Why Omnichannel is the Future of Commerce
As consumers in 2021, we are empowered by seemingly endless opportunities to make our lives more convenient. From ordering food delivery on an app at midnight, to being able to call an Uber at virtually any curbside in the world… our lives are enveloped in layers of convenience from all of our favorite companies.
This brings up an important question: what happened behind the scenes to facilitate all of these unique brand experiences? What was the driving commercial force behind brands needing to create so many user touchpoints?
The answer is a shift in eCommerce towards omnichannel strategy.
For those who may have heard the word, but need a refresher: omnichannel is a content strategy leveraged by an increasing number of direct-to-consumer brands that is designed to provide cross-channel user experiences.
“Omnichannel strategies are becoming paramount for DTC Brands as they strive to create consistent and immersive experiences for their customers across all channels and touch points,” says BVA’s Chief Commercial Officer, Travis Hess.
What brands have found in recent years is that consumers have combined both store and online visits into their shopping process. An omnichannel strategy fosters not only a strong online presence, but also cohesive brand messaging that shows up during any customer interaction-- whether it be on a mobile device or in-store.
For almost every type of business model, odds are, there is a need for some element of omnichannel strategy in your operations.
So, why go omni?
Besides providing convenience to your existing customers, what are some of the measurable benefits of an omnichannel strategy?
1. Efficiency is the name of the game
Omnichannel is a way to optimize efficiency when it comes to business development and sales practices. Through numerous platforms, there are many ways that consumers can have their needs met without ever having to interact with sales personnel. This means less resource allocation towards customer service efforts and more towards actual business development.
Chatbots, blog posts, informative web pages, and social media advertising can easily streamline your customer experience and help move leads through the sales funnel more efficiently. According to a study performed by the Harvard Business Review, customers interacting with an omnichannel experience tend to spend 4% more in-store and 10% more online. A factor that may affect this is the ability to easily find solutions and arrive at a purchase decision more seamlessly without having to be in contact with a representative.
2. More data, *fewer* problems
Keep in mind that having an omnichannel structure creates more avenues for data collection. Retailers are able to gather more insights on consumer purchase behavior while having both brick-and-mortar and online storefronts. Using an omnichannel perspective, a retailer can view consumer behavior from every direction and is able to stay up-to-date with the evolution of consumer preferences.
Through Google Analytics (GA) your brand tracks much more than just basic foot traffic, and it’s important to leverage its capabilities to the fullest potential. GA can tell you the sources of online traffic (i.e. where your customers are coming from), visitor behaviors, and enable you to run highly targeted campaigns.
Being able to differentiate online behaviors of a repeat visitor versus a new user means you can identify early signals that make an individual more likely to convert and then retarget them later. For example, a person who has spent more than five minutes on a product display page (or PDP) might be more likely to respond to a retargeting ad than someone who only spent one minute on the page. Finding patterns like this can help identify gaps in UX/UI design, create more targeted campaigns, and optimize your platforms for the buyer’s journey.
3. Your bottom line: increase profit margin
In addition to increasing efficiency, omnichannel strategy provides ways to increase profit margin. With omnichannel, you’re reaching the most consumers possible; from people who prefer to shop online to shoppers who like to touch the physical product, to those who shop on their phone while in-store… don’t even get us started on that one. In addition, there’s a much greater geographical range of prospects you can reach via omnichannel marketing.
Your profit margin, which we went into more detail on in our Holidays in 20/20 article, may increase due to less waste. If you’re opening a new storefront location with a special promotion, you can also include other geographical segments of consumers by displaying the promotion on online platforms. By utilizing omnichannel methods, you don’t have to stay limited to in-store promotions or specific geographic locations. This could lead to more purchases right away, and less price slashing just to get the inventory out of the warehouses. Additionally, you could offer promotional deals online that include gift items (A.K.A. surplus product that didn’t sell in-store) to incentivize customers to spend more online.
How to create an omnichannel strategy
To better understand this idea, think about Disney. It’s likely that anyone, anywhere in the world, across any channel, would recognize Disney brand messaging. This is no accident. Disney has continually developed a very detail-oriented omnichannel strategy and they are reaping the benefits of it. For example, you can purchase theme park tickets, check ride wait times, and view your favorite characters’ locations in the park, all from your mobile device.
Disney's Mobile App.
This is a perfect showcase of the digital world meeting tangible value; consumers can obtain what they need online, while also enjoying the brand in a more real way.
So we know what successful omnichannel looks like, now how does a brand tackle it? There are three key steps of omnichannel strategy that lead to success.
1. Track down your customers
We’ve already touched on the importance of constantly monitoring your Google Analytics acquisition report. Acquisition reports should be consistently reviewed in order to understand how customers are engaging with your brand. You will be able to see marketing attribution, or rather, which marketing efforts are most effective at driving conversions. Gaining insights into what your consumers currently prefer will help drive more successful strategy development as you enhance the relevant platforms.
To get more specific, you’ll want to break down your Google Analytics process into three phases:
- Phase 1: Before diving into GA, understand where your target customers spend the most time online. What platform, medium, and devices do they use?
- Phase 2: Use GA to understand their shopping behavior. Pull acquisition reports and look at their paths to conversion through multi-channel funnels.
- Phase 3: Focus your customer acquisition and conversion strategy based on your learning. Leverage the best online platforms and optimize your path to conversion.
2. Make every touch point a storefront
After you’ve concluded which platforms are most important to your audience, you need to also ensure that every possible platform of brand interaction allows them to access your online store. For instance, if your brand happens to have a YouTube channel, ensure that your storefront is linked in all the video descriptions. Other social platforms like Pinterest also allow for the option of directly purchasing products on the platform. Regardless of where the consumer is seeing your brand, they need to have easy access to a purchase page.
However, it is important to note that some of your digital marketing campaigns may not be aimed at making a hard sell. In some situations, it may be necessary to include more discreet access to your product purchase page. In cases where your content is aimed at raising brand awareness, for example, it may be more appropriate to include a subtle link to your online store at the bottom of the ad rather than an immediate flashy call-to-action urging them to make the buy.
An example of a Square Space landing page.
3. Merge your offline and online brand experience
Often companies have trouble aligning their physical storefront with their online brand image. You want to make sure that not only are all your retail avenues aligned with your company branding, but that they also work together cohesively. If there is any way that your storefront and your online platforms can play off each other, it’s important to identify these opportunities.
For example, if you are a clothing retailer with both an online store and physical storefronts, perhaps there is an opportunity to have an app with a feature that allows users to scan QR codes of in-store items to find them online in different sizes and colors. These types of features come in handy when an individual storefront may have limited merchandise.
Another great example is a “buy online, return in store” policy that allows consumers to purchase items from the digital storefront but return anything to a brick-and-mortar location (hello reckless clothing shoppers who don’t check measurements). As a brand, doing anything to make the overall customer experience stress-free and engaging is essential.
Omni-channel retail is the future of eCommerce. If you’re not providing a holistic brand experience for your consumers, your business may be missing some opportunities to scale and grow. It’s important to always keep in mind where your customers are (online and offline), in addition to continuously improving convenience features.
In other words, delight your customers! Build a strategy that boosts your brand and creates a consistent message that your core consumers will recognize anywhere. Be their Disney.