If you’re not entirely sure what “omni-channel” means, you’re not alone. Omni-channel effectively extends the concept of communicating with customers over multiple channels into the physical world (the storefront). Think of it as multi-channel retailing.
Beyond cringing that a new buzzword has overstayed its welcome, omni-channel retailing is the natural evolution of the traditional retail model. In an age when shoppers can buy anything, anywhere, with a tap on their smartphone, this is a model that companies need to embrace.
Here are 5 reasons retailers need to focus on omni-channel right now.
1. Omni-channel is how consumers want to be engaged.
E-commerce has provided consumers with more purchasing options than they’ve ever had before. In particular, the ubiquity of mobile devices has provided consumers with the ability to research, compare, and order anything, anywhere, anytime.
According to MIT, the omni-channel consumer is the central force shaping the future of both ecommerce and brick-and-mortar stores alike. Beyond the initial purchase, online channels provide retailers with the ability to track, follow-up, and make recommendations for future purchases.
Chris Fletcher, Research Director at Gartner, notes that “Getting into data, analytics, or mobile isn’t even a decision anymore, so we should stop calling it e-commerce and call it just commerce.”
2. It’s also about changing consumer preferences.
Selling to a generation raised in the era of the Internet requires more than simply having a web presence. Millennials expect companies to have a fully integrated digital strategy. Retailers that fail to live up to their expectations can be seen as undesirable – technology laggards.
By contrast, smart brands use online channels as a way to gauge consumer preference. Social media and the web give companies the opportunity to test products and gain early insights into the customer’s point of view.
3. It gives retailers a competitive advantage …
According to SPS Commerce, only 5% of the retail industry has fully executed an omni-channel strategy. This gives a tremendous competitive advantage to retailers who can properly execute, directly translating into increased brand awareness and sales over the competition.
Where gaps exist in the buying process (for example, the 45% of consumers who will abandon an online transaction and switch to voice if their concerns are not addressed quickly enough), savvy organizations can take advantage and attract customers away from competitors (for example, by allowing customers a better way to escalate to voice).
4. … allows companies to maximize their marketing ROI …
For traditional retailers, integrating online channels offers an incredible opportunity to maximize marketing abilities. With the wealth of online tools, companies have a cost-effective way to test new marketing strategies at any time. Also, being able to target specific segments of the market – at the right time – means never missing an opportunity. Best of all, brands can experiment on a small scale and then ramp up as necessary.
5. . … and improves their access to data (so they can sell more).
Being able to track customers as they move across different channels provides organizations with extremely valuable behavioral insights. Armed with this data set, retailers can reach out to customers at the right time (for example, with offers or upsell opportunities) with a much greater chance of success. This also allows them to effectively bridge the gap between the online and in-person experience on an as-needed basis.