While scrolling on Instagram, a denim jacket catches your eye. From the brand’s post, you tap through to a product page on the retailer’s website and add the jacket to your cart. But before you complete the impulse buy, you decide to hold off.
The next day, you open your laptop and open the brand’s website, where you find the product still in your shopping cart. You review the sizing details to make sure the size you originally chose will be right, and you sign up for the retailer’s newsletter to get a “welcome” promo code for 10% off. But you still don’t buy it.
That night, you get a reminder email about your cart, letting you know there are only a few of these jackets left in the color you want. That makes you decide to go for it: you click through, buy the jacket, and get an email confirmation.
This is an example of an omnichannel ecommerce experience—it’s seamless across all touchpoints, including social, mobile, desktop, and email. Omnichannel ecommerce can benefit your brand. Here’s how to develop an effective omnichannel strategy that will work for you.
What is omnichannel ecommerce?
Omnichannel ecommerce is a retail strategy that integrates various shopping channels—desktop and mobile ecommerce sites, online marketplaces, mobile apps, email, social media, and brick-and-mortar stores—to create a unified customer experience. The goal is to make it easy for your customers by meeting them wherever they are, however they shop—by integrating your various sales and marketing touchpoints.
Multichannel ecommerce vs. omnichannel ecommerce
Both omnichannel and multichannel ecommerce use multiple channels to reach retail customers. However, they differ in their level of integration and customer experience.
Multichannel ecommerce is a strategy where a business sells its products on multiple platforms or channels, but these channels largely operate independently of each other. For instance, each channel may have marketing strategies and customer experiences. The focus of multichannel ecommerce is to maximize your reach by being present on as many channels as possible—but without necessarily creating a consistent experience across these channels.
Omnichannel ecommerce emphasizes the integration of all channels. Retailers that use an omnichannel ecommerce strategy are present on multiple platforms, and they ensure these platforms work together to provide a consistent and unified customer experience. The company’s messaging, branding, shopping experience, and pricing are harmonized across all platforms, and customer details are retained across interactions. This way, when a customer switches from one platform to another (like from mobile device to a desktop device), or makes additional purchases, the experience feels consistent.
4 benefits of omnichannel ecommerce
Shoppers weave in and out of online and offline channels expecting a consistent and personalized shopping experience. A transition to an omnichannel strategy offers your retail business significant benefits:
1. Improved customer experience
Whether customers are shopping on a mobile app or through Instagram ecommerce, they receive a consistent omnichannel brand experience. The ability to switch between channels—and have their order history, payment information, cart, and recently viewed items remain consistent—makes shopping more convenient, improving the ecommerce customer experience.
2. Increased sales
A consistent omnichannel shopping experience across all channels allows customers to easily pick up where they left off. For instance, if a customer tries on a clothing item in-store but can’t find their size, they can use their phone to add the item to their cart on the brand’s website; then, once they’re home, they can hop on their laptop to review the product—already in their cart—and make the purchase. One study found omnichannel shoppers spend 4% more when they shop in-store and 10% more when they shop online (compared to their counterparts who shop either only in-store or only online).
3. Enhanced brand loyalty
The easier it is to shop, the more likely a customer will return. Delivering a personalized omnichannel customer experience across all touchpoints helps build stronger relationships with customers. The convenience and familiarity of a unified brand experience foster customer loyalty, leading to repeat shopping trips and a higher customer lifetime value. The same study found omnichannel shoppers were more likely to make repeat shopping trips and more likely to tell their friends and family about the brand.
4. Better insights
An omnichannel approach allows you to gather data from all touchpoints and gives you valuable insights into customer behavior, preferences, and trends. This holistic view of the customer can inform more effective marketing strategies, personalized interactions, and product development decisions.
4 challenges of omnichannel ecommerce
Despite the opportunities omnichannel ecommerce presents, there are also a few challenges to navigate:
- Maintaining consistent customer service
- Tracking real-time inventory
- Managing fulfillment complexity
- Attributing sales to specific channels
1. Maintaining consistent customer service
An integral part of omnichannel ecommerce is ensuring customers receive consistent customer support, whether they reach out to the customer service team through email, social media, or in person at a physical store. For instance, a customer might find a product online and then seek more information on Instagram before finally purchasing in-store. If customer service isn’t synchronized across sales channels, it could lead to miscommunication and frustrated customers.
Omnichannel customer service platform Gladly brings all customer touchpoints into one place; this way, your customer service representatives have the full context of every customer’s past interactions.
2. Tracking real-time inventory
Retail businesses creating an omnichannel experience must have an accurate, real-time view of their stock levels across all sales channels. A product could show as available online but might actually be out of stock at the warehouse due to delays in updating inventory data and improper inventory management. Inaccurate stock information can lead to lost sales and a negative customer experience.
Effective omnichannel inventory management means you have total inventory visibility across all channels.
3. Managing fulfillment complexity
Fulfilling orders across multiple sales channels can pose a challenge for omnichannel retail brands. A customer might buy a product online and choose to pick it up in-store. Alternatively, they might return an online purchase to a physical store. Without a unified system to track and manage these fulfillment methods, the process can become chaotic.
4. Attributing sales to specific channels
Customers frequently interact with multiple touchpoints before making a purchase. This is especially true for retailers with an omnichannel strategy: A customer might discover a product on TikTok, research it on Google, and see an out-of-home ad for it before they buy. Attributing the sale to the right digital channels becomes tricky. Accurate sales attribution is crucial to understanding the effectiveness of different channels and optimizing the efforts of your marketing team.
There are seven attribution models you can use to determine how a customer arrived at your store to make a purchase. You can better track customers who encounter your brand outside the digital realm by using QR codes and creating unique landing pages for offline marketing campaigns.
How to create a successful omnichannel strategy
With careful planning and execution, a successful omnichannel ecommerce strategy is within your reach. Keep customer satisfaction at the heart of your strategy, strive for consistency and personalization, and harness technology to deliver a seamless experience across all channels. Here’s how:
- Outline your goals and objectives
- Define your buyer personas
- Establish a consistent brand identity
- Integrate your data and systems
- Create a seamless customer journey
- Personalize the shopping experience
- Ensure top-tier customer service
- Keep your approach agile and adaptive
1. Outline your goals and objectives
To start, create clear and measurable business goals that align with business growth. Are you aiming to boost online store sales, drive in-store brick-and-mortar traffic, improve customer retention, or enhance brand loyalty? By defining your objectives at the onset, you can tailor your omnichannel strategy to achieve your desired outcomes.
2. Define your buyer personas
Create buyer personas—customer archetypes for targeted marketing—for each of your key customer segments. Consider their demographics, interests, buying behaviors, and preferred interaction channels. By fully understanding your target audience, you can deliver more relevant and personalized experiences across all your ecommerce touchpoints.
3. Establish a consistent brand identity
A consistent brand identity extends beyond your logo and color scheme to your brand messaging, tone, and overall shopping experience. In an omnichannel ecommerce context, a cohesive brand narrative is reflected on your website, mobile app, social media, and physical stores, cultivating a strong sense of familiarity and affinity among omnichannel customers.
4. Integrate your data and systems
A unified view of your customer interactions requires the synchronization of inventory management, customer relationship management, and order processing. An ecommerce platform can streamline this process, ensuring real-time data access and visibility across all channels. Most platforms, like Shopify, also support multi-channel attribution, helping you determine which marketing channels—email marketing, social media marketing, SEO, or PPC advertising—contribute to a customer’s decision to make a purchase.
5. Create a seamless customer journey
A truly omnichannel retail experience is defined by a seamless customer journey, regardless of the channels involved. For instance, with an omnichannel retail strategy, a customer can discover your product through a sponsored Instagram post, get retargeted with a cart abandonment email containing a discount code, and use that same discount code in-store to make the purchase with the help of a sales associate.
By mapping and optimizing customer paths, you can reduce friction as a retailer and foster a more satisfying omnichannel experience for customers.
6. Personalize the shopping experience
By leveraging customer data, your business can provide tailored product recommendations, targeted promotions, and personalized content across different channels.
For instance, by tracking customer behavior on your website using cookies or login data, you can personalize the content on your website for repeat visitors. If a customer frequently shops or browses the “outerwear” section, more products from this category can appear on the homepage.
7. Ensure top-tier customer service
In an omnichannel context, providing excellent customer support means being available and responsive across all customer touchpoints. Whether it’s a timely response to an email query, live chat support on your website, or knowledgeable in-store staff, effective and fast customer service elevates the overall shopping experience and contributes to customer loyalty.
8. Keep your approach agile and adaptive
An adaptable and responsive strategy is crucial in the ever-changing ecommerce environment. Regularly evaluating your omnichannel performance against set objectives, staying attuned to emerging consumer trends, and being willing to pivot your approach is key to staying relevant and ahead of the competition.
Omnichannel ecommerce FAQ
Can small businesses implement omnichannel ecommerce strategies?
Yes, a small business can implement an omnichannel ecommerce strategy. Platforms like Shopify make it accessible and affordable to manage an ecommerce presence across multiple channels.
How does omnichannel ecommerce impact inventory management?
What role does social media play in omnichannel ecommerce?
Social media—and a broader social commerce strategy—plays a vital role in omnichannel ecommerce. It offers additional touchpoints for customer engagement, more opportunities for brand visibility, and direct sales through social commerce features.
What is an example of an omnichannel ecommerce company?
Brooklinen specializes in home furnishings. As an omnichannel ecommerce company it integrates online and offline shopping experiences. It has brick-and-mortar stores across the US and online shopping facilitated through ecommerce websites and social platforms.