Developing an omnichannel strategy: 4 elements to consider
What is an omnichannel strategy?
Omnichannel strategy, as a concept, brings together digital commerce, brick-and-mortar commerce, multichannel commerce, conversational commerce, live shopping — the list can go on. As you can probably notice, all of these focus on the job of commerce in a way that reaches your customers where they want to be and that makes their journey simple, accessible and seamless.
An omnichannel strategy is commerce in all its forms, in multiple channels — weaving them together, embedding them in your organization (e.g. CEO is now the CDO & Head of Retail) and making each piece of the puzzle consistent and engaging. Fundamentally, this can be achieved by removing channel boundaries with a laser-like focus on value creation both for your customer and your business.
To turn that vision into reality, here are four pieces of advice I can share with you.
1. Don’t overthink it — it doesn’t need to be perfect; technology is an enabler, not the answer
Picture this: you have a need for a superior ecommerce operation, so you bring together the best talent and have the CAPEX approved. Next, you bring in project managers and consultants, consolidate the processes and create an executive leadership team to approve all the steps on the journey. You focus all your attention on the technology and build the most amazing platform.
You finally launch your website and it’s all singing and all dancing, at least internally. Externally, however? The customer moved on, as it’s been two years already since they had a poor shopping experience, with no progress in the interim.
In the retail space, this is a long time to spend on one channel. Given ecommerce is just a single channel, the K.I.S.S. (i.e. Keep It Super Simple) principle should be the approach. Today, success should be based on time to-market, followed by testing, learning and improving on a flexible platform.
The same can be said about commerce in physical stores, on new social media platforms and in marketplaces. Don’t chase perfection, as perfection takes time and time is money — have the idea, outline where you think the future will be, launch an MVP, drive some revenue and engagement. The future customer expectations and needs will reveal themselves in the long term.
In addition, businesses often add this workload to an already tiring team, which will only slow the process down. Either backfill into the areas where they still have oversight or hire contractors specifically to drive the predetermined scope (and stick to the scope; slow progress happens from changes of mind).
2. Don’t overlook brick-and-mortar stores — they’ll never truly go away
When Allbirds popped up on the digital retail scene, many could not have predicted it opening 33 stores spread across North America, Asia and Europe. Truth be told, 89% of the brand’s sales still come from online nowadays and only 11% come from physical stores, but the latter channel has been vital to drive brand recognition and customer engagement over the years.
Overall, the brick-and-mortar business is not dead. Customers still want to go inside stores and see and try on products. Indeed, 2022 will see a huge shift back to physical shopping after the last two years of lockdown, with physical stores expected to get back to the revenue levels of 2019.
You should thus view digital commerce as an enabler of seamless customer engagement and personalized experiences on all your channels. Don’t throw out everything you know, test channel strategies out and learn new ways of reaching your omnichannel customer. And remember, your focus should be on differentiation — amazing stores, amazing product, amazing team members and amazing engagement methods.
3. Take the whole team on the journey — it’s not a battle of sales channels
Retail is fun, fast paced and, well, theater. A combination of great products, experiences and customer service will always win. Experiential retail — or the theater of retail — is very important when growing your digital channels, so your sales associates need to be shown how social and digital channels can actually add so much value. For example, pick-up in store offers plenty of up-selling and cross-selling opportunities.
Bottomline, “why” a customer purchases from you needs to be the focus, and channel expansion should reflect the same principles across both the physical and digital channels. There is no point in having an amazing UX in a digital channel, with the best service, delivery and ease, when the in-store experience is old and not reflective of the digital offering (e.g. use clienteling with iPads and connected POS).
The same goes the other way: digital channels should have lots of engaging content, integrated live chat capabilities, unique touchpoints like live shopping and reverse logistics. It’s all about a seamless integration between the online and offline.
4. Evolve with the customer — but remember to keep them engaged
Meet your customers where they want to be, give them the content they want and make it a seamless experience across all your channels. Keep in mind, however, that retail is evolving quickly, so you need to stay on top of trends, too, whilst not endangering your supply chain’s stability.
For instance, if you haven’t tackled conversational commerce yet, it’s definitely one to keep an eye on, as is its sibling social selling. Sprout Social has predicted social selling will amount to $1.2 trillion USD in 2025 and it’s easy to see why: 3.5 billion people (i.e. 44% of the entire population) are present on social media platforms, with the younger generations favoring TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat, and the older ones preferring WhatsApp, Reddit, Pinterest and Facebook.
If you have not considered how to bring your theater, brand and content to these channels, then it is time to start testing.
An omnichannel approach for retail
Should the above seem daunting to you, don’t worry: our team of commerce experts is here to help. Get in touch with us and let’s discuss the right omnichannel strategy for your business.