Customer expectations are rapidly changing, therefore businesses need to constantly adapt in order to stay ahead of the game.
Enter omnichannel sales.
Simply put, omnichannel (meaning “all” channels) refers to unifying sales and marketing channels to create a single commerce experience for your brand. In practice, this means offering customers a completely streamlined and connected buying experience across all platforms – including offering a seamless transition from online to offline selling and vice versa. In marketing terms, an omnichannel strategy means putting a message anywhere a customer might be looking, listening, etc. In customer service, it means providing help and support when and where your customers are looking for it.
In this guide, we’ll take you through the evolution of omnichannel selling and why it’s important for businesses. We’ll then show you how to build, implement and track an omnichannel strategy. Let’s get started!
They might sound similar, but omnichannel and multichannel aren’t the same.
Omnichannel commerce focuses on providing a fully integrated customer experience at every touchpoint. It works on the assumption that most customers will use multiple channels to engage with a brand before making a purchasing decision and caters to that behavior by offering a unified customer experience. In essence, omnichannel removes the boundaries between different sales and marketing channels to create an integrated whole.
Multichannel, on the other hand, allows customers to purchase from multiple channels but the experience is still segmented, i.e. a customer’s interaction with multiple channels are distinct. From the business’ perspective, the customer journey starts and ends in one channel, even if that customer uses multiple channels to browse products or make purchases.
For example, a customer being able to shop at a business’ online store or brick-andmortar store is a multichannel experience. It only becomes omnichannel when those two channels (and any other channels) work together strategically to provide the customer with a streamlined experience.
An example of streamlined omnichannel commerce
To make things clearer, let’s look at an example of omnichannel commerce in action.
Browsing online with cart abandonment
A customer visits the eCommerce store of XYZ Furniture and adds a new coffee table to their cart, but leaves before checking out.
After leaving XYZ Furniture’s website, the customer is served a series of ads for the coffee table plus a 10% off coupon on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, staggered over a week. They also receive a personalized email with the same coupon.
Almost but not quite
The 10% offer entices the customer. They click through from the email and fill out their shipping information at XYZ Furniture’s website, but this time decide against buying the coffee table on the final confirmation page.
Try and try again
XYZ Furniture detects that the customer’s address is close to their Boston showroom. They send a personalized invitation to the customer’s physical mailbox to check out the coffee table in person.
The customer decides to visit the showroom and ends up buying the coffee table. When the customer provides their delivery address at the store counter, the 10% discount is automatically applied.
Omnichannel sales and the consumer
The concept of selling through multiple channels online and offline is nothing new to the world of commerce – but the omnichannel strategy takes it a step further.
As innovative companies leverage breakthroughs in cloud, mobile, social, AI and chatbot technologies to deliver personalized and integrated experiences, customers have more choice and control than ever before. Consequently, they have grown to expect an exceptional customer experience from any business they engage with.
Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report found that 70% of consumers say technology has made it easier to switch from brand to brand, and find the perfect experience that matches their expectations. Likewise, 66% of consumers say they are likely to switch brands if they are treated like a number instead of an individual.
It’s also predicted that by 2020, 75% of B2B buyers will expect companies to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions – so omnichannel selling is an important consideration for B2C and B2B businesses alike.
In an age where customers’ expectations are high, omnichannel selling is less a choice than a necessity for commerce businesses. Thankfully, taking an omnichannel approach offers a multitude of benefits.
Be where your customers are
The most obvious benefit of omnichannel commerce is the ability to put your brand in front of your customers. A smart omnichannel approach isn’t about bombarding customers with marketing material, but rather allowing them to discover and be reminded of your brand at multiple touchpoints.
Omnichannel selling enables you to understand, quantify, and review analytics from multiple channels, meaning you can interact with and cross-reference customer data no matter where it is generated from, in a central location.
Greater business efficiencies
True omnichannel commerce enables integrated customer service, sales, marketing, inventory management, resource planning, and more. Each aspect of the business works together like a well-oiled machine to create streamlined and efficient workflows.
Nurture better, more profitable customer relationships
A study by Harvard Business Review found that omnichannel customers are more valuable on multiple counts. They spend an average of 4% more on every shopping occasion, and 10% more online than single-channel customers. With every additional channel used, shoppers also spend more money.
Omnichannel customers’ expectations have created a need for business decisions to be driven almost entirely by data – and this trend is projected to become more pronounced. Here are some of the key omnichannel predictions for the coming years.
More sophisticated B2B experiences will be in high demand
Piggybacking on the shift in B2C consumers’ expectations, B2B buyers expect companies to make great strides in technology that simplifies sales and service by 2020, according to the Salesforce State of the Connected Customer Report. As such, an omnichannel B2B eCommerce strategy will be more critical than ever.
Customers will expect smart tech as standard
By 2020, forward-thinking customers – especially millennials – anticipate customerfocused technology advances will continue to have a major impact on the way companies approach sales and customer service. In fact, 85% of marketing teams with loT-based marketing already say technology has been effective at helping craft a streamlined customer journey.
Technology will strengthen customer relationships
Customers foresee technological innovations as increasingly integrated with the customer journey. More than half (51%) of customers expect that by 2020, companies will anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before customer contact.
Ready to adopt an omnichannel approach with your business? Here’s a checklist to help get you started.
Know your customer
Understand your customers’ wants, needs, and preferences. Invite customer feedback, use analytical data and social listening tools, and examine your customers’ behaviors online and offline.
Ramp up your tech
Smart tech is a critical component of a successful omnichannel implementation. For an experience to be streamlined, intuitive and personalized, your sales and customer management systems need to have the capacity to adapt the experience to the customer’s preferences and other contextual aspects of their journey (such as their location).
Enable smart data collection
The Holy Grail of advanced omnichannel is the ability to leverage data effectively. Combining data from multiple systems, including inventory management, CRM, POS, eCommerce sites, etc. gives you a competitive advantage – so it’s crucial to ensure these systems work together seamlessly.
Rethink your organizational structure
In an omnichannel business, sales, marketing, warehousing, product development, and customer service teams need to be willing and able to work collaboratively at every turn. Achieving this comes down to utilizing the right technology to enable cross-team workflows and educating team members on new processes.
No two businesses are alike, but there are some general key indicators of omnichannel success.
You’ve adopted an omnichannel commerce strategy. Your customers seem to be happy, revenue is coming in, and business is growing. But how do you know if the time and investment in an omnichannel approach has really been worth it?
Here are some key performance metrics to consider:
Product sales over time: Of course, one of the most obvious indicators of success is an uptick in sales over time. By running a sales analysis report using QuickBooks Commerce Intelligence you can track sales over time to compare performance preand post-omnichannel implementation.
Customer satisfaction: This helps measure how satisfied your current customers are with various aspects of the business including customer service, order fulfillment, and shipping. Customer satisfaction can be gauged with feedback tools such as Net Promoter Score or online surveys.
Brand awareness: Omnichannel commerce is about being where your customers are, so it should help build your brand profile. Indicators such as an uplift in website traffic or social followers is a good sign that your approach is working.
Customer retention: The number of customers you still have in the current time period as compared to a previous time period tells you how successful you are at keeping customers. Examining customer sales over time reports using QuickBooks Commerce Intelligence enables you to analyse how effective you are at maintaining customer sales through omnichannel selling and marketing.
Conversion rates and cart abandonment: If you’re succeeding in providing a personalized, intuitive, and streamlined customer experience, you should start to see conversion rates rise and cart abandonment rates fall. Tools like Google Analytics goal tracking and your eCommerce analytics can offer a wealth of knowledge in these areas.
Investing in sophisticated software with user-intuitive integration capabilities is pivotal to creating an omnichannel environment. Here’s how QuickBooks Commerce and omnichannel commerce work together
Extensive integration capabilities
Choosing a system that enables streamlined workflows is essential to putting omnichannel commerce into practice. QuickBooks Commerce enables you to connect and manage multiple sales channels from a single platform and has multi-currency and multilocation functionality (to easily manage global warehouses). QuickBooks Commerce also integrates with eCommerce systems like Shopify, accounting software, 3PL providers, shipping providers, and more.
Streamlined order fulfillment
A good omnichannel strategy doesn’t focus solely on selling products but on the entire customer journey – and that includes efficient and accurate order fulfillment. QuickBooks Commerce’s functionality allows you to manage the entire order fulfillment process in one place, even if those orders are coming from different channels or locations.
It’s a common belief that going omnichannel is an expensive and complex process, but the truth is that half the battle is won by investing in smart and robust technology that keep up with complex demand. QuickBooks Commerce’s B2B eCommerce platform, for example, is a cost-effective solution to omnichannel expansion as it enables you to create unique price lists, storefronts, discounts and minimum order quantities for each buyer, providing a personalized customer experience. The B2B payments gateway also ensures the journey from purchasing to payment is seamless.
How does QuickBooks Commerce enable businesses to put omnichannel strategies into place? These merchants share their experiences.
Paula’s Choice Singapore
For the team at Paula’s Choice Singapore, QuickBooks Commerce enabled them to save time and align the business for a true omnichannel eCommerce experience. Specifically, they found the increased visibility into inventory levels and costs over multiple locations integral in shifting their business to omnichannel and providing unique experiences for their customers.
Dirty Knees Soap Co.
Heidi Danos at Dirty Knees Soap Co. in the US says that inputting her first wholesale order into QuickBooks Commerce was a eureka moment as she could see and track her entire inventory workflow for both her wholesale and retail operations in one place. Integrations with Shopify, Xero and ShipStation streamline processes and provide a seamless customer experience.
Her wholesale customers can shop for products via the B2B eCommerce platform and easily make payments using QuickBooks Commerce’s B2B payments gateway.
The Skincare Company
As sales started to increase and the business model evolved (with B2B sales, omnichannel set-ups, etc.), The Skincare Company in Australia began to look for a solution that could integrate different parts of their business operations while enhancing sales opportunities.
After comparing and trying different platforms, they chose QuickBooks Commerce because of the simplicity and design of its interface, as well as its B2B platform and integration capabilities.
Creating an omnichannel environment won’t always be easy, but it’s a necessity for tomorrow’s leading businesses.
With customers’ expectations growing daily and omnichannel commerce leading to better customer experiences and more profitability, the widespread adoption of omnichannel strategy is a foregone conclusion. Businesses that fail to anticipate and plan for this shift risk losing out as B2C and B2B customers alike come to accept personalized, convenient service as the standard.
The shift to omnichannel commerce won’t happen overnight. But with proper planning and investment in the right technologies, innovative businesses that plan for and invest in an omnichannel strategy are securing their position as the retail and wholesale leaders of tomorrow
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