In the ongoing debate between multichannel vs. omnichannel, one very important piece of information tends to get lost in the shuffle:
Omnichannel operations evolve from multichannel operations. Without the latter, the former wouldn’t be able to exist.
Multichannel retailing is defined by the use of two or more channels in isolation to engage with your customers.
Companies that employ a multichannel approach their various channels as if they’re separate entities. For these brands, the on-site experience is the on-site experience; the in-store experience is the in-store experience. And so on.
On the surface, this might not seem like too big of a deal. However, problems can arise when a customer’s experience on one channel doesn’t match up with their experience on another.
Because of the complexities of online-to-offline commerce in particular, omnichannel comes into play most often within business that sell through eCommerce and brick-and-mortar.
Omnichannel commerce is an approach to sales in which the focus is on providing a holistic and integrated customer experience.
Omnichannel operations work under the assumption that most customers will use multiple channels to engage with a brand before making a purchasing decision. This allows organizations to cater to that behavior by offering a unified customer experience regardless of the channel being used.
Basically, omnichannel operations focus on the entire customer experience—not the customer’s individual experiences on different channels.
The biggest difference between multichannel and omnichannel retail is that the former centers on the different sales channel offerings while the latter is consumer centric.
Again, omnichannel retail focuses on enhancing the customer experience by offering more flexibility to consumers to engage with the brand as they wish.
To illustrate the difference between multichannel and omnichannel, consider the following scenarios:
In the first scenario, Company A provides the ability for customers to engage with their brand in multiple ways—but this doesn’t add much value to their overall experience. In fact, in this scenario, the discord between channels actually causes frustration in the eyes of the customer.
In the second scenario, all touchpoints and engagements are part of a centralized experience for the customer. They can truly “pick up where they left off” with the brand in question, regardless of the channel being used.
There’s no miscommunication, misinformation, or redundant processes involved—the customer gets what they wanted, how they wanted to get it. Period.
Once you’ve established your brand on multiple channels, albeit in a bit of an isolated fashion, your next step should be to integrate them. In “going omnichannel,” you’ll be able to create a fully customer-centric, streamlined experience for everyone that engages with your brand.
More specifically, going omnichannel allows you to...
Omnichannel operation allows you to provide a uniform and streamlined experience to your customers, regardless of the channel they decide to use.
From the customer’s perspective, this means they don’t have to use certain channels for certain purposes. For example, instead of being forced to use email (or, worse, telephone) for customer service purposes, they may also be able to use Livechat or chatbot technology for further assistance.
When your customers can get what they want without having to jump through hoops to get it, they’ll be much more likely to continue engaging with your brand.
Omnichannel selling enables you to understand, quantify, and review analytics from multiple channels.
This allows you to interact with and cross-reference customer data no matter where it comes from (e.g., site analytics, social media metrics, etc.). Since all data is housed in a centralized location—and kept up-to-date in real-time—there’s little to no chance of data discrepancies popping up. Likewise, it becomes easier to extract valuable insight that might not be so evident when viewing said data in isolation.
True omnichannel commerce enables integrated customer service, sales, marketing, inventory management, resource planning, and more.
While we already discussed the customer-facing benefits of this (i.e., providing a streamlined and enjoyable experience), it’s also worth noting that this all allows your organization to run like a finely-tuned machine.
Since all teams will have access to the latest information and data regarding certain processes, they’ll experience less downtime and fewer hangups as they get these processes underway.
In turn, they’ll be able to maximize productivity—and allocate even more resources to making improvements moving forward.
Harvard Business Review found that customers of omnichannel companies 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. What’s more, as a company becomes present on additional channels, it increases the amount of revenue generated by its average customer.
Adopting an omnichannel approach to marketing and sales is an intensive and complex process (just as making the jump from single- to multichannel operations is).
Before diving into all things omnichannel, there are a few prerequisite actions you’ll need to take:
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.
Smart tech is a critical component of 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.
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.
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.
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 multi-location functionality (to easily manage global warehouses). QuickBooks Commerce also integrates with eCommerce systems like Shopify, accounting software, 3PL providers, shipping providers, and more.
Innovative businesses that plan for and invest in an omnichannel sales strategy are securing their position as the retail and wholesale leaders of tomorrow.
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