6 Reasons You Should Be Thinking About an Omnichannel Strategy

omnichannelYou have probably heard of and even experienced omnichannel retailing (or omni commerce) even if you don’t know what it means. It’s named so because “omni” is Latin for “all”, and omnichannel means the integration of all channels to create a seamless experience. When it comes to shopping these days, the lines between offline and online are becoming increasingly blurred.

Each consumer touchpoint used to be considered separate and disconnected from each other. Now companies, both big and small, are approaching the customer experience holistically. An omnichannel approach involves the cohesive channels working together to create a unified brand experience, ensuring the customer gets the same service, support, and information regardless of how they interact with the brand.

Despite being a much-talked about buzzword in the last few years (it’s up there with “millennials”), omnichannel is here to stay. Omnichannel strategies are borne out of necessity, in response to the changing dynamic between consumer and brand. Below are six reasons you should be thinking about an omnichannel strategy.

1. Consumers are shopping across devices

The behaviors of today’s consumers have evolved since the days of going to a brick-and-mortar store to peruse and purchase. Now, they use multiple devices and channels to research and shop. Consumers are using an average of five “connected” devices to purchase. Using mobile phones, iPads, apps, and laptops, consumers move across various touchpoints — both online and offline — on their purchase path.

2. Companies – your competitors – are taking note

Omnichannel is not a one-sided phenomenon. More and more companies adapting to consumer behavior. Many previously eCommerce-only businesses expanding into physical locations (ShoeMe, Clearly Contacts, and Warby Parker). Even smaller companies are experimenting in the form of temporary pop-up shops; it’s a way for online-exclusive businesses to test if there’s a market or need for a physical location without the commitment of a full brick-and-mortar location. The opposite is occurring as well; many brick-and-mortar stores are going global and selling online

3. Personalization equals loyalty

Consumers want their preferences to be known and acknowledged. In turn, they’re likely to give their business to brands that personalize their experience. One thing we’re not short of in the digital age is the amount of data available at our fingertips. Retailers can reap tons of valuable behavior insights. eCommerce businesses, in particular, are leveraging real-time data from their customers in order to create a cohesive, unified experience. Consumers are busy and excellent at multi-tasking – which bodes well with merchants. They can use the data to reach customers with tailored, relevant offers or messages at various touchpoints to maximize engagement and upsell. This can be in the form of abandoned shopping cart emails, recommendations of related products, location-based text messages, etc.

Personalization will pave the way for loyalty. This is from a Koble white paper about omnichannel loyalty: “Unlike traditional rewards programs, omnichannel loyalty is the approach to maximizing cross-channel marketing with an emphasis on driving cumulative loyalty-related outcomes—not through a single campaign, but through a lifetime of ongoing campaigns that speak to that customer and engage them within the brand.”

4. Shoppers are making more informed decisions

Consumers are embracing technology across all channels. It has facilitated consumers’ access to instant information, and as a result, they’re conducting more research before they buy because it’s readily available. To ensure they get the best deal and value for their money, customers are conducting their preliminary research online, then purchasing in-store or checking out the products in-store, then going online to find the best deal (behavior known as webrooming and showrooming). Beyond going from one channel to another, the offline and online shopping experiences are merging. 42% of shoppers search for information on a mobile device while browsing in-store, and of that number, 46% are utilizing a retailer’s site or app.

5. Consumers crave choice, convenience, and speed

Consumers want the ability to choose how they pay – which means merchants would do well to offer multiple payment options. We live in a fast-paced society where technology facilitates speed. Convenience and speed go hand in hand. Checkout experiences are speeding up. Faster and friction-free experiences will continue to gain prevalence as merchants adopt payment technologies like self-checkout machines and EMV-enabled terminals to speed up transactions. Consumers have come to expect speed in their purchasing experiences, no matter how they pay – whether it’s via digital invoicing in a few clicks, or tapping their credit card or mobile phone on an NFC terminal in-store.

6. Customers expect better experience and service.

In addition to speed, consumers want consistent service and information. Customers expect the same quality of service across all touchpoints. An omnichannel strategy helps merchants better retain existing customers and obtain new ones. With an omnichannel approach, companies will be able to maintain far more accurate inventory counts. This way, customers are able to check whether or not an item is available online and reserve it for pick up if they want.

The incumbent method for customer data storage is in silos. For many businesses, customers’ offline and online purchasing histories aren’t connected. An omnichannel strategy bridges the gap between so that customer service reps and sales associates alike are equipped with the most complete and up-to-date information to better assist customers. An integrated experience will facilitate a better customer experience, allowing them to purchase products from one channel and exchange or return them through another channel.

It’s time to start thinking about implementing an omnichannel strategy. Big companies have the resources and budget to be trailblazers in the pursuit of an omnichannel future but as omnichannel becomes more prevalent, these trends and technologies will trickle down and be adopted by smaller businesses as well.