Omnichannel is the future of retailing. There’s no getting away from it. It's what customers are demanding and where they’re spending their money. Omnichannel marketing can be simply defined as when retailers use multiple channels to reach the customer to create a seamless, more holistic retail experience.
In the race of online shopping vs physical stores, there’s one clear winner. Retail sales numbers have been dwindling for many years while online sales figures are always increasing. One retailer, in particular, Amazon, has received the biggest chunk of this growth. And with its recent purchase of Whole Foods, it looks to set the example of omnichannel marketing for retailers across the globe.
Target CEO Brian Cornell has pointed to the changes in the industry and the need for changes to be made. Changing conditions must be embraced by retailers who want to keep their doors open, he says: "These inflection points come around every generation or so. And strong retailers endure, while others, well, they don’t. Pick your era-defining change throughout history from downtown department stores to suburban malls, catalogs, e-commerce. Target not only weathered the storm, we emerged better positioned as a result."
To find out why retailers are banking on the success of omnichannel, Harvard Business Review completed a study of 46 000 shoppers. It found that omnichannel retail shoppers not only bought more items but were more loyal to the retailer.
"In today’s channel-rich environment, omnichannel capabilities drive the engagement of core shoppers with the retail brand and ultimately draw them to the physical store. Traditional retailers with physical stores will do better not only by leveraging the power of the online world, but also by synchronizing the physical and the digital worlds to provide shoppers with a seamless, multi-channel experience that online pure plays simply cannot match," says the study.
You can’t mention retailers winning at omnichannel marketing without mentioning everyone’s ubiquitous coffee shop. Customers are able to load and check their Starbucks card balance using their phone, the website or while in-store. All balance or profile changes are updated immediately on all touch points. And when it comes time to pay for their coffees, they’re able to pay using their physical rewards card or with their phones.
Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW) was an early adopter of omnichannel marketing. It began embracing omnichannel as early as 2013 when it worked to strengthen its ecommerce position by improving fulfillment of online sales. Its journey has continued, using eBay Enterprise In-Store Pickup and Ship-to-Store. They're now utilizing a new solution which enables them to use a single selling system for all customer interactions.
Another footwear brand winning at omnichannel marketing is the makers of everyone’s favorite warm boots, UGG. They sell their boots through company-owned brick-and-mortar stores, wholesale retail partners, an e-commerce site and a mobile app. With all of these options available to shoppers, it made seamless shopping a priority. Its offerings include buying online and picking in store; searching for in-store products online; loyalty points earned and redeemed across all channels; pricing consistency among channels; and three or more channels available for returns and customer service.
If you’re interested in continuing to learn about the online shopping vs physical stores debate and you'd like to find out how your business can use omnichannel marketing to its benefit, read our recent article. It looks at the importance of measuring behavior, proving relevant retail information and creating a supportive structure. By doing these three things, you can provide customers with what they want at the same time as increasing your sales. It’s a win-win.