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What is Omnichannel Retail and How Do You Build a Successful Strategy?

There are many different steps you should take when it comes to ensuring the success of your retail business, from managing your finances correctly to hiring the right people. One of the most important, especially in 2020, is ensuring that your total offer can meet and exceed customer expectations ‒ which is where omnichannel retail comes into play.

The phrase itself may sound confusing, but the concept isn’t ‒ and it’s sure to give your business the edge it needs to get ahead of the competition. From learning why it’s important to how you can build your own strategy, this article is here to tell you everything you need to know about omnichannel retail.

What is Omnichannel Retail?

Traditional sales and marketing channels, such as the store or catalogue, only offer the customer one or two ways of buying from retailers. With the invention of digital marketplaces, transactional websites and social platforms, retailers now have to manage multiple channels. Omnichannel refers to the need to maintain a consistent presence that recognises customers as they move across all of these channels.

Omnichannel retail, then, simply means that a brand doesn’t have to be everywhere at once to make a sale ‒ they just have to be where their customers expect them to be. This could range from the local High Street to an ecommerce marketplace or a social media platform.

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“Although this subject [omnichannel retail] can appear sophisticated, tech-dependent and jargon laden, it’s actually quite simple. Do you have the will to recognise your customers as individuals and serve them as such? Pursue this with every ounce of your corporate being and the skill will surely follow.” - Omnichannel Retail: How to Build Winning Stores in a Digital World

Omnichannel vs. multichannel

While omnichannel and multichannel initially sound similar, it’s important to remember that they have significant differences. Both sell their wares across two or more digital and physical channels. However, the difference arises when it comes to customer experience.

A multichannel retailer will sell their wares in more than one place, such as a physical store and a website. However, these channels may be isolated from and uncommunicative with one another; in many ways they are treated as though they are different businesses. This means that a customer’s interaction online and with the retailer in person tend to be completely independent from one another. For all intents and purposes, they are separate entities.

As mentioned above, omnichannel retailers also have multiple platforms. However, they unify the brand’s customer engagement across all sales and marketing channels. In short, this technique eliminates rigid boundaries between a brand’s different marketing and sales platforms, blurs the distinctions between online and offline channels and creates a single integrated entity. This makes the customer’s experience more immersive and seamless.

Why is omnichannel retailing important?

Omnichannel retailing is undeniably important, especially with current consumer ideologies and expectations. To begin with, omnichannel shoppers ‒ meaning consumers who make use of digital and mobiles technologies for the full range of their shopping experience ‒ are on the rise. An omnichannel shopper may, for example, buy a product online and then pick it up at a brick and mortar store (also known as ‘clicking and collecting’), see a product in a brick and mortar store and then purchase it from the same retailer online, or research a product online before making a purchase at a brick and mortar shop.

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For omnichannel shoppers, a retailer’s online and offline channels have to work together as one. Studies show that:

  • 87% of customers want brands to put effort into providing a seamless omnichannel experience;

  • Only 7% of people only shop online and only 20% shop only instore ‒ a whopping 73% of consumers use multiple channels when shopping;

  • Businesses that choose to use omnichannel strategies see a customer retention rate that is 98% higher than companies that don’t;

  • 50% of consumers expect to be able to buy a product online and then pick it up at a brick-and-mortar store; and,

  • Companies that report strong omnichannel customer engagement see a 9.5% increase in revenue annually, while weak omnichannel businesses only see a 3.4% rise.

Sources: v12 and Harvard Business Review

In short, omnichannel retailing is important because it benefits both the consumer and the business. The consumer finds the shopping process ‒ from research to purchase ‒ much simpler, easier and more effective, making them more likely to buy a product or service, as well as return to make repeat purchases. In turn, the business can optimise product, sales and marketing across all channels to make more profit. All in all, omnichannel retailing is a win-win situation; consumer and business alike get exactly what they want.

How Do You Build an Omnichannel Strategy?

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Omnichannel retailing is undoubtedly key for just about every business ‒ so how do you go about building an omnichannel strategy for your company? Miya Knights, Head of Industry Insight at Eagle Eye, and Tim Mason, Eagle Eye’s CEO, touch on this in their new book, Omnichannel Retail: How to Build Winning Stores in a Digital World. They argue that “retail, leisure and hospitality businesses must apply their merchant curation and creative marketing skills using digital and mobile both inside the store and online to win with customers today”, and offer tips for businesses looking to implement this strategy.

For a detailed look into how to succeed in the world of omnichannel retail, read their book. Alternatively, you can watch the Omnichannel Retail webinar hosted by the experts at Eagle Eye and Purple WiFi.

Here are just a few tips on how to improve your business’s omnichannel strategy:

  1. Connecting a brick and mortar store with the digital world

One of the first steps businesses can make is ensuring that their brick-and-mortar presence is connected to the digital world, as a well-executed strategy allows customers easy access across all marketing and sales channels. You can do this in a variety of ways. While some are intuitive, such as creating a website from which you can sell your wares, some may be a bit less obvious ‒ especially if you are looking to utilise the digital world to help you draw business to your brick and mortar store.

Digitally augmenting store experiences

90% of consumers already combine physical and digital channels as they shop ‒ for example, they may check the price of a product online while they are in the brick and mortar store to ensure they are getting the best deal. A digitally augmented store will support these consumers, while still supporting instore sales.

Which brings us to...

Mobile makeover

The goal of the mobile makeover of any store is to ensure that a customer can access and connect to all of the functionality and features they get when shopping online, including price information, as this will help them get the most out of their visit to the physical shop. One way to go about this is to offer free public Wi-Fi.

“At its most basic level, the digitally augmented store has to put mobile at the centre of any transformation or customer engagement project, to create and capitalize on digital connection.” - Omnichannel Retail: How to Build Winning Stores in a Digital World

Omnichannel loyalty or promotional programmes

An omnichannel loyalty or promotions scheme, such as emailing out a free drink on a customer’s birthday at a bar or restaurant or time-sensitive and specific digital offers (i.e. offering 50% off at certain locations), can help connect your brick and mortar store to the digital world.

  1. Take a data-based approach to retail

The more information you have and the better-informed you are, the more you can improve your business. You can get some customer data by giving your store a mobile makeover, as a customer’s presence and footfall will show up when they connect to the Wi-Fi.

Measuring Wi-Fi logins, mobile scans, orders, payments and loyalty or  programme or promotional redemptions will enable you to better understand who buys what. You can then use that information to infer the why and learn more about your best customers. When and how often do they visit the store? What are they buying and what does that say about them? How much are they spending? This information will help you tailor your business approach, such as frequency of engagement or level or promotional discount, moving forward.

  1. Reward customer loyalty

When you recognise and reward customer loyalty ‒ in essence, when you do something to thank customers for shopping with you ‒ they have a tendency to respond positively and, in many cases, spend more. Traditional loyalty programmes, such as ‘buy X amount of something, get something for free’ schemes, offering online coupons with a receipt or even just a simple ‘thank you for shopping with us’ can go a long way towards getting you more sales through all of your channels.

“Loyalty programmes will only tangibly boost loyalty if the insight gleaned from the data is used to quantify the amount that should be spent on these best customers, and the investment should be targeted to reward the behaviour you seek. Put simply, this falls into three broad areas:

1. ‘Thanks for shopping with us.'

2. ‘Please shop with us one more time.’

3. ‘Next time you shop with us, please enjoy this incentive to spend a bit more than you usually do.’”


- Omnichannel Retail: How to Build Winning Stores in a Digital World

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Omnichannel retail enables this kind of strategy at a far more consistent, personal and optimised level. It is a great way for businesses to boost their sales, improve their customers’ experiences and bring their company into the new decade. Once you build your strategy and put it into action, there’s no telling how far your brand could fly.

If you’re interested in making the most of omnichannel retail, we can help. Eagle Eye AIR, our digital marketing platform, seamlessly integrates with your current customer engagement programmes and helps to increase acquisition and retention through a variety of promotions, loyalty and gift programmes. Please get in touch with our team of experts for more information.