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What is Omnichannel Retail?

Learn about omnichannel retail and how it can boost customer loyalty and drive results.

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Connect your marketing channels for a consistent shopping experience

You may hear the term “omnichannel retail” more and more when discussing the future of online and offline shopping. What is omnichannel retailing, and what can it do for your business?

1. What is Omnichannel Retail?

Omnichannel plays a key role in getting customers what they want, when they want it, by integrating all the channels a company uses to reach its customers. Because all the channels “talk” to each other, customers gain far more than an array of options—they’re able to shop efficiently, seamlessly switch from one platform to another, and receive personalized recommendations based on shared shopping and purchasing behavior.


 Successful omnichannel solutions view retail as a full-circle industry, shaped by online analytics that reflect customer shopping preferences, behaviors, and brand awareness.


Here’s an example of how this connectivity works: A customer stayed up late last night looking at woodworking tools from your store, and forgot they left a particular saw in their online shopping cart. As an omnichannel retailer, you can alert the customer via email or text about the saw. You can then reformat the next ad you send to them to include related items like planers and sanders.

As a result of these actions, the customer may even see ads for that specific saw start to appear when they’re browsing other website or mobile apps. If they want to check out the saw in person, they can see immediately which store has it in stock. And once they’re there, scanning a bar code brings up reviews for that product, as well as similar items that could help with their project.

 All of these channels – the website, the email, the text, targeted ads, inventory checks and item reviews and recommendations – work together to help provide a personalized customer journey.


2. The Importance of Omnichannel vs. Siloed Channels

 As consumers face more retail choices, they expect the online and in-store experiences of any business to be unified and accessible.¹

If a company’s multiple channels are kept separate, or siloed, delivering a seamless customer experience becomes much more challenging. Using our example above about the saw, imagine that the website was siloed—that it wouldn’t communicate with the other channels about the item in your shopper’s cart. As a result, the customer would receive no targeted ads, no text reminders, and no similar product recommendations—making them much more likely to put off their potential purchase, or to check out options elsewhere.

 It’s important to remember that although “omni” means “all,” omnichannel retail doesn’t mean you have to employ every single option available to reach your customers. Instead of “all the channels,” think of omnichannel retail more as “all your channels working together.”

3.The Benefits of Omnichannel

Both retailers and customers can benefit from a strong omnichannel strategy.

Retailers can grow loyalty with this increased integration, partly due to meeting or exceeding their customers’ expectations. They’ll be able to better address mobile shopping needs, speed up response times and improve customer engagement overall.

Retailers with a well-integrated omnichannel program can view a wide range of valuable customer data. All their key channels – websites, social media, point of sale (POS) systems, customer loyalty programs, and more – are now combined. This helps companies have a more holistic view of each customer. Retailers get a clearer picture of which items customers want, which items they already have, and how they prefer to shop.

Customers experience a smoother, more engaging shopping experience. They can interact with customer service in real time to get their questions answered. A successful omnichannel strategy will enhance the existing strengths of brick-and-mortar stores with connected capabilities like loyalty programs, multi-store inventory balancing, and complementary point-of-sale product recommendations—all value-driven advantages for discerning shoppers.

Customers have the freedom to shop how they want with omnichannel retail, whether it’s online, in the store or a combination. They can choose their point of sale from among a wide range of options: buy in the store, buy online and pick up in-store, or have an item delivered.

4. Is Omnichannel Retail Right for Your Business?

 Implementing omnichannel retail is a complex undertaking, so it’s important to consider many factors when making the decision to move forward.

First, it’s helpful to review what your customers want most from your business. How do they shop? What channels do they prefer to use? Do they use loyalty programs, either online or in-store? Your customer demographics may help you answer these questions. For instance, different age groups have different shopping habits, and different levels of engagement with technology. Going through this process provides a good starting point for assessing your retail audience.

5. How to Achieve Omnichannel Retail

After you’ve reviewed your goals and analyzed your customers’ shopping habits, confirm that all parts of your business use the same software and systems. Some companies have customized legacy systems for certain operations (such as POS software) or have some standalone stores that run on a different system from the rest of the business. Further, implementing omnichannel retail includes connecting back channels that customers don’t regularly see, such as supply chain logistics.

Internal buy-in is the next key step in the process. As mentioned earlier, some stores or departments may have unique systems or processes they’re used to, and may be apprehensive about the appearance of new systems. It’s vital to have transparent communication and a solid plan to address employee concerns before moving forward.

Most important, take the time to find the right omnichannel solution for your business. Assess your company’s short- and long-term goals – including cost, of course, but also growth of your customer base, what channels you need to integrate, and your marketing strategy. Ask questions of any potential solution providers, especially about levels of support available not just at implementation, but after go-live and beyond.

Omnichannel retail is a powerful tool to enable unified customer outreach while driving brand awareness and boosting sales. Implemented well, it should help both your customers and your company thrive.