Chapter 1

Omnichannel commerce explained

Omnichannel commerce (or omnichannel retail) is a unified e-commerce multichannel approach that creates a seamless integration between all sales channels, offering a consistent customer experience, whether shopping from a mobile device or offline.

For a brand, the strategy of omnichannel commerce is a matter of carefully aligning messaging, goals, objectives, and design across each of its channels and platforms. Think of the process as a highway planner designing a busy freeway. On-ramps and off-ramps must make sense and direct motorists — or customers in this case — to their destinations in a hassle-free manner.

Omnichannel commerce is the same concept. This marketing strategy is built on integrating multiple channels for a smooth business-to-customer (B2C) transaction. Omnichannel completes the multichannel and single-channel strategies and optimizes them for today’s online customers.

It's a strategy that can ill-afford detours or lane closures.


Meeting the needs of today’s shoppers

Consumers are driving commerce across increasingly more channels and platforms.

Shopping behavior has shifted to an omnichannel retail experience, including shopping in person from brick-and-mortar stores as well as on Amazon and eBay. They're buying on desktop, mobile, and Internet of Things devices. Customers also want convenience — touchless checkout, curbside pickup, or delivery at a time and place of their choosing.

The experience extends to customers interacting with a brand on every level, whether they're hearing, seeing, or reading advertisements, walking into a store, or they're calling, emailing, or interacting on social media. That's a lot of touchpoints to consider.

To accomplish this, businesses developing their omnichannel marketing strategy must work with their stakeholders — marketing, sales, customer support, and customer success — and break down walls while containing or eliminating fragmentation.

By channeling all this information into a cohesive omnichannel strategy, including syncing brand and product information across all channels, (through mobile apps, websites, email marketing, online stores, social media channels, chatbot, etc.) customers will feel like they’re getting a more personalized, seamless shopping experience. It also allows brands to collect and merge real-time customer data from multiple channels (from loyalty programs to point-of-sale (POS) terminals). When combining such functionalities, brands get a more complete picture of customer types, what they’re interested in, and their behaviors.

Chapter 2

What channel does your business need?

How does multichannel and single-channel commerce differ from the omnichannel approach? Multichannel commerce refers to selling across multiple channels, but the strategy is often disparate, which is attributed to marketing efforts happening in silos that lack a defined cross-channel message. Multichannel philosophies focus on optimizing by touchpoint rather than by journey.

Other retailers choose to sell via a single channel only. Some sellers limit their activities to their e-commerce storefront. Others rely on the Amazon marketplace, for example.

Single-channel commerce can work, but does it offer a seamless experience? On the contrary, it is limiting for businesses because commerce goes through one sales channel, such as store-only or web-only. Businesses wanting to create a richer, more consistent experience for customers and drive more conversions must investigate additional channels for customers to experience your product.

According to a recent Harvard Business Review of 46,000 shoppers:

10%

Increased average spending

Omnichannel customers spent an average of 4% more on every shopping occasion in the store and 10% more online than single-channel customers.

23%

Increased purchase frequency

Customers who had an omnichannel shopping experience logged 23% more repeat shopping trips to the retailer's stores within six months.

13%

Increased in-store spending

Conducting prior online research on the retailer’s own site or sites of other retailers led to 13% greater in-store spending among omnichannel shoppers.

Chapter 3

A new shopping behavior

Omnichannel commerce has momentum. The pandemic and its resulting health protocols prompted customers to rely on digital channels for personalized shopping and services.

In 2020, when the pandemic was taking root, over 2 billion people purchased goods or services online, and during the same year, e-retail sales surpassed $4.2 trillion worldwide, according to Statista.

As the pandemic has subsided, 73% of customers say they will continue to shop this way, according to the Harvard Business Review.

“Marketers got to see a new type of behavior in customers and — if they were doing their homework — they got to understand something different about them,” Andrew Kandel, Waze's head of sales for North America, said in a 2021 eMarketers' study.

“There will be a return to normalcy, but there will be an evolved customer that sees the world differently.”

One of the greatest benefits of omnichannel commerce is its ability to turn casual shoppers into loyal fans since omnichannel customers have a higher lifetime value than single-channel commerce shoppers.

By implementing an omnichannel retail approach, marketers also can reach customers across different channels who weren't intending to shop, just simply engage on social media. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are ideal examples of where businesses are expanding their global reach into previously untapped markets and segments.

Facebook Marketplace was once a customer-to-customer option, but it has grown to include larger businesses. Facebook's Meta branding, which includes Instagram ads, is also creating a channel metaverse that can reach billions of people each month. TikTok doesn't allow vendors to sell merchandising directly from its platform but with certain integrations, businesses can sync their inventory and direct users to their sites.

Chapter 4

Steps for building an omnichannel strategy

Creating an effective omnichannel commerce strategy depends on the brand, of course, but some steps are universal. They include:

Know the customer: Research the target audience's interests, behaviors, and needs. Ask questions, invite feedback, and leverage social media and social listening tools. Mapping out the customer journey both in-store and through digital channels, can reveal insights into a customer’s thought processes and let organizations know what is or isn't working for them.

Pick the right channels: Know where your customers are and what they're doing. Use analytics to determine which channels are the most profitable, the most efficient, and/or the ones that acquire the newest customers. Keep an eye on touchpoints that best serve the customers.

Establish a clear purpose per channel: Designate one channel for engagement and keep the others available for updates.

Consolidate the channels: Deploy technology that follows customers throughout their buying journey, from reading reviews, seeing social ads, and window-shopping at an online marketplace to their purchase at the physical store.

Follow through thoroughly: By deploying abandoned cart programs, marketers can encourage customers to return and finish purchases, regardless of which channel they began the interaction. Also, automated follow-up messages can thank customers and sometimes offer discounts for future purchases.

Maintain the channels: Above all, don't let up. Testing can't be a one-and-done activity relegated to the last few days before launch. It should be a systematic process in your business. Test segments and determine whether you can segment in even more detail for even better targeting. A mix of qualitative and quantitative data can help make measured decisions about your most important channels.

Chapter 5

Is omnichannel commerce for you?

Omnichannel commerce is a simple progression of a data-driven market strategy. As more customers have moved to online shopping in the wake of the pandemic, expecting a personalized experience at every step of the way, the omnichannel approach has transformed from a nice-to-have strategy to a must-have for a successful e-commerce business.

Brands should also have a platform and solutions partners that make it easy to aggregate all data sources and glean insights.

To learn more about omnichannel customer experiences and strategies, visit Sitecore's omnichannel and commerce resources sections where you'll find articles, links to webinars, guides, and related topics.