Customers interact with brands every day. This interaction sometimes happens face-to-face and other times it happens digitally through email, social media, and company websites. So in these circumstances, how does a business maintain a unified approach in their design, strategy, and customer experience? The answer lies in omnichannel retailing. Let’s take a look at what omnichannel is and why it is important.
What is Omnichannel Retailing?
Omnichannel (meaning all channels) is a fully integrated approach to commerce that offers customers a unified experience across all offline and online channels. Authentic omnichannel shopping ensures a smooth experience across brick and mortar locations, ecommerce marketplaces, social media, email, and mobile browsing, to name a few examples. For brands, the goal here is to be everywhere – at least, everywhere where their target audience is.
Retailers using an omnichannel strategy seek to have a heavy digital and physical presence, and the challenge lies in ensuring a seamless and effortless customer experience across all offline and online channels.
The definition of omnichannel retailing:
A popular definition of omnichannel refers to how customers use different channels to complete a single transaction, for example they see different products and deals on their phones, place orders online for home or in-store delivery, and have the option to make returns or exchanges at a physical retail location.
This definition only touches the surface of what omnichannel retailing is all about. In essence, omnichannel retail is a cross-channel strategy that provides customers with a seamless and consistent shopping experience through the integration of various channels. The experience for the customer is consistent, regardless of which channel they use to interact with the business at any point during a transaction.
Omnichannel vs multichannel: what’s the difference?
Omnichannel is no new term; it has been in existence for many years, but it is still often confused with multichannel. Most retailers these days are multichannel, as they market and sell their products on several platforms, but very few are truly omnichannel.
The main difference between the two lies in the consistency of the consumer experience across channels.
In a multi-channel strategy, the experience is shaped according to the assumption that the consumer will complete each step of a single transaction on the same channel.
With an omnichannel strategy, however, there is an anticipation that a customer may start in one channel and then move to another, and as such, this transfer must be fluid for the customer. The aim is to create a seamless and holistic experience for the shopper, regardless of the channel they are using. With omnichannel, how a customer interacts with one channel influences the experience that they will have on another channel.
Why is omnichannel retailing important?
Research has shown that a properly executed omnichannel strategy leads to increased turnover and increased customer retention.
The omnichannel retail approach recognizes that different people may choose to use different channels throughout the process of making a single purchase. An omnichannel strategy facilitates this use of different channels by ensuring a smooth, consistent experience. Here is an example:
- The customer performs a Google search for your product on their desktop computer, and lands on your product page.
- From the product page, they place the product in their basket.
- They get distracted, and do not continue to the checkout.
- Later, they receive an email reminding them of the item in their basket, along with a $50 discount.
- They open the email and see the discount, but don’t click it.
- Some time later, while they are browsing on their mobile phones, they see an ad for the same product that’s in their basket, offering the same $50 discount. This time, they click through, land on the mobile responsive basket page, and complete the checkout.
In this example, there is a seamless overlap between an online store, a desktop browser, a mobile browser, online advertising, and email. If the retailer in this example had not been implementing an effective omnichannel strategy, any of the following could have happened:
- The product that was placed in the basket on desktop might not have been visible from a mobile device – leading to frustration for the customer.
- The customer could have received different offers for discounts on the same product via different channels, e.g. $20 via email and $50 via online ad – leading to confusion and possibly lack of trust.
- The online store might have been non-mobile responsive – making it difficult for the customer to complete the checkout process on their phone and possibly leading to abandonment of the transaction.
The world has gone digital, and this has resulted in a new generation of consumers that use various channels and devices to make a purchase. Omnichannel allows sellers to meet customer demand via multiple channels, as well as to invite customers to switch seamlessly from one channel to another. It aims to make the entire customer experience easier and smoother, rather than simply giving the customer more options.
Omnichannel and digital signage
Using digital signage, retailers can combine the convenience of online shopping with in-person experiences. This is important because many customers still value going to the store and browsing the shelves and intermingling with real salespeople to asks questions.
In this context, in-store digital signage helps to create a seamless brand experience. Retailers can use the digital displays to play well-designed content and offers that fit the brand narrative. When this content aligns with the store’s app, website, social presence, and physical store design, it results in strong branding with a powerful impact.
Omnichannel and digital signage analytics
According to online shopping platform Shopify, 80% of retailers want to offer a unified brand experience (such as that offered by omnichannel), but 67% of those are failing to do so due to a “lack of customer analytics across channels”.
Digital signage analytics offers a solution to this challenge, particularly when it comes to analytics in the offline world.
Omnichannel strategies rely heavily on consumer data. And while collecting this data for online channels is relatively easy, obtaining this type of data for offline channels such as brick-and-mortar stores and digital signs has traditionally been much more difficult. Today, however, retailers have access to AI-based technology such as face analysis, which enables them to determine:
- The number of people viewing the content on in-store digital displays
- The age and gender of the people viewing the digital displays
- How much time people spend looking at the digital displays
- The type of digital display content that best resonates with customers in store
Retailers can use this data to power highly targeted interactions with customers, as well as to get a more complete overview of the customers they are interacting with across all channels. This overview will assist in creating a more effective omnichannel strategy.
Future trends in omnichannel retailing
While there are very few retailers who are yet to embrace omnichannel, customer behavior and expectations are driving companies to invest in new technology, such as AI-powered digital signage analytics. We can expect more innovative and affordable technical solutions that make it easy for customers to interact with various brands. Providers of in-store products may adapt to fully integrate with other channels while e-commerce platform providers continue to improve on their innovations for in-store capabilities.