Ecommerce has taken over how we think about retail. With internet access available nearly everywhere at any time, as a society, we’ve grown used to being able to shop in bed, on the bus, in our pyjamas and at work — we’re coming to expect our favourite stores to be open at all hours, in all venues, and for all needs.
Even if you’re not ready just yet — younger brands and stores are certainly not wrong for focusing only on one or two channels in the very beginning — ensuring you’re keeping in mind omnichannel principles in designing your store’s layout and strategy will enhance your business and make you more attractive to customers.
What is Omnichannel: A Quick 101
Before we can start really talking about omnichannel, we need to define it. Omnichannel thought is a marketing strategy that takes into account the fact that customers can access your online Magento or Shopify store wherever, whenever, on any device or in person.
By keeping in mind the different ways and reasons customers access a store, omnichannel principles seek to facilitate sales across multiple customer touch points. Keeping this specific point in mind is important; to be omnichannel is not simply to set up multiple touchpoints for customers. Calling yourself an omnichannel retailer requires tying every touchpoint together into a seamless experience and ensuring no matter how big or small your business, it operates coherently.
At the core, omnichannel means no more distinction between the different kinds of commerce. Customers generally don’t see the multiple different retail channels businesses may operate in as distinct — well-done omnichannel ventures recognize that.
Omnichannel approaches are no longer bonuses -- customers see it as the standard of shopping experiences.
We’re living in a time where, on average, a person will reach for their smartphone 150 to 200 times a day. With that, mobile shopping has increased as well. If you’re not developing your ecommerce website with this in mind, you’ll be losing customers before you even think about going truly omnichannel in your approach.
The fact of modern shopping is that consumers now encounter an average of 2.8 different touchpoints on their way to make a purchase decision. If you don’t carefully design exact experience you want them to have at each point, you’re not in control of what they’re taking in about your business.
Aren’t I Omnichannel Now?
Wait, you might be saying. I already run my ecommerce business in multiple channels. Am I omnichannel?
Not necessarily. Multichannel and omnichannel are not synonymous! Taking your multichannel ecommerce business omnichannel means diving deeper than just linking your storefront and your twitter account. Omnichannel is specifically about integrating those channels together.
Think of it this way: a multichannel approach would see you operating your Shopify or Magento storefront and your twitter account as well-oiled but at least partially separate entities. Customers browse your ecommerce website for products while they access your twitter for customer support. Because your customer support outlet and your storefront are not integrated in any way, customers have to do the leg work in bringing your customer support up to speed on what their exact experience with your website was.
An omnichannel approach, in contrast, would see you operating your storefront and your customer service outlets — multiple ones! — as the same entity. This means taking measures to empower your business, through employee training and well-built shopping experiences, to communicate seamlessly behind the scenes. In this approach, for example, a customer who is browsing your storefront on their phone could request customer support help on the exact product page they’re inquiring about; your customer support can then determine what device your customer is accessing the website on and tailor their support to that exact experience.
In other words, multichannel looks at your business as separate puzzle pieces. Omnichannel looks at your business as the complete image.
How Can My Ecommerce Business Become More Omnichannel?
The most obvious candidates for omnichannel approaches? Everyone.
Businesses should think about how they want their customers to experience their storefronts not only apart, but together — a number of consumers will use their phones in store to make purchasing decisions, and even purchase from an ecommerce website while in a brick-and-mortar store, so thinking about them as two parts of the same puzzle is key.
However, you can still implement some important omnichannel principles to great effect if you don’t have a brick-and-mortar store. The first step is to start thinking about the different factors that influence your consumers’ experiences:
Location — both yours and theirs — is an important factor to consider when it comes to adapting to the best ecommerce experiences. If you sell and ship internationally, for example, are you thinking about the customer experiences of people on opposite ends of the globe?
Customer support for customers who live far outside of your working hours is key to retaining a global client base. Being truly omnichannel means providing support at all hours to provide a seamless customer experience; if you’re working on being omnichannel but only keeping in mind the customers closer to home, you’re dropping the ball.
An effective omnichannel approach means coming up with dedicated 24/7 customer support solutions, be that through knowledge bases, support bots, or remote employees.
The devices used to access your store can vary widely — while mobile phones are extremely popular, so are tablets and computers (and you can’t discount the other more niche ways people get online, like through gaming consoles).
Integrating omnichannel principles is about more than just making sure your site scales to different device dimensions. A shopper browsing on a desktop computer at home is in a different mindset than one browsing on their laptop in a coffee shop or on their phone in-store, and they’ll all be looking for different things first.
To cater to these different experiences, remember that not every experience needs to be — or even should be! — identical.
Channels and products
More and more, it’s unlikely that your customers will only interact with your products through one channel before they buy — which is why getting your business truly omnichannel is so important. If you are running both brick-and-mortar and ecommerce stores, you should be making sure they’re integrated together.
Being omnichannel means making it easy for customers to follow your products across different channels. Implementing measures sure as QR codes to take in-store shoppers to your website is one way of thinking about this — especially since you can create a more personalized shopping experience as you collect data on what products in-store they’re the most interested in through their scans.
No matter what the size of your ecommerce website, keeping all possible omnichannel experiences in mind as you develop your business will ensure more satisfied customers and better success.
If you’re ready to start implementing omnichannel features into your Shopify or Magento website, Blue Badger can help!