For any brand providing goods instead of services, Omni-channel retailing is a must this year. Sole use of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores will not suffice the 2019 customer who has been conditioned for speed, convenience and accessibility. HubSpot describes the Omni-channel Experience as:
"A multi-channel approach to marketing, selling and serving customers in a way that creates an integrated and cohesive customer experience no matter how or where a customer reaches out."
While many use the terms 'multi-channel' and 'omni-channel' interchangeably, the meaning is not necessarily synonymous. While omni-channel is a type of multi-channel, the reverse is not true. The Latin root for 'omni' means all, while 'multi' only refers to many. Thus, the omni-channel experience means utilizing all relevant touchpoints and making your brand fully accessible to customers.
Plattforms for Omni-Channel Experiences
The channels are essentially divided into online (desktop, tablet, mobile and now, social media) and offline experiences (telephone, mail, brick-and-mortar). While there is a wide of array of channels to choose from, your brand and customer demographic may not require you to use every single channel. For example, if you're serving an elderly demographic, you might use brick-and-mortar for familiarity, telephone for accessibility, and depending on your product, you may open up to desktop and tablet for the handful that are comfortable using this channel. However, you'll probably want to stay away from mail in case mobility is an issue, and from social media as well, as 65+ is not a demographic native to social media.
The main goal of omni-channel retailing is to create a seamless experience of service, communication and purchasing across all appropriate channels. Since providing coherent experiences is an integral part of branding, it's important to consider what is needed for each touch point. How/where can your customers view your products? Are your customers able to make a direct purchase where they view these products? A recent example of this is Instagram's upgrade to include product tags on posts, which links back to the main website where they can check out. Snapchat has released a similar feature as well, which has seen love from both Millennials and Gen Z.
Still unsure of the need for an omni-channel brand?
McKinsey Research and Harvard Business Review conducted a study from summer 2015 to summer 2016 about customer shopping habits. 46,000 participants were interviewed, and the results were as follows:
On top of these findings, the study showed that the more channels a customer used, the more they would spend - customers who used 4+ channels ended up spending 9% more in store on average to the customers using just one channel.
As omni-channel has been around for a substantial time now, brands are increasingly capturing the essence of a strong omni-channel experience. Consumers are increasingly expectant for ease of use and access in their shopping experience, and begin to migrate from brands who still use outdated methods. While just brick-and-mortar used to suffice, brands using traditional operations are frowned upon for seeming neglecting, rigid and inflexible. As expectations change and brands fall short, it will be the companies with an integrated and flexible approach who will capture and retain the hearts of dedicated customers.