Understanding Omnichannel Commerce and Its Importance in 2021

Understanding Omnichannel Commerce and Its Importance in 2021

Understanding Omnichannel Commerce and Its Importance in 2021

Omnichannel commerce is a strategy that connects every sales channel that consumers use to interact with a retail brand. This may include a brand’s website, social media accounts, mobile app, or physical stores. An omnichannel strategy seeks to deliver a cohesive message across all channels. It also delivers personalized experiences by unifying data collected across touch points.

Omnichannel strategies incorporate many non-transactional touch points like social media, search, and chat to facilitate communication between customer and brand. Plus it also allows customers to learn more about a product or company.

With omnichannel, customers receive a consistent brand message and experience regardless of channel.

What Is the Difference Between Omnichannel and Multichannel?

Just like omnichannel, a multichannel strategy incorporates the online and offline sales channels consumers use to interact with retailers. But with multichannel, the offline and online shopping experiences aren’t seamlessly connected. Multichannel commerce puts your brand in front of consumers in as many places as possible. But its channels remain siloed and have minimal interaction with each other.

With a multichannel, a brand’s physical store may stock different items than a website. In this scenario, a brand may not accept returns for online orders at a physical store, providing a disjointed experience.

Unified Commerce Versus Omnichannel: How Do They Compare?

omnichannel retail vs unified commerce

Unified commerce is the next logical iteration of omnichannel commerce. A unified commerce approach places the customer squarely in the center of the buying journey. And it connects every touch point with the goal of increasing engagement and creating a seamless customer experience.

With both multichannel and omnichannel commerce, retail environments exist on stand-alone systems created from a foundation of technologies. This makes it difficult—if not impossible—to deliver a consistent shopping experience.

A unified commerce strategy focuses on the customer experience. It’s built from the ground up via a centralized platform that leverages integrated technologies and connected channels.

The unified commerce approach is focused on how customers shop.

For example, by connecting the supply chain across physical and digital realms so customers can buy an item online and return it in-store.

Why Is Omnichannel Important? What Are Its Benefits?

Omnichannel is important because customers are channel-blind.

Increasingly, they seek convenience and consistency when making a purchase, even if that means paying more. One study found that 53% of consumers plan to shop in ways that save them time, even if they don’t get the lowest price. Consumers are embracing BOPIS and curbside pickup to pick up their purchases at a physical location.

Omnichannel commerce gives customers options to reach out to retailers using the devices, channels, and touch points they prefer. It is a starting point for customer-centricity. It enables retailers to collect and merge first and third-party data which allows companies to deliver end-to-end personalization. Omnichannel sets the stage for the next evolution in retail—unified commerce.

Kibo's Unified Commerce Platform is built from the ground up with the customer in mind.

Key Examples of Omnichannel Commerce

Omnichannel commerce connects online and offline channels across the touch points, platforms, and devices customers use. This is not the same as unified commerce which operates from a custom-built, centralized platform. Here are some specific examples of omnichannel commerce experiences:

  • You visit a local clothing boutique’s Facebook page to watch a livestream that features their latest inventory. Then, you navigate to their site, place your order, and arrange to pick it up in-store. Afterward, you must call the store to make this arrangement as it is not an option via the website.
  • You use a store’s app to add items to your shopping cart while your spouse adds items from their website. You place the order from the app and reserve the pickup time for the next day. When you pick up your order, the grocery store has substituted several items because they were out of stock. Because online and offline inventory were not coordinated, the customer experience was less than stellar.

The above examples use multiple touch points (mobile app, social media, website, and physical store). The experiences fall short of unified commerce in that they don’t fully connect the offline and online experiences. This can only happen when all touch points interact and interoperate and are supported by a unified platform.

Consumer behaviors demand that you adopt an omnichannel strategy. In fact, we’ve collected a long list of statistics and growing trends that will make the case for why you need the right omnichannel commerce solution.

Building a Business Case for Omnichannel

Omnichannel investment is not a question of why, but more a question of when and how. And the key to gaining investment buy-in from your organization is to understand that omni-channel is not a one-time investment, but a consistent, disciplined approach that involves both upgrading technology and updating retail processes to unify the consumer buying experience.

The digitization of retail is enabling consumers to have more control over where and how they shop. However, omnichannel strategies empower retailers to take control of consumer experiences to drive increased brand loyalty and higher conversion rates.

As you go through the evaluation and selection process, the ideal omnichannel solution will need to be agile enough to allow quick implementations of additional capabilities as the organization scales or matures.

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