What is Omnichannel Retail and Why is it Important?

Learn about the latest omnichannel retail trends and how it can help your business deliver seamless customer experience across all of your channels.

a pair of earrings with tablet and mobile phone

"Omnichannel retail" is one of the industry’s trending phrases, but what exactly does it mean? In the current retail landscape, it means meeting your customer wherever they are. In a recent survey of U.S. millennial consumers, two-thirds of respondents indicated that they use a combination of digital and in-store research before making a purchase. In addition, half of millennials noted they used both online and in-store channels to make a purchase.

What Is Omnichannel Retail?

Omnichannel retail allows customers to have a seamless experience no matter how they choose to interact with a retailer — via mobile browser, text message, desktop computer, or brick and mortar. 

Traditionally, these channels have existed in silos, forcing retailers to invest in single-channel marketing strategies that not only require a lot of time and attention but also present a fragmented user experience.

Today, customers want a connected and consistent level of service and messaging across all touchpoints, enabling them to shop how they want, when they want, and where they want. A strong omnichannel retail strategy delivers on the promise of a seamless shopping experience — unifying sales, marketing, and customer service efforts through effective technology, logistics, and training.

Omnichannel vs. Multichannel

You may have also heard the term multichannel thrown around in conversation. So, what is the difference between omnichannel and multichannel retailing? The contrast is largely semantics, but think of it this way:

All omnichannel approaches are multichannel, but not all multichannel approaches are omnichannel.

In short, omni means all. Thus, an omnichannel approach unifies the customer journey and customer experience across all online and offline channels.

The Omnichannel Customer Experience

So, what does omnichannel marketing look like in practice? Let’s walk through an example of a seamless experience for a hypothetical customer we’ll call Wendy.

While on break at work, Wendy sees an Instagram ad for a retailer on her mobile device. Interested in the blouse featured in the ad, she navigates to their profile. Wendy likes more of what she sees, so she clicks through to the retailer’s website. Between its ad, Instagram feed, and website, the retailer has presented a consistent experience for Wendy. Unfortunately, Wendy has to head back to work, so she clicks away from the site without making a purchase.

Later that week, Wendy sees another ad for the retailer, reminding her of the styles she liked on the website. She decides to visit her local brick and mortar store that weekend.

When Wendy visits the store, she is helped by an attentive retail sales associate named Caitlin who is familiar with the posts that caught Wendy’s eye on social media. Caitlin is able to show her those pieces in real-time, other products Wendy saw on the website, and additional selections that might suit Wendy’s sense of style. One of the blouses Wendy saw on Instagram is not available in the store, but Caitlin let’s Wendy know she can easily order it for her to be shipped to Wendy’s house.

Wendy makes a purchase in-store, but decides to wait on ordering the blouse. Impressed with her retail experience, Wendy is happy to share her contact details with Caitlin at checkout.

The next day, Wendy receives a thank-you email from Caitlin that includes a few links to some of the items Wendy liked but did not purchase. Wendy decides to click through and purchase the blouse that was not in stock as well as a skirt that Caitlin shared.

A week later, Caitlin sends Wendy a text message to see how the ordered pieces worked out. Wendy replies that the fit on the blouse is not right. Caitlin let’s Wendy know she can return it directly to the store.

When Wendy comes to the retail store, Caitlin is able to take the return with no issues and ends up selling Wendy an outfit from their new arrivals instead.

Let’s highlight a few key factors that helped to solidify Wendy’s relationship with both Caitlin and the retailer: 

Wendy’s shopping experience was unwavering despite the fact that she chose to interact through a wide variety of offline and online channels: social media, eCommerce, e-mail, text messaging, and brick-and-mortar. The retailer always delivered on what was most convenient for her in the moment.

Why Omnichannel Retail Is Important

In an increasingly connected world, customers have endless choices and perpetual demands for their time and attention. Retailers driving loyalty among consumers are those with a strong brand storytelling ability, intelligent loyalty programs, and an appropriate sense of urgency to meet the customer where they are. 

This means elevated and consistent service that is efficient and convenient for whatever moment in time the customer finds themselves.

Serve them proactively, and you have a customer who sings your praises to their friends. Drop the ball, and you may have a frustrated customer taking up their grievances on Twitter. 

It’s clear what the stakes are. Be the one who delivers and drives meaningful connections with customers.

3 Biggest Trends in Omnichannel Retail

Let’s discuss a few of the biggest trends in omnichannel retail.

1. Text-to-Buy

Mobile is becoming an increasingly popular shopping channel for consumers. Make it easy for your in-store associates to capitalize on their relationships with customers. With Endear’s messaging capabilities associates can text personalized selections. Instant gratification is simple, seamless, and surprisingly personal.

2. Leverage eCommerce In Store

In the retail industry, brick and mortar and eCommerce have traditionally been at odds, but today’s integrated technology is fostering a culture of shared success. In-store associates can now leverage the virtual stock room of their online store and continue the relationship with customers remotely without losing the sale.

3. Buy Online and Pickup In-Store (BOPIS)

Capitalize on the opportunity to build a more personal connection with your customers by bringing online buyers into your physical stores. This gives you the opportunity to surprise and delight them, and hopefully sell them more.

In the end, omnichannel retail is a two-way street. You deliver service and convenience to the customer and gain valuable knowledge for your business by tracking their purchases and preferences across platforms. It’s easier than you think to get started. Visit Endear to see what plan is right for you and connect all your channels.