What is omnichannel retailing?
Consumer expectations are evolving. More than a year after COVID-19 first landed in Canada, as the retail industry begins its slow pivot from crisis-management to recovery, it’s becoming clear that the pandemic will have a lasting impact on how people shop.
E-commerce is at an all-time high; even as lockdowns everywhere are lifting, Canadians have increased their monthly online shopping spend by more than $2 million compared to pre-pandemic, according to a recent PayPal survey.
But consumers today expect more than just an online store (although a beautifully designed e-commerce site is a great place to start). They expect easy-to-use, intuitive shopping experiences across channels and devices. To truly stand out in today’s competitive retail landscape, you need digital and operational strategies that work in tandem to form a holistic, user-friendly shopping experience. In short? You need to embrace an omnichannel retail strategy.
What is omnichannel retail/commerce?
Today’s consumers are researching, browsing, and purchasing on multiple channels and devices. From brick and mortar stores to mobile phones, online shops, social media marketing and more, 73% of retail customers use multiple channels to shop—and they expect a consistent experience across each one of them.
Omnichannel retail (or omnichannel commerce) is a sales and marketing approach that focuses on providing a seamless shopping experience across all touchpoints. That means offering your customers a unified experience that flows from one channel to the next without interruption.
Companies using an omnichannel approach to retail align their messaging, goals, objectives, and design across each channel and device so that however—and wherever—the customer chooses to engage, they’re met with a unified and consistent brand experience tailored to their individual journey.
Furthermore, with an omnichannel retail strategy, the brand’s behaviour isn’t random; it’s aligned with the customer’s behaviour within and between channels. Customer behavior dictates which selling tactics are used next, and each interaction alters the shopping experience. In short, omnichannel merges the worlds of websites, emails, retargeted ads, social media marketing, and physical locations to show personalized offers, products, and messages tailored to each consumer.
Omnichannel allows retailers to achieve more availability, drive sales and traffic, and provide more channels for customer purchase—whether it's on mobile, web, or in stores. An omnichannel retail strategy optimizes the customer experience, from enhancing product research and discovery to improving your e-commerce shipping process.
Learn how to adapt to the new realities of retail with the help of this actionable checklist.
Comparing multichannel and omnichannel retailing
You might have heard the term “multichannel commerce” before and are wondering: how is omnichannel different?
Most businesses today already engage in some form of multichannel marketing. They have a website, blog, Facebook, and Instagram, and they use each of these platforms to engage and connect with their customers. However, with a traditional multichannel approach, these channels don’t interact with each other. Your product or service is at the center of a multichannel shopping experience, with each channel offering the customer a different, siloed opportunity to engage with your brand or product.
Like multichannel, omnichannel commerce involves interaction across different types of digital and physical channels, from your social media to your online store. The big difference is integration. An omnichannel approach connects all of the channels in order to provide a seamless experience across platforms, and puts the customer at the center of the shopping experience.
FAQ: Omnichannel retail
Still have questions? Below you'll find answers to some of the most common questions about omnichannel retail:
What does omnichannel mean in retail?
“Omnis” is Latin for “every/all”. An omnichannel retail approach involves the integration of all channels, both physical (offline) and digital (online), to create a unified, customer-centred experience.
How is omnichannel retailing changing the retail industry?
The accelerated change in consumer behaviour brought about by the events of 2020 has made an omnichannel strategy more important than ever. With e-commerce at an all-time high, your business needs new strategies and business models to compete effectively in the new normal. If implemented properly an omnichannel retail strategy can help drive increased influence, sales, and revenue.
How to implement omnichannel in retail?
No omnichannel strategy is the same, and your path to channel conquest will depend on factors such as your industry, business structure, and target market. Common best practices to consider when creating your strategy include connecting your online and physical presence, creating a unified brand experience across all your channels, and syncing your customer data and business information with back-end CRM and ERP systems. Download our free checklist to find actionable tips and things to consider when creating an omnichannel retail strategy of your own.
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