Omnichannel Retailing

What is omnichannel retailing?

Omnichannel retailing is a business model that involves using multiple channels (e.g. marketplaces, social channels, brick-and-mortar stores, etc.) to offer customers a seamless shopping experience. Across these online and offline channels, the customer journey should be unified from the first touchpoint to the last.

Research has shown that 9 out of 10 consumers want companies to offer an omnichannel retail experience. This demonstrates that more and more customers are becoming omnichannel shoppers and that having a successful omnichannel retail strategy will become increasingly important in the years to come.

A basic example of an omnichannel retail experience could take place in a customer service context. Imagine that a customer has started trying to resolve an issue using a chatbot on an ecommerce website, but has then been directed to speak with an agent on the phone. Notice that this interaction doesn’t take place on a single channel, but instead moves from an online experience to one that occurs over the phone.

The key here is to ensure that the customer experience doesn’t suffer from being moved across multiple channels. In the example above, the customer would expect the agent to have access to the previous conversations so they wouldn’t have to start over from zero and share all the same information again.

Omnichannel vs multichannel retailing

Although multichannel retailing is similar to omnichannel retailing (since it also refers to selling across multiple channels), the two strategies are separate retail models.

Multichannel retailing focuses on optimizing individual touchpoints rather than the whole customer journey. That means a customer might have the choice between using online shopping or visiting a brick-and-mortar location to buy a brand’s products.

Omnichannel retailing, on the other hand, would bring all these customer touch points together by sending customer data to the store or vice-versa. If a customer buys a product in a physical store, for example, the store would send that essential data to the online channel, enabling the site to provide a personalized customer experience.

Multiple channels available for omnichannel retailing

Let’s assume you have a standalone ecommerce shop on a platform like Shopify or WooCommerce. Here are some other channels you can use as part of an omnichannel retail strategy.

1. Marketplaces

Amazon, Walmart, and Wish are popular online platforms where an omnichannel strategy can excel. These popular marketplaces make it easy for you to sell your products, saving you time and money.

2. Social commerce

Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and TikTok are all popular social media platforms that omnichannel retailers can use as part of an omnichannel retail experience.

Social commerce is growing quickly and brands have a real opportunity if they utilize it correctly. Experts have forecast that more than half of U.S. adults will make a purchase via social media in 2022. That would push social commerce sales to $45.74 billion.

If you add this channel to your omnichannel retail strategy, you’ll be able to build a group of loyal customers who can help provide social proof for your brand and products.

3. Search

According to research, Google processes over 8.5 billion searches per day. Placing ads and listings on Google is a great opportunity for brands who want to use omnichannel marketing campaigns.

You can also choose to list your products on shopping engines like Google shopping and Shopzilla.

4. Brick-and-mortar stores

A brick-and-mortar store can also play an essential role in your omnichannel retail strategy. Despite the increasing number of ecommerce sales, there’s still a place for in-store shopping.

In some industries, people prefer to see, touch, and try the product before they buy it, and a brick-and-mortar store gives them the opportunity to do that. You’ll also be able to use sales associates to explain the benefits of your products.

Benefits of omnichannel retailing

1. Convenience for customers

People discover new brands and products in all kinds of places: both in the physical stores they visit, and through online sales channels like Facebook, Instagram, Google Shopping, and marketplaces (or even on television). They should be able to buy the products they’re excited about on any channel.

Being present where your target audience likes to shop makes the customer journey more convenient.

Consumers increasingly expect that they’ll be able to find you on all the existing channels they’re accustomed to using, so you want to do your best to meet those expectations.

2. Centralized data

Omnichannel retail can be difficult to implement because collaboration is needed across as many channels as you’re using. In the past, the logistics involved have made this difficult.

Today, however, there are an increasing number of industry solutions and partners that can help you make an omnichannel retail strategy work seamlessly.

If you build a great omnichannel strategy, you’ll have centralized data and be able to manage inventory across multiple user touchpoints from all your sources and channels. 

3. Personalization

By leveraging all the data you’ve collected from different channels, you’ll gain greater insights into what your customers are looking for.

You can use these insights into consumer behavior to build personalized experiences for each shopper, tailoring your messaging and marketing strategy accordingly