What Is Omnichannel Commerce? Benefits and Trends

Posted by CLSon Dec 19, 2023

Woman shopping from phone

Welcome to the future of shopping: omnichannel commerce. Customers appreciate this convenient way of buying products, and businesses benefit from increased sales and stronger customer loyalty. Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in. 

What is omnichannel commerce?

Omnichannel commerce integrates multiple sales channels to provide a consistent, unified online shopping experience. With flexible order fulfillment options and personalized marketing messages, omnichannel commerce makes shopping easier (and more enjoyable) for consumers. If you go about it the right way, an omnichannel strategy will help increase sales, attract new customers, and keep current customers loyal. 

An omnichannel approach uses sales channels such as the following:

  • Brick-and-mortar store
  • Ecommerce site
  • Mobile app
  • Social media
  • Online marketplaces
  • Voice-controlled devices
  • Smart appliances
  • Augmented reality (AR)
  • Virtual reality (VR)

Single vs. multi vs. omnichannel commerce

With single channel commerce, merchants reach customers through one touchpoint. For example, a business that only operates out of a physical store is using a single channel strategy.

Multichannel commerce makes use of multiple sales channels. For example, a business might use an online site, brick-and-mortar store, and social media to sell to customers. In a multichannel strategy, these channels aren’t integrated—data doesn’t move between them, and inventory information isn’t shared. 

Omnichannel commerce connects all sales channels, allowing customer data to flow seamlessly from one to another. It’s more flexible and scalable than single channel or multichannel commerce.

Key components of omnichannel commerce

Does your business currently use a single channel, multichannel, or omnichannel approach? To truly be omnichannel, your strategy needs to meet these four criteria. 

  • Synchronized inventory. Omnichannel commerce synchronizes inventory across channels. If someone buys something in-store, your online inventory is updated (and vice versa). Synchronized inventory makes it possible for customers to order online and pick up their products in the store or have products shipped from the store.
  • Integrated customer data. Omnichannel merchants collect customer data from various channels, then use it to send personalized messages, promotions, and product recommendations. In addition to supporting personalization, integrating data allows people to switch between channels with no change in the shopping experience.
  • Seamless communication. A major goal of omnichannel commerce is to provide a cohesive customer experience across channels. When you communicate with customers, whether it’s through a direct message or a site-wide product update, keep things consistent.
  • Consistent branding. In addition to having consistent communication across channels, businesses need to keep branding uniform. Customers should have a similar experience on every channel they purchase from.

Why use omnichannel commerce?

Why use omnichannel commerce? The short answer is that customers prefer an omnichannel shopping experience, and they become more loyal to brands with omnichannel capabilities. Research shows that industry leaders, or organizations leading the way in omnichannel commerce, have an 83% customer retention rate, as opposed to 53% for all other companies. 

The caveat: to have the greatest effect on customer engagement and loyalty, your channels need to be seamlessly integrated—there’s no “fake it till you make it” in omnichannel. 

In the next section, we’ll explore some additional benefits of omnichannel commerce.

Benefits of omnichannel commerce

In addition to boosting customer loyalty, omnichannel commerce creates a better shopping experience, increases your revenue, and helps you better understand the customer journey.

Better customer experience

Omnichannel commerce creates a better customer experience, making both online and in-person shopping more convenient than they’ve ever been.

One key to this convenience is flexible fulfillment options. Buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), curbside pickup, and same-day delivery are examples of fulfillment methods that cater to diverse customer preferences. When customers can choose the method that best meets their needs, they’re more likely to be satisfied with the buying experience. BOPIS is a particularly convenient option that has risen in popularity recently, growing 35% year over year. And of course, at-home package delivery is still going strong—in 2022, over 21 billion parcels were shipped in the U.S.

Learn more about all six flexible fulfillment options in this article

Personalized communication and marketing messages also help create a great experience. When their experience with your website, marketing emails, and social media is customized to them, consumers engage more readily with your brand. 

Increased sales 

Omnichannel commerce boosts sales by allowing customers to shop in their preferred way.

In simplest terms, offering more sales channels gives you more opportunities to make sales. For example, a consumer who never ventures into your physical store might love ordering from your website (or vice versa). 

Of course, it’s not just a matter of customers choosing their single favorite channel and sticking to it. These days, it’s common to switch between channels. One study found that 67% of consumers use multiple channels to complete a single transaction and 40% won’t buy from a company if they can’t use their favorite channels.

Online shopping is increasingly popular, but it hasn’t replaced the in-person experience. It may come as a surprise to learn that omnichannel strategies help boost sales in physical stores, leading to an 80% higher rate of store visits. Additionally, 82% of people who buy online and pick up their products at the store are likely to shop for additional items while they’re there. 

Better data collection

Omnichannel commerce makes it easier to collect, store, and—most importantly—analyze customer data. This allows you to better understand the customer journey, using the trends you see to make data-driven decisions. By tracking customer behavior and preferences, you can develop marketing and sales strategies that resonate more with your target audience. 

Tips for creating and implementing a successful omnichannel strategy

Creating a successful omnichannel strategy is no walk in the park. But as long as you use the right technology, manage your inventory well, and focus on personalization, things should go smoothly.

Leverage technology

For your omnichannel commerce system to work, you need to create a cohesive technological ecosystem. Every software platform your business uses should be integrated, allowing for real-time data sharing. Consider investing in the following systems if they make sense for your business:

  • POS (point of sale) system for physical stores
  • Order management system (OMS)
  • Warehouse management system (WMS)
  • Inventory management system
  • Customer relationship management system (CRM) 
  • Enterprise resource planning system (ERP)
  • Shipping software that can handle high order volumes

Integrating your platforms streamlines operations and offers a consistent experience for customers across all touchpoints.

Optimize inventory management

Without good inventory management, your omnichannel commerce strategy will crash and burn. Follow these best practices to ensure you can fulfill customer orders no matter what channel they come from. 

  • Focus on visibility. Implement a centralized inventory system that offers real-time visibility across all channels.
  • Update stock levels in real time. Regularly update product information, availability, and pricing to prevent discrepancies.
  • Automate inventory management. Use automation tools to streamline order processing, reduce the risk of stockouts, and optimize fulfillment. 
  • Forecast demand. Use data analytics to forecast demand and make sure inventory levels align with customer expectations. 

Personalize, personalize, personalize

A personalized approach is the key to winning customer loyalty in a competitive ecommerce landscape. In fact, 80% of consumers say they’re more likely to buy from a company if it offers personalized experiences. From personalized recommendations to targeted marketing messages, tailoring interactions to individual preferences fosters a deeper sense of connection to your brand. 

The ideas below will help you get started:

  • Product recommendations. Suggest products based on a customer’s preferences and purchase history.
  • Marketing messages. Craft targeted marketing campaigns that resonate with individual customer preferences and behaviors.
  • Email campaigns. Send personalized emails with relevant content, offers, and product recommendations.
  • Loyalty programs. Create loyalty programs that offer rewards based on each customer’s unique buying patterns.
  • Web and mobile app experiences. Tailor website content and promotions based on a customer’s behavior and preferences, and customize the in-app experience by showcasing products that align with their interests.
  • Support. Offer personalized assistance and recommendations through live chat, virtual assistants, or dedicated personal shopper services.

What’s next in omnichannel commerce? 5 trends to be aware of

Omnichannel commerce has already revolutionized how merchants attract, convert, and retain customers. But we’re still progressing, and every day brings new innovations. Keep an eye out for these five trends, and consider implementing them in your own business. 

Mobile integration

As smartphones become increasingly integral to our lives, optimizing the mobile experience is essential for an effective omnichannel approach. You can provide a smooth omnichannel experience for users on the go with responsive site design, mobile apps, and mobile-friendly payment options.

Voice commerce

“Alexa, what time is it?”

“Hey Google, what’s the capital of Peru?”

Over the past few years, people have gotten used to using their voices to interact with the internet. But now, smart home devices are going a step further by letting people make purchases using their voice. Forty-four percent of people who use a voice-activated speaker at least once a week say they use it to order products they need, like groceries and household items. 

AI and chatbots

Artificial intelligence and chatbots provide instant, personalized customer service across channels. These technologies can handle routine questions, recommend products, and even resolve issues, freeing up human agents to focus on more complex tasks. 

In-store technology

Many businesses are enhancing the in-store experience using augmented reality (AR) and interactive displays. Others encourage customers to use their mobile app while shopping in person, with some stores even loaning out tablets. These technologies help bridge the gap between digital and physical experiences, creating the consistency that defines omnichannel commerce.

  • Nike has filled its SoHo, NYC store with touchscreens, treadmills, motion-sensing basketball hoops, and more.
  • The Home Depot allows customers to locate specific products using a map of their local store found in the mobile app.
  • Sephora’s app lets customers scan physical products with their smartphones to see online reviews and ratings.

Social commerce

Social media platforms are quickly becoming a major sales channel for many merchants. These businesses leverage features like shoppable posts, live shopping events, and social advertising to reach and convert customers on popular social media apps. Global sales through social media were estimated at $992 billion in 2022 and are expected to reach $2.9 trillion by 2026.

Don’t forget about shipping

While omnichannel commerce helps bring new energy to physical stores, online shopping isn’t going away anytime soon. And if a customer doesn’t decide to pick up their online order from the store, you’ll need to ship it to them. 

At EasyPost Enterprise, we help our clients (including brands like CVS Pharmacy, Dollar Shave Club, and Office Depot) handle high shipping volumes without delays or downtime. The EasyPost Enterprise platform processes shipments at sub-second speeds, selects the best carriers and service levels, automatically creates shipping labels, and integrates with your systems. With nearly unlimited customization options, our team can tailor the solution to your unique omnichannel needs. 

Get in touch with one of our shipping experts to learn how we can help.

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