stores, mobile applications, and physical stores into one seamless customer experience.
By providing customers with multiple buying options, retailers are able to cater to the needs of today’s consumers, who expect to be able to buy products whenever and wherever they want. This allows retailers to track customer behaviour across all channels and gain valuable insights to improve product offerings and marketing strategies.
What’s the difference between the multichannel and omnichannel models?
At face value, one would expect that omnichannel & multichannel business models are the same. In reality, not so much. Although some marketers tend to use them interchangeably, there’s an ever so slight difference between them.
In this section, we examine some of these differences.
The biggest difference between both of them is in the way the channels are utilised. They both involve interacting with customers using a wide range of channels. But, while multichannel marketing involves operating each of these channels independent of one another, omnichannel marketing keeps all channels integrated.
This allows for the seamless transition of customer engagement from one channel to another. While the multichannel model is designed to enable companies to reach as large an audience as possible, the Omni-channel model, on the other hand optimises interactions across all touchpoints for an enhanced customer experience.
Companies can execute personalised communications using either model. However, the omnichannel model allows them to build much more accurate customer profiles, enabling companies to deliver more precise personalised interactions to their audiences. This is because, by operating seamlessly across all channels, the omnichannel approach can gather so many more data points that accurately reflect customer behaviour.
Let’s look at it this way; it is common knowledge that people tend to present entirely different personalities on different social media apps. So, while Ben might be a bit of a goofball on TikTok, he might be more of an art enthusiast on Instagram, and a college professor on Twitter.
Anyone can build a profile on him using any of his personas on the apps. But, it’s only by combining them all, that you can build the most informed profile of Ben.
How to build an omnichannel retailing strategy
Numerous retail giants across North America and Europe have quickly adopted an omnichannel business strategy as a means of forging stronger relationships with their customers.
Brands like Walgreens, Sephora, and Starbucks are routinely hailed in the business community for pioneering the omnichannel model in retail. Walgreens, for example, created a downloadable mobile app through which its customers can manage their prescriptions, fill out orders, and find the nearest outlets to pick up.
Not just that. The app allows them to browse the inventory of each store. That way, they know which ones have the medical supplies they’re looking for in stock, before visiting their physical store. As you’d expect, this move alone fostered more trust, loyalty, and engagement within their customer base.
In this section, we highlight a few steps that you can follow toward building an omnichannel business strategy for your business. Just like the industry giants we’ve outlined above, you too can sharpen your Omnichannel chops to increase your bottom line:
1. Collect data & build profiles of your customers
The very first step is to collect as much data as you can on your audience; understanding customer behaviour and the needs that drive them is crucial to building an acceptable omnichannel model. Identify and explore all platforms and touchpoints that members of your audience use.
With careful analysis, you can pinpoint which channels work best, how your customers would prefer to be interacted with, and other data points needed to build customer profiles. Anchoring your findings on these few variables, you can then look to build a workable model.
Walgreens’ app, for example, works because Americans are particularly acclimated to such hi-tech solutions. In another market with less digital literacy, the Consumers might prefer something else - maybe chatbots. To understand customer web behaviour better, especially how to put it to the best use, you can dig into our free handbook on the topic.
2. Segment your customers
When you have collected all the data you need and have built profiles on your customers, the next step is to segment them into groups. Separating customers into groups based on their similarities enables you to personalise the shopping experience and target specific customer groups.
There are a few different ways to segment customers in an omnichannel environment. One common approach is to segment based on channel preference. This means that you would group together customers who prefer to shop online, in-store, or through a mobile app.
Another approach is to segment based on purchase history. This could involve grouping together customers who have made similar purchases in the past or those who have shown an interest in certain products or categories.
Whichever approach you go with, there are certain advantages to segmenting customers in an omnichannel environment. One key benefit is that it helps you better target each customer group with customised marketing messages and promotions, which can help increase sales as it makes the shopping experience more personalised and relevant for each individual customer.
3. Map customer journey
A major difference between the omnichannel and multichannel business models is that all channels on the former are integrated. This wouldn’t happen without first mapping out your customer's journey through all your touchpoints.
Using the various customer personas that you have developed, map out all possible alternate pathways, leaving no gaps for potential customers to fall through.
4. Integrate customer support across all channels
The most brilliantly put-together businesses fall apart without competent and truly helpful customer support. Regardless of how excellent the structure you’re putting together may be, customers may choose to explore other choices once they feel that they’re not getting their desired customer service.
In the 2020 ACA (Achieving Customer Amazement) survey report, the consensus is that 96% of consumers will leave due to bad customer service. So, while building out infrastructure can be powerful for your retail business, your holistic strategy should include committing equal attention and resources to support.
For more insight into integration, its benefits, and how best to implement it, watch our free webinars here.
5. Measure performance and optimise
Finally, never stop optimising. The best part about omnichannel models is that it helps you to access a lot of data and feedback from your customer - more insightful feedback than you’d get any other way. So, regularly test and analyse feedback to measure the performance of your model, and benchmark it against your pre-set KPIs. And finally, using the results of these, optimize your structure for improved performance.
The retail business has gone from simple neighbourhood storefronts to customer-centric, data-rich enterprises. And Omnichannel retailing is the next frontier in this evolution.
Today, medium & large-scale retailers can connect with their customers more intelligently with omnichannel models, increasing sales and profits by improving customer loyalty and satisfaction. Small-scale retailers can also benefit from adopting an omnichannel strategy as well, as it gives them access to new marketing opportunities.
To make that transition into the future, you’ll need a trustable partner in your tech stack. Marketing automation platforms like APSIS One have all the functionality to help users - who happen to be retailers - smash their sales targets with blazingly fast and seamless marketing automation.
Ready to maintain your pull even while sifting across channels? Click here to see what’s in store for you. Better yet, you can switch up a gear and book a free demo.