Omnichannel and multichannel are common retail buzzword, but what do they really mean? What is the difference between omnichannel and multichannel? And if your sales channels are stuck in a rut, how can you offer the omnichannel experience demanded by consumers?
When it comes to success in the highly competitive retail world, your business needs to be able to deliver the epitome of an amazing customer experience. Consumers, particularly those in the Millennial and Gen-Z generations, are no longer swayed purely by a competitive price tag. In fact, these younger customers are much more interested in choosing brands who can respond quickly to their expectations and deliver a retail experience that makes them feel valued.
While both multichannel and omnichannel involve selling though a range of channels, there are some distinct differences between them. Although most retailers have elements of omnichannel within their business, many are stuck in a very multichannel world.
What is multichannel?
Multichannel is a concept that has been around for some time. The term itself means ͚many channels͛ and refers to the different ways in which you both market and sell to your customers.
The shape of multichannel
Many experts liken multichannel to a model of a wheel. At the centre of the wheel is your product or service. Your customer is on the outside of the wheel, and each of the spokes represent a marketing and/or sales channel that enables your customers to interact directly with what you are offering. Traditionally these would include:
- Your bricks and mortar store
- Your online store
- A catalogue or brochure
Obviously, the more channels that you can provide your customers with, the greater the likelihood that they will buy with your brand. In fact, statistics provided by Salesforce show that 73% of consumers will switch brands if they don͛t receive a consistent experience across the channels which they buy through. Even more interesting, a study by the Harvard Business review found that consumers who shop through multiple channels also spend more – an average of 4% more each time they shop in store, and a whopping 10% more online than single channel customers**.
Recently, developments in technology including social media, mobile apps and Marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon Market Place have given retailers even greater opportunities to capture the attention of their consumers and provided even more avenues through which to market and buy.
The speed of life is increasing, and customers today want to be able to interact with their favourite retailers when and where it is most convenient for them. By optimising your website for mobile use, you can enable your customers to browse and buy with your brand whether they are commuting to work, watching television or even taking a bath.
While providing plenty of channels to choose from is indeed useful, in purely multichannel strategies, each ‘spoke’ of the wheel is very siloed. This means that channels have little interaction with each other and the company often treat them like separate businesses, with their own procedures for marketing, inventory, sales etc. The trouble with silos is that they don͛t reflect how a consumer expects to engage with a brand. Your customers don͛t see your different channels as separate entities. With so many touchpoints now available, they demand a seamless journey between whichever and however many touchpoints they choose to use. By forcing a customer to stick to a single channel or making them start their relationship with you from scratch (such as by needing to register a new account, or not being able to transfer loyalty points), you negatively impact on their experience and could damage your relationship with them.
What is omnichannel?
While multichannel strategies look at the different ways in which consumers can interact and ultimately purchase with your brand, omnichannel strategies pull these channels out of their siloes and focus on the best way to deliver consistently seamless and effortless, high-quality customer experiences that are in line with the brand identity and mission across the board.
Omnichannel and the consumer experience of the pathway to purchase
Unlike multichannel, which is concerned about the practicalities of the pathway to purchase, omnichannel strategies are focused on inserting your brand into the peripheral vision of potential customers and appearing omnipresent.
Studies show that the vast majority of consumers use multiple channels to make the decision to purchase, even if they tend to revert to the same channel to make the final transaction.
However, before many people are prepared to purchase, they tend to go through many stages, such as researching their product and comparing prices. This is especially true if they have not connected with your brand before. In fact, some studies show that as many as 75% of shopping carts are abandoned when a customer visits an unfamiliar brand for the first time. Unless you are offering the deal of a century, it takes time to gain consumer͛s trust.
Using omnichannel to build trust
One of the best ways to build trust with a new customer is by allowing them to get familiar with your brand without coming across as pushy. The best way to do this is to engage with them. However, today this is about much more than just replying to messages they have sent you or dropping generalised marketing into their field of vision. Instead, your business should be using interesting and relatable content and powerful personalisation to appeal to visitors and show them what your brand is all about without the pressure of trying to secure a sale.
In an omnichannel approach, your brand delivers high-value customer experiences across all of the spokes of the multichannel wheel – in store, online, on your market places and social media platforms. By keeping these consistent and customer-driven, your company can deliver one unified and completely seamless customer experience across every touch point.
Consumers today want brands to show that they know and value them as individuals. To do this, retailers need to show deep personalisation in both the targeted promotions offered to them, and in the way that they interact with them.
Today, customers move seamlessly from desktop to smartphone to store when they engage with your brand. A strong omnichannel strategy needs to take into account why a customer is using a given channel and communicate with them in a way that is in tune with this choice. For example, if a customer accesses your web page through social media, you should then primarily use social media to follow up on any abandoned carts, or in the case of a successful purchase, to offer the chance to review or provide discounts for subsequent orders.
Consistency is key
In a multichannel strategy, each channel is an independent purchase opportunity. However, omnichannel aims to bring each of these channels together in terms of offering one consistent brand image. This will ensure that your customer knows what to expect when making a purchase from you. Consistency is particularly important in several key areas including
- Visual image (the colours and graphics you use – you want your brand to be easily identifiable).
- Usability of your channels. The pathway to purchase should be defined and free from glitches.
- The price of your product, which should be consistent across all channels.
- Any discounts or other offers that may be applicable.
- Reward schemes. If they can collect reward points through one channel, ensure that can collect them through all channels.
- The data that you collect. It is no secret that big data is the key to personalization for retailers, so ensure that you get the customer information that you need to market effectively and make a positive difference to their purchasing experience.
Managing omnichannel – why you need a great POS solution
The prospect of managing so many channels can be daunting, but there are tools that can give your business the support that it needs. A high-quality POS system should be one of your first investments. Contrary to popular belief, a POS system can do way more than just enable you to process payments. It can streamline your operations, provide consistency across all of your consumer touchpoints and offer the personalisation needed to meet and exceed the ever-evolving expectations of your demanding clientele.
Hike is a leading retail POS solution. Our software has everything your retail business needs to fully integrate all of your sales and marketing channels, enabling you to create an omnichannel strategy that delivers your customers a truly omnichannel experience.