Omnichannel is one of those buzzwords you're going to be hearing a lot. (if you haven't already) Your first question is naturally going to be "What is omnichannel?" Your follow up to that is probably "Why should I care?"
The short answer? If you're involved in the retail industry in any way, you should care a great deal.
We've touched on the topic of omnichannel before, specifically how physical retail stores (like Amazon's new bookstores) fit within it.
Let's take a deeper dive into what omnichannel means, how you can implement an omnichannel strategy in your business, and look at some examples of companies doing it right.
Omnichannel vs Multichannel
The first thing we need to clarify is that omnichannel is not the same as multichannel.
Multichannel experiences are what most businesses currently employ in their marketing strategies. They have a website, blog, social media profiles, and other traditional channels for marketing and sales. These are all used to communicate, educate, and market to their current customers and potential new leads.
The problem is that these channels are often used separately, and can lack unity and consistency as a result. There is no seamless experience for your audience.
That is where an omnichannel experience can improve on multichannel. Omnichannel strategies take into account all devices, platforms, and contexts of your customers experience. Then, using that knowledge, they create an integrated and unified experience for your audience.
Omnichannel puts the customer first
Omnichannel recognizes that today's consumer has a wide selection of channels to interact with businesses and brands, often simultaneously.
For example, looking up reviews for a product online while playing with it in person at a retail store. Contacting a company via online chat while waiting to talk to their customer service rep on the phone. Posting an Instagram of a funny sign in a restaurant while waiting for their waiter to tend to them.
While most strategies often put your business' channels into separate "silos", confusing or even frustrating your audience, omnichannel allows them to interact with your business in the method they prefer at the time. Context is key.
How to implement an omnichannel strategy in your business
As with any significant change to a business' infrastructure, incorporating an omnichannel strategy requires a unified approach from the top. Determining your business' goals and objectives is the very first step. Without that clear understanding, your strategy will quickly become muddled and tainted.
Each department needs to be on the same page.
These can include, but are not limited to:
Once everyone is educated on your goals, you can start planning the transition to an omnichannel strategy.
When building your strategy, always think of your customers. What does your ideal customer look like? What are their buying habits? What are their favorite communication channels? Where can you find them?
Because, in the end, you're doing all of this for your customers. Creating a unique experience will keep your customers coming back for more, and draw in new ones.
Ultimately, the goal is to unify and simplify your customer experience. Having a great omnichannel strategy allows you to do that more effectively.
Sometimes, though, you need a little inspiration to get you started down the right path.
3 companies doing omnichannel right
There's a reason entire books are written about the "Apple experience". Apple has created the kind of feverish customer loyalty most companies can only dream of. And a big reason for that is the omnichannel strategy they've developed.
When you pick up an Apple product, find them online, or walk into an Apple store, you know exactly what your experience is going to be.
They were the pioneers of the unified interfaces you see companies like Microsoft try so hard to imitate. Whether laptop, tablet or phone, you know right away whether or not it's made by Apple.
And that experience can be found through any one of their communication channels. Their website, social media profiles and customer support are all integrated into one cohesive experience.
Starbucks has a unique business model compared to most fast-food chains. Rather than franchising out locations, nearly every Starbucks store is owned by corporate.
In addition to the obvious financial benefits, it makes it much easier for Starbucks to manage and unify their customer experience.
Personalization is the focus here. Whether it's the simple things like having your name (or any name you want) written onto your coffee cup, or their addictive rewards program, or their mobile ordering app, Starbucks knows what their customers love.
And with that knowledge, they can ensure every one of their channels provide that same experience.
People love to tout the death of retail. It's attention-grabbing, the equivalent to "sex sells". The thing is, it never rings true.
Let's look to Amazon for our third example of omnichannel done well. Amazon is the pioneer of online shopping. Since it's very beginning they've only sold products online, having zero physical representation to customers. They started with books, but now they sell basically everything.
So, naturally, with all of the pundits and experts talking about how online shopping is killing traditional retail, you'd assume that Amazon would double down on their online efforts and continue to avoid physical retail like the plague.
But they're doing the exact opposite. Amazon is opening their very own chain of bookstores.
Amazon recognizes the value of having a solid omnichannel strategy. For many customers, shopping is still an experience they prefer to have in person. Others, while ultimately making most of their purchases online, still want to touch and feel a product before buying it.
And Amazon continues to create new channels to make it easier to keep buying stuff from them. The Echo lets you buy things with your voice, the Dash Button reorders your favorites at the push of a button, and their Prime Air drone delivery service will ship your orders faster than ever.
Put it into practice
Yes, your business is nowhere near the size of the three examples we used. You're not going to be building your own line of drones any time soon, (or maybe you will, who are we to judge?) but you can still implement the principles of omnichannel in your own strategy.
These days, there are so many different channels for your customers to interact with you, and they need to all be working together to create a seamless customer experience.
- Determine your goals and objectives
- Review your current strategies and procedures
- Plan your new omnichannel strategy from the top down (executives to reps)
- Choose the right tools that will simplify the process
- Push the big red launch button
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