Just answer this question: How many internet-capable devices are there within 6 feet of you? I’d guess there’s more than one. This tech savviness has empowered consumers in ways we could never have imagined and the impact is enormous. This has made them channel agnostic along with using it not only in personal ways, in social and experiential ways too. And this rapid transformation in their behavior hasn’t left shopping untouched. In the e-commerce dominant shopping world, people began to interact with products through multiple channels like mobile, laptops, tablets, and wearable technologies while, of course, still visiting stores. This abundance of channels gave rise to the concept of the omni-channel experience…and soon it became a catchphrase. Let’s take a look at a brief definition of omnichannel, then.
The origin of omni is in the word “omnis,” which can mean “all.” or “universal.” or “something which is all capacious.” And channel, as we know, is a medium through which one can interact. Thus, in the context of online business, we can say that the definition of omnichannel is a multichannel sales approach that provides the customer with an integrated shopping experience. Regardless of whether a customer is using desktop, mobile or laptop for shopping, the shopping experience remains seamless.
But, though it uses multiple channels, it is important to note here that there is a difference between the definition of omnichannel and multichannel. The major differentiating factor between them is the extent of integration. All omnichannel experiences will use multiple channels, but not all multichannel experiences are omnichannel. You may be using mobile, social media, and an interactive website. But if they are not in sync with each other, it’s not an omnichannel experience.
As you can see in the above figure, as omnichannel gives a seamless experience of shopping through multiple channels, there is hardly any secret in understanding why most of the retail bigwigs have embraced it committedly. Let’s find out what must have motivated them to do so.
Even for a given business, customers aren’t homogeneous. Baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z…and this will go on increasing with the time. Naturally, there cannot be only one medium which will be preferred by all. Some may prefer mobile phones, some may prefer a desktop or some may like to visit the store all the time. Just focusing on one medium, thus, directly means excluding those who don’t favor that particular medium of yours. And it can be a huge loss. You have to understand that one of the paramount reasons that online shopping is thriving is the convenience that it offers to people. It has reduced the need to stand in long queues and get lost in crowds especially during holiday seasons. The entire catalog of products in just a click away from people, which they can browse as per their convenience. So, making their experience devoid of other channels is also a sort of inconvenience for them.
Besides, it has been observed that enabling your customers to convert on any channel at any time has always been beneficial. And the very reason for that is convenience. According to a 2015 study by IDC, these shoppers have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel. What it means is allowing people to interact with your brand through the medium of their preference is not just making them interested in your brand, but it is acting as a motivator for them to take purchasing decisions as well.
It’s true that online shops are going to rule, but that doesn’t mean that physical stores will cease to exist. Going to the store, talking to the sales representatives directly, touching and feeling the products…this still means a lot to many people. With mobiles phones and laptops at their disposal, people do the online research about the products that they are planning to buy. Then they visit the shop to purchase them. Experts are calling it as webrooming; just the opposite of showrooming where people come to the shop, look at the products and buy online. That’s why around 90% of retail sales are still happening down at the shop-floor just in store, and 95% of the total retail sales fall into the stores with brick-and-mortar presence.
Another striking fact is that mobile commerce is a pathway to physical commerce conversion given that 75% of consumers use mobile devices within the physical store. This opens up a possibility for retailers to generate in-store push notifications to target the customers roaming in the store by using beacons or other devices. It’s like diminishing the difference of experience between online and offline shopping. This may have acted as an impetus behind the Amazon’s decision to set up a physical bookstore. The e-commerce giant’s venture into physical store tells a lot about the future of physical stores!
The definition of omnichannel isn’t just restricted to buying activities. It also allows your customers to interact with your marketing efforts, say referral programs or loyalty programs. They can participate in your loyalty or engagement program according to their preferences, whether they want to check into a physical store to earn points, snap a photo and share it on Instagram for rewards, use a receipt code to refer a friend, or share a purchase through SMS. You can use social media, emails, and mobile messages to make your program more visible. The experience and the communication will remain same across all the channels. In fact, that’s why omnichannel is such a huge hit. Obviously, as it is encompassing all the touch points, the participation of the customers will be high as opposed to single channel approach.
The level of customer service experience can make or break your possibilities of customer retention. Companies are heavily investing in making their customer service out of this world. Omnichannel approaches can become an essential tool in achieving it. Being an omnichannel brand means being omnipresent. You are everywhere…and it includes social media and digital platforms too. New technologies like Twitter, Live Chat, and video live chat can make real-time customer support a possibility. An Eptica study outlined the growth of Twitter for customer service. It is fascinating how the domain of customer support is changing.
Really, what it means is if you are applying this definition of omnichannel, you will be there for your customers wherever they are. Its importance becomes even more visible if you take into consideration the fact that it can be difficult to offer uninterrupted service on a single channel unless the brand is well-staffed globally.
Certainly, people don’t interact with your brand through one medium. That’s not possible in the era of digitalization and social media uprising. Not just the interaction- it ensures mass reach, publicity, high visibility and robust way to be in touch with your customers. And that’s precisely why omnichannel is purely unavoidable!
Note: Many retailers have realized the importance of having an omnichannel approach. They have implemented it and they have seen a great success. Read here how omnichannel played a significant role in the success of Topshop. Go through this blog to know how omnichannel made a success story out of Home Depot.
If you’re curious about applying specific omnichannel marketing tactics for your own business, check out the following links…