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What is omnichannel, and how it can be a great strategy for your business

Learn about the omnichannel approach to sales and discover how to use this marketing strategy to engage your customers!

Omnichannel

Life is omnichannel. This means that the buyer’s journey is no longer linear, restricted to a single point of contact with a brand.

Consumers can be impacted by a product in a social media campaign. And then, compare prices at different e-commerce platforms with the help of Google. And finally, close the deal at a physical store, for example.

According to Statista, in 2020, over two billion people purchased goods or services online, and e-retail sales exceeded US$ 4.2 trillion U.S. worldwide. And although brick-and-mortar sales have been impacted by the pandemic, they’re already bouncing back according to Forbes.  

Consumers are already living in a more fluid manner, and brands need to adapt and allow a continuous experience between channels.

In this context, an omnichannel approach is the best strategy for those who want to succeed in the midst of an increasingly competitive market, with increasingly demanding consumers.

Keep reading this article to learn more about this approach, the main challenges and advantages of implementing it, its importance in the future (and the present) of e-commerce, and brands that have taken the lead and are already operating this way.

What is omnichannel and how did it come about?

The term omnichannel is a combination of the Latin words “Omni”, which means “all things” or “all”, and “channel”.

Thus, this strategy presupposes the integration between different points of contact with consumers. Its main goal is to ensure a better shopping experience and to create and develop a closer relationship with customers.

The difference between omnichannel and multichannel

Before delving into other aspects of an omnichannel strategy, it’s important to differentiate it from a multichannel approach. The focus of the former is on integration: information from one channel is exchanged with the others.

In multichannel service, this isn’t necessary. This is when a store has a physical point of sale and e-commerce, but they act separately and independently.

To be considered omnichannel, such an organization should allow online purchases and the physical product pickup, for example.

The importance of this strategy

Research shows that 90% of customers expect consistent interactions across channels and that means working with an omnichannel strategy. But in the U.S., the leading country in the omnichannel trend, only 6% of companies have adopted this strategy – later on, we’ll address the main difficulties of its implementation.

However, it’s a customer support modality that should be on the radar of different businesses as soon as possible.

Consumer behavior has changed, and this is what drives the need for businesses to offer a personalized service with a seamless experience across different channels.

Users are connected to different networks simultaneously and full-time. In many cases, their friends and family are already following the same trend. Therefore, they expect the same behavior from the brands they consume.

That is why being omnichannel goes far beyond being present on different networks. It’s about being available 24/7 with a focus on immediacy – almost omnipresent – something that the new generations expect and demand.

What are the main challenges for its implementation?

An omnichannel strategy’s main goal is to ensure that your customers receive a unique experience, regardless of the channel through which the relationship is established. For this to happen, you need to prioritize the creation of unique customer service.

One of the main challenges in this regard is the fact that different channels provide different purchasing cycles. Plus, it’s important that you create continuity between offline and online – and not only between the different virtual channels.

Here are some other difficulties for the implementation of the omnichannel strategy and how to overcome each one. 

Channel integration

Although it’s a basic premise of an omnichannel strategy, the integration of different channels is still a major difficulty for businesses. As we saw earlier, omnichannel strategies are still in their infancy, both in Brazil and worldwide.

Collecting data – and turning it into intelligence – is one of the main reasons why integration between channels is so difficult.

Omnichannel assumes that the sales center is capable of identifying, for example, the products that performed best with a consumer during the opening of an email marketing strategy.

Another example would be the use of an algorithm capable of predicting user behavior and thus, offer them new products or services in a personalized manner. In short, all customer contact points need to talk to each other in order to ensure a continuous and increasingly satisfying experience.

User Identification

If the idea of omnichannel is to create a seamless experience across different customer service channels, user identification is a key issue for an organization’s success.

It’s common for a solved ticket to become a new occurrence, but nothing guarantees that the customer will search for a solution through the same channel that was previously used.

This refers to the integration of the channels and to the exchange of information between them. However, easier user identification has more to do with ensuring a good shopping experience.

As we said earlier, being in a hurry is one of the top behaviors of the new consumer. They certainly don’t want to waste time providing all of their data and information about an overdue purchase, for example, if they have already done so the week before – even if on another channel.

Customer support standardization

Another factor that needs to be taken into account when thinking about omnichannel service is the standardization of customer service. This concerns the tone and language style adopted in contact with customers, but it’s more than this.

A standardized service should go beyond using or not using GIFs and memes on digital channels, for example. Besides the personalization and personification of customer service, agility in solving problems and the monitoring of these contacts aiming at continuous improvement should also be prioritized. 

Access to technologies

Technology is one of the main facilitators in the process for the implementation of an omnichannel strategy, especially because it allows the automation of different processes

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software are two examples.

Omnichannel ERP systems are still new on the market and are only now becoming more accessible, as well as efficient. When well integrated, they allow a purchase to be started in one channel and finalized in another, keeping inventory and logistics data updated simultaneously.

CRM, on the other hand, can help with user identification, the tracking of previous services, and more effective distribution of tickets among employees. Its main goal – unlike ERP, which must help interlinked purchases – is to ensure that a service is completed (successfully) in the same channel where it was started.

In other words, no more asking the customer to call a toll-free number after a complaint via Facebook.

What are the main advantages of integrating your channels?

Satisfied customers are always advantageous for a business. They make it easier to build loyalty and act as fans of the brand, recommending it to friends and family.

A fast and efficient service, as well as a shopping experience that offers different possibilities for payment and product acquisition, contribute to this.

Check out other advantages of investing in omnichannel below.

1. Sharing of information

The integration of information also has advantages that go beyond agile and efficient service. This practice allows the collection of data and its cross-referencing on a larger scale, providing greater intelligence to a business.

With the growing use of artificial intelligence in different market niches, this becomes a competitive edge. After all, this data – when well worked – allows the creation of other communication fronts, which are increasingly personalized, further strengthening the relationship between brand and customer.

Let’s assume that a consumer had problems with product delivery and requested support via Facebook. After solving the problem, it’s possible to get in touch with them via email, ask for feedback about the service, or offer free shipping for the next purchase because of the inconvenience.

Better user experience

As you have seen throughout this article, the focus of omnichannel is to offer a unique shopping or customer service experience.

The integration of channels allows this, especially because it respects the new consumer behavior – super-connected, with a different notion of time and agility than previous generations, and who demands digital maturity from the brands they consume.

Allowing your customer to purchase a product and pick it up at the physical store or receive it at home shows that you are adapting to their time availability instead of limiting their purchasing possibilities.

Service customization

Since the focus of omnichannel is centered on users and their experience, another advantage is the possibility of customization. We can refer to the previous example of a customer who receives free shipping for the next purchase after a delivery delay since it also applies here.

While omnichannel standardizes many things, it also allows for customer service customization. This is possible because of the facility of identifying customers and knowing their entire history all at once.

CRM software is also useful here, since a single employee solves a case from start to finish, following the entire ticket, the levels of humanization and personalization of this contact are also usually more satisfactory.

Customer Loyalty

Building customer loyalty is related to creating a relationship of trust. You are unlikely to make a new purchase with someone who didn’t deliver what was promised, or who did so after a long delay, for example.

When the first experience is satisfactory, consumers come back knowing what to expect. The buying experience is increasingly prioritized, even in situations where this implies higher prices.

Integrating different channels and providing a continuous positive experience not only helps build customer loyalty but can also justify higher profits, considering that this practice isn’t very common yet.

Greater brand credibility

Omnichannel strategies are recent but can already be considered a trend. Consumers are increasingly seeking unique, integrated experiences that satisfy all their needs – researching a product online, trying it out at a physical store, and receiving it at home, is one example of this.

When this happens, there are great chances that this customer will not only do business with your organization again but also recommend it to others. Consequently, a brand’s visibility and credibility tend to benefit from this.

Detailed reports

With the help of technology, it’s possible to map and monitor results much more accurately. By adopting an omnichannel strategy, the business’ focus is on the customers and their experience.

There’s no point in offering incredible customer service one moment and outdated service the next. This tarnishes the business’ credibility, and it’s worth remembering that a negative experience usually stands out more than a positive one.

Thus, the reports can be used in the creation of internal goals for the business, so that customer service can constantly improve.

What is the relationship between omnichannel and e-commerce?

As we have said earlier, consumer behavior has changed and is constantly changing. Even the journey within a sales funnel can no longer be understood as a linear structure, and several micro-moments influence a purchase decision. Thus, brands need to adapt to this new consumer.

It deals especially with a new generation of consumers, the so-called digital natives. Highly engaged, they actively research products of interest before making a purchase and are usually well-armed with information.

Constant mobile use is also a characteristic of this audience, and this point of contact cannot be neglected when considering an omnichannel strategy for your business.

Research shows that customers are choosing smartphones as the device of choice for online shopping. In this sense, proprietary apps – whether for the sake of relationships or online sales – are a growing trend.

In addition, it’s also important to consider the advantages that omnichannel can provide to an e-commerce business. Integrated points of contact increase traffic to the online store, as well as generate leads that are more qualified and well nurtured.

Several consequences can be observed from this, such as:

  • less cart abandonment
  • higher repurchase rates
  • better return on investment
  • more robust profits

Which organizations are already adopting an omnichannel strategy?

According to Think with Google, top retailers in the U.S. market, such as Macy’s discovered that customers who shop across multiple channels are 8 times more valuable than those who shop in only one.

As we have seen, omnichannel is a very interesting strategy for those who work with e-commerce, but it can, and should, be understood as a broader approach that allows a good relationship and whose focus is always on customer experience. 

Netflix is another great example. The business has been around since 1997, having started out as an online DVD rental company. Subscribers would pick the movie they wanted, and Netflix would mail it to them.

It wasn’t until 2007 that the organization adopted the video on-demand service, and in 2015, the software was made available to most of the world.

Data collection has always been one of its main attributes, with algorithms capable of offering series and movies to its users based on their previous behavior on the platform.

Is there a difference between playing a title on your cell phone and then continuing to watch it on a Smart TV? Does streaming offer a TV show when you access it from your tablet that can no longer be located when logged in on another device?

The answer is no. Even if present in different channels, the experience offered by Netflix is fluid, and the idea is precisely to prevent you from noticing the change of device. The same goes for data collection.

Behavior on all devices is also monitored, with the goal of always offering increasingly relevant content.

Why should your business invest in omnichannel?

It’s no exaggeration to say that omnichannel is a worldwide trend. This is true because this strategy follows consumer behavior.

The younger generations, in particular, no longer see any great boundaries between online and offline services and demand service that is more efficient – which is made possible due to a large number of competing brands at their disposal. The moment one proves ineffective, people can easily turn to another one.

The consolidation of omnichannel might not be simple, but it provides several benefits for a business. The practice is still a novelty, which creates competitive advantages for those who start investing in it now.

It’s possible for new brands to be created with this mindset. However, adaptation is possible for consolidated businesses, especially since they already have a user base.

Would you like to stay up to date regarding other trends besides omnichannel, so you can stand out with your customers and come out ahead of your competitors?

Then stay on our blog and learn everything you need to know about data science and how this field of study can help in the decision-making process!