Omnichannel in e-commerce. Why is it worth to conduct multi-channel sales and how to do it?

girl_shopping_or_selling The share of e-commerce in the global economy is growing, and Amazon remains the most valuable brand in the world, provoking the end of traditional stores. However, the data show that the reality will not split into zero-one into offline and online, but will combine both channels to provide the best customer service.

Accelerated e-commerce development

E-commerce is still just a fraction of world trade, and while growing at double-digit rates, most sales are still traditional. The coronavirus and the related lockdown have markedly accelerated the digitization process and many commercial brands intend to focus on online sales shortly, but this is still just the beginning of the trend. Consequently, the rumors of the death of traditional commerce are exaggerated.The reality may turn out to be more complicated, the teasers of which are already visible. A large part of us, even if the transaction is made online, which often offers more attractive prices, still visit stationery stores. And vice versa. More and more retail chains conduct online sales, however, offering the possibility of both return and collection at stationary outlets. The online and offline worlds are therefore intertwined more and more closely, which emphasizes the need for their integration.

What is omnichannel, or multi-channel sales?

For a long time, the term “omnichannel” has been used to describe both online and offline sales activities, but that did not quite reflect the heart of the matter. So what is omnichannel?

Google speaks of the term “denoting or referring to a type of retail sale that integrates the various purchasing methods available to consumers (e.g. online, in a physical store, or over the phone).”

Wikipedia, however, extends this definition by saying that it is “a multi-channel content strategy used by organizations to improve user experience” And further that: “Omnichannel means integrating and coordinating channels in such a way that using multiple channels at the same time provides a better experience than using them individually.”

Semrush adds one more aspect: “Omnichannel aims to establish a conversion point at every stage of the customer journey. This may include making it available on a mobile phone, in the form of an application, online, at kiosks, or in a regular store. The company must use every available channel and provide a trouble-free and consistent service.”

Taking the common denominator out of the above definitions, we can say that omnichannel consists of planning a smooth customer journey through all possible channels so that – regardless of the place – their experience of contact with the brand is the same.

Omnichannel vs. multichannel. How do the two models differ?

The integration of sales channels in defining the concept of omnichannel is crucial. If we were talking only about their multiplication, it would be about multichannel sales. How do the two models differ?

Shopify suggests associating multichannel sales with MULTIPLE channels, while omnichannel sales with ALL of them. In Polish, however, it is unfortunate to define omnichannel sales as multi-channel, which will not be able to accurately describe the difference. Therefore, we will try to provide a longer description that will better explain what the presence of the brand should consist of in many sales channels.

What is multichannel?

We talk about multichannel sales when the store uses multiple channels to reach customers (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, website), and each of these channels works according to a separate strategy. Thus, messages, prices, promotions, and the standard of service may differ depending on the channel, and the company – despite its presence in many places – does not build a coherent image.

So what is omnichannel?

Omnichannel is characterized by a more holistic approach not so much to sales itself, but to building a brand image. In the omnichannel approach, the company also appears in many places but has one communication strategy. The client experiences the same treatment everywhere, what’s more – by switching to another channel his experience is not disturbed.

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Omnichannel is the key to customer loyalty

A multi-channel strategy that puts the customer and his experience in the center of attention allows you to build a permanent customer base more effectively. This is important because acquiring new ones is more difficult and costly than maintaining the existing ones. However, to keep them, you need to know what they want, which, in turn, requires a deep analysis of their data. If we analyze them in separate silos, assigning them to the channel, we have no chance to get a full picture of their needs. Customers leave their data in all the places they use on the web, but their needs are different in all places.

Very often, their intention to buy is born in social media, and then they visit the website, and often – they postpone the intention to buy until an undefined future. To maintain their intention, it is necessary to precisely match the message to the stage they are at. Target your inspirational message on Facebook. Take care of SEO so that while the client is already looking for a given product, our offer appears at the highest level in the search results. And then take care of remarketing activities to remind those who looked at our site without making a purchase.

This complicated path, which very often precedes online shopping, is the so-called customer life cycle. It is assumed to be divided into five stages:
  1. Range
  2. Acquisition
  3. Conversion
  4. Maintenance
  5. Loyalty

At every stage, the client needs a different type of information that will encourage him to go one step further. When the intention to buy is born, the company must appear in the right place, at the right time, with the right content, then – when the decision to buy has been made – it must convince him that the product or service is exactly what he is looking for, then – that he should carry out the transaction here and not anywhere else.

Once the deal is finalized, it’s time for after-sales activities which should make us the first choice of the customer who has already bought something from us at the next opportunity.

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