What is omnichannel marketing and why does it matter for retail

Anna Kytölahti
May 20, 2022
5 min read

Customers are expecting more from their shopping experiences these days. One of the expectations is being treated the same way across all channels and platforms a business is using to interact with the customer. This is called an omnichannel strategy, and here's why businesses should follow it.

The key to long-term success is keeping customers happy. Happy customer comes back, spends more, spreads the word and attracts other customers, and so on. What makes a customer happy is a pleasant, frictionless customer experience. In today's world there are two key aspects to achieving that: convenience and consistency.

These can be condensed into one word, omnichannel.

What does omnichannel mean?

The word "omni" comes from the Latin word omnis, meaning "all". So, does omnichannel then mean using all the channels to interact with customers? Well, not exactly. You may have heard people talk about multichannel, which is closer to the above definition, but there is still a difference between these two.

Omnichannel does not only mean being active on many channels, but combining these channels and sharing data between them to make them work together – and to provide better customer experiences.

Now, what many businesses are executing today is closer to a multichannel approach. They have a brick-and-mortar store, a website, and one or more social media profiles. They probably have a loyalty program of some sort, and they use email marketing or an app for advertising What many are still lacking – and therefore haven't become omnichannel – is bringing these together.

Next, we'll illustrate some of the ways how this could be done.

What is omnichannel experience?

In today's digitised world, customer demands are changing and it can be challenging for businesses to keep up. Customer journeys have become more individualised, and the path to purchase can start or end anytime, anywhere and on any device. Online shopping has become mainstream, many shop in micro-moments between tasks and switch between devices depending on the situation. According to a Google research, 90% of multiple device owners switch between a daily average of three to complete a task. Brick-and-mortar stores are not forgotten either: majority of online shoppers prefer in-store returns over shipping purchases back.

As overwhelming as this may sound, the reality is much more simple: customers are mainly expecting consistency and convenience. They expect to be able to switch between channels and devices without much hassle; they expect to be met the same way on Facebook and over a live chat; they expect not having to repeat their customer data or issues when contacting businesses through different channels.

Let's look at an example:

A customer is looking for a new coat. They start exploring options on their laptop, eventually making a decision and clicking a product to their shopping cart, but leave the site without completing the purchase. The next day they get an email reminding them about the abandoned cart, and return to the site there and then, this time on their smartphone. An omnichannel experience would mean they are met with the same standards – such as a responsive, mobile-friendly website.

Later they need to contact customer support. They do this via chat, submitting details of their purchase, but decide to end the chat and call the support instead. With omnichannel tools, the system will transfer the information submitted in the chat to the person answering the call, instead of the customer needing to provide this information again.

There are a few best practices for providing better omnichannel experiences, such as:

  • Brand awareness through website, social media and advertisements
  • Every employee knows how to personify the brand
  • Consistent messaging through all channels
  • Digital solutions to connect offline and online data

Let's talk a bit more about connecting offline and online practices next.

How to use data to achieve omnichannel consistency?

As said, many businesses are already tracking online and offline behaviour, but doing these separately. Examples?

How to bridge this gap? The answer is in-store data.

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