2021.7.13

What is Omnichannel In Retail?

Written by Aine Hendron

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Omnichannel commerce is when merchants provide multiple different platform options for customers, each focused on delivering a consistent brand and shopping experience.

It’s like multichannel retail, where customers can purchase from a business both via their website and social media and in a brick and mortar store. With omnichannel, operations focus on a comprehensive customer experience, not the customer’s individual experiences on different channels [1].

The “New Retail” approach from tech giant Alibaba perfectly sums up omnichannel as “seamless integration between online and offline worlds that enables frictionless shopping experiences” [2]. 

Definition

To give a better explanation of omnichannel, it helps to provide an understanding of some similar terms. 

  • Single-channel commerce is when retailers sell via one channel only. It could be a physical store, an e-commerce website, social media, or an online marketplace like Depop or Amazon.
  • Multichannel commerce is when merchants sell in a few different places, usually online and offline. Multichannel also means communicating with customers in various ways, such as through a website or phone. 
  • Omnichannel commerce takes place on multiple channels too, like the multichannel commerce strategy. Without multichannel, there's no omnichannel. The big difference is that omnichannel commerce connects all channels. This means your customer has a seamless experience across all platforms [3].

Four pillar approach to omnichannel

BigCommerce outlines a four-pillar approach to omnichannel commerce. These four pillars include sales channels, marketing and advertising, operations, and fulfillment. These elements link together to provide the best possible omnichannel customer experience.

1.Sales channels

It’s important to select sales channels that are right for your business. You’ll want to consider your customer demographic, their age, geographical location, where they like to shop, and where they’d expect to find your services. Some places you might want to sell include:

  • A physical store, or anywhere you can use a POS
  • A business website with ecommerce integration
  • Social media
  • A dedicated app
  • Online marketplaces like eBay or Amazon
  • B2B/Wholesalers

Not only does having multiple channels in operation help brand awareness, but it serves as a backup, should anything go wrong. Since Instagram and Facebook are owned by the same company, having another platform available adds an extra layer of security for businesses.

Of course, retailers have to move with the times and adjust to sales channel trends. Some channels pick up rapidly. Therefore, monitoring the growth and success of competitors’ strategies may be useful before deciding to invest in development on a particular channel. 

2.Marketing and advertising

Organic website growth can be challenging, especially for new businesses. Just as choosing the right platform to sell is vital, so is choosing the right place to advertise. 

Visibility and increasing brand awareness are good. However, it can be expensive to invest in marketing on a platform that just doesn’t appeal to your customers. It’s important to meet your customers where they are, on the channels they like to frequent.

 For example, clothing brands that target people aged 14-24 would have a lot more success advertising on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, or Snapchat, since those platforms are more popular with that demographic. It’s unlikely that they’ll reach the kind of clientele they’re after on LinkedIn, so investing resources into advertising there would be quite pointless.

Going a step further, and choosing to sell on these platforms, rather than just advertise there, is what elevates a business from being multichannel, to being omnichannel. 

3.Operations

Operations cover everything in your back office, including lead generation, costs, CMS, inventory ordering, point of sale (POS), logistics, order fulfillment, and sales channels. In omnichannel, having fully integrated operations is pivotal. 

Epos Now systems encompass all of these functions through their POS software. Elements that the POS doesn’t cover are still available through app integrations, so vital functions such as marketing schedules and accounting programmes can still be found in one convenient location. 

Robust inventory management is critical for omnichannel businesses. Since stock is sold across multiple locations, merchants have to know exactly what is available, and in what quantities. A Retail POS system that automatically deducts as items sell in real-time is ideal and will ensure smooth operations when facing a large volume of sales. 

4.Shipping and fulfillment

The fourth pillar is order fulfillment. Order fulfilment is notably simplified in brick and mortar stores. When selling online, order completion and shipment requires a lot of planning and is often much costlier than selling goods in person. 

Often merchants will charge customers for shipping, yet this can be marked up or down depending on the negotiated rate with various couriers. Third-party logistics companies work with retailers to find an agreed price, often rewarding bulk shipments or exclusive partnerships for a discount. 

Benefits of omnichannel retail

  • Once your ecommerce website is integrated with an order processing system, there is very little maintenance or staffing required. No need to spend time having lengthy sales conversations if the adequate information is online. There is no need for customers to queue, as multiple patrons can purchase online without speaking to a staff member.
  • Make money any time, as customers can buy online, 24/7. With reliable payment processing, money will automatically be sent to your account without you having to do anything. 
  • Appeals to a diverse range of customers and highlights that your business is willing to accommodate customer preferences. Increase visibility and convenience by advertising on a platform and allowing customers to buy from the same place without navigating elsewhere.
  • Track the shopping habits of customers with ease. Link your e-commerce platform with your POS for a better insight into which platforms generate the most traffic or sales, and spend your marketing budget more efficiently.

Streamlined omnichannel experience

Epos Now’s Retail software is designed specifically for merchants seeking an innovative, comprehensive business management system. The multi-functional POS platform includes detailed inventory management that tracks stock in real-time for optimised efficiency. Access analysis on product performance, and view profit percentage per sale or over a certain period of time to help you make better-informed business decisions.

  • Manage your stock, staff, sales, data, and payments from anywhere. ​
  • Integrate with your preferred payment partner
  • Receive stock alerts, so you never miss a selling opportunity
  • Easily add, edit and bundle items to create new revenue opportunities
  • Full barcode management. Import, update, and manage 1,000s of products
  • Integrate with over 100 apps, including leading accountancy and CRM tools 

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