Many are wringing their hands at the future of retail, and the recent closing of American Toys R Us stores didn’t help shape confidence in the industry’s future. But retail isn’t going anywhere without a fight; while ecommerce may have challenged brick and mortar’s place at the top, digital channels may just be what saves it. One need only look at Amazon’s development in the retail space—including brick-and-mortar book stores and the acquisition of Whole Foods—to see that the future is bright for retail. And the secret behind this success? It all boils down to omni channel retail.
First, what is omni channel retail? And what’s the difference between omnichannel vs. multichannel marketing? Simply put, omnichannel marketing is about combining a unified experience from brick and mortar shopping to mobile browsing and beyond. The difference between omnichannel vs. multichannel is that the latter is more focused on the business perspective, while the former is tailored to how customers see the world or engage with a brand.
Omnichannel retail is all about providing a singular, seamless experience across all your communication channels and within the brick-and-mortar experience itself. Benefits of omnichannel marketing for retail are many. On the customer side, you provide a more satisfying experience for shoppers. On the business side, retailers get an edge over ecommerce competition by leveraging their in-store assets.
Here are just a couple examples of omnichannel retail trends. You might browse through Instagram and find an item that catches your eye. Once you engage, you’re given a coupon to redeem in-store for said item. Alternatively, you might find something you like in store, but the color or size you prefer is out of stock. Omni channel retail comes to the rescue by letting you scan the item to make an easy purchase of the size or color you want online. Even a simple feature like the ability to browse local stores’ stock online (like Kmart allows) is a great use of omnichannel retail.
So what are some specific benefits of omnichannel marketing for retail? Let’s dive into a handful of key omnichannel retail trends and their benefit to businesses.
Sure, customers are doing more and more of their shopping online. But that doesn’t mean they’ve abandoned retail altogether. In fact, a Harvard Business Review study found that only 7% of shoppers do their shopping online-only. That’s less than those who shop in-store only, which is about 20% of shoppers. That leaves a significant 73% of customers who use multiple channels over the course of their shopping journey. One of the benefits of omnichannel marketing for retailers is that they can engage with customers every step along that journey by being available through many channels.
Some retailers worry about “showrooming,” in which shoppers will browse items in-store but then purchase them elsewhere online. While this has been a popular concern for retailers, HBR found that the opposite was true: “webrooming” has become the norm with shoppers (particularly millennials) who do research online before visiting a store for purchase.
One of the biggest benefits of omnichannel marketing for retail is that it has a great ROI. The same HBR study mentioned above found that shoppers typically spend more the more channels they used. Those using four or more channels before a purchase spent 9% more than those using just one on average.
Omnichannel customers are also more loyal. A study by Aberdeen Group found that an omnichannel strategy brings in 89% customer retention, boosting loyalty rates.
Lots of retailers are focused on acquiring new customers rather than retaining existing ones. With omni channel retail marketing, businesses can build a sense of familiarity and convenience for shoppers. This is because brands make themselves available from any channel their audience is likely to use. By leveraging data and behaviors from those channels, this is translated into deeper personalization and heightened loyalty.
How many times have you looked at an item online, then had it follow you everywhere you looked? Many businesses handle targeting poorly, simply emblazoning the same item on page after page. With an omni channel retail strategy, you can further contextualize an item across channels to better entice customers to visit the store.
Here’s an example. Let’s say a prospective customer discovers a pair of shoes you offer on social media. After checking it out on the store page, the customer might later see an image or video that highlights your brand’s lifestyle vision tied to that pair of shoes. When browsing Pinterest, she might be guided toward that same pair, this time surrounded by a collection of related items. On Facebook, rather than seeing the same ad repeatedly, she’s now treated to an invitation to visit the nearest store with a coupon to redeem there. After making the purchase, the store then follows up with a cross-sell via email: has she considered buying a cream to care for the shoes’ leather material?
With omnichannel marketing, the brand remains on consumers’ periphery without being pushy. The key idea is that brands anticipate how their audience makes use of the various channels available, then delivers an experience that feels natural. By letting customers discover and engage with the brand in a natural way no matter where they are, retail has a lot to gain from omnichannel marketing.