What Is Omnichannel Retail? (And Do You Have the Right Strategy?)

The biggest buzzword in retail over the last few years has been omnichannel and for good reason. Omnichannel shopping is here to stay. Gone are the days of plain, old ecommerce. Now, you need give your customers an omnichannel experience to compete in retail. If you’re still trying to unpack this term and figure out what it means for your business, read on. We’re here to help.

So what’s omnichannel anyway?

Simply put, omnichannel is about the continuity of your brand experience and refers to delivering a seamless shopping experience across all of your sales and marketing channels—traditional brick-and-mortar, web, marketplaces, digital storefronts, mobile shopping, apps, social, and whatever new channels the future may bring.

In today’s retail environment, the customer is in control. Shoppers are empowered with more information, choice, and flexibility than ever before. They’re increasingly comfortable navigating across multiple channels when they shop—switching between mobile, desktop, and apps while online shopping, researching purchases on mobile devices while in-store, or checking out products in-person to later purchase them online.

Behind the consumer psyche

Your customers don’t think in buzzwords like omnichannel, but they want to live in an omnichannel world. Customers see something they want and then use whatever channels are available to them to get it. For example, a customer sees a product on your social feed, looks up that product on your mobile site and then purchases the product online or in-store. Customers are increasingly resourceful about how they shop, and they’re continually adapting their buying strategies to ensure they’re getting the best deal and maximizing value and convenience with every purchase.

Functional things to consider

To cater to omnichannel shoppers, retailers need to give their customers a consistent experience across all channels and let customers seamlessly interact with their brand regardless of the channel or device. Brand strategy is key here. Do your mobile site and app have the same responsive theme as your website? Do your mobile, website, and social feeds thematically match your in-store design and experience?

Beyond looking the part, your strategy should leverage what we know about consumer behavior. How is your store handling cross-device shopping? Letting customers save their shopping bags or lists, so they can be accessed from multiple devices is also an important feature for omnichannel shoppers. What about encouraging mobile interactions in-store? Have you considered arming your front-line staff in stores with mobile devices so that they’re able to access your online store or app to help customer’s place online orders? Target, the major retail chain, for example, merges mobile and physical shopping experiences in the Target mobile app by noting what aisle products can be found on in the current or customer’s preferred store when a shopper browses products from the Target app.

Research shows omnichannel increases customer lifetime value

Retailers who can best offer these omnichannel experiences and cater to connected shoppers will come out on top. Why? Study after study shows that omnichannel shoppers (i.e., customers who engage with your brand across two or more channels) are more valuable. According to a 2015 study, omnichannel consumers have a 30% higher lifetime value than consumers who engage with only a single channel. Once you reel in an omnichannel shopper, they’re more likely to stick around. A 2016 study found that omnichannel shoppers are more loyal than single channel shoppers. After completing an omnichannel shopping experience, omnichannel customers made 23% more repeat shopping trips to the retailer’s stores and were more likely to recommend the brand to family and friends than those shoppers who engaged with only one channel.

Retail today is unavoidably interconnected. With so many choices and channels, customers no longer need to shop within a single brand, and brands must consciously work to earn and maintain customer loyalty. To keep customers happy and coming back retailers must offer consistent and exceptional customer experiences across all channels. Brands and retailers that invest in omnichannel experiences will come out on top.

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