Omnichannel strategy: everything you need to know

Omnichannel strategy: everything you need to know

Nowadays, a buyer no longer experiences shopping as the simple satisfaction of a need. We are talking about a real shopping experience, which begins when a user approaches your product or your ecommerce for the first time and buying is just a distant idea. The need to have that product must be awakened and the experience has not to end with the completion of an order, indeed, it is from that moment that it starts again and has to be continually improved.

If until a few years ago we couldn’t even think of buying a product online, today we expect the network to recommend the most suitable one for us.

This is why we started talking about omnichannel strategies that can involve one or more company functions, including those of marketing and technology.

It is important to know what it is, in order to understand if it is appropriate to adopt a similar approach for your business model. In this article we will see what an omnichannel strategy is, how it differs from a multichannel strategy, what advantages it can offer and its practical applications.

Omnichannel strategy: what is it?

Through an omnichannel marketing strategy integrated communications are offered to the consumer in order to eliminate the stops between the departure and arrival of his customer journey, transforming it into a seamless journey.

  • Uniformed communication between channels: We are talking about coordinated management of activities relating to the different touchpoints between the company and the customer. One of the objectives of an omnichannel approach is to standardize the information that a user is able to receive offline (physical store) and online (ecommerce, mobile app, social, ads and so on). For example, if he reads on the Internet about an offer that is valid in all your physical stores, he would expect to go into any point of sale and find this promotion immediately available. If this were not so, his credibility towards your brand would decrease, until he was convinced that it would be better to buy from one of your competitors. According to “How Brand Experiences Inspire Consumer Action”, a Google survey, 62% of users who have a bad mobile experience with a seller prefer to turn to a competitor for their next purchases. If the negative experience happens in-store, adding the physical movement the customer had to make, they are even less likely to come back to you in the future.
  • Data-driven communication: How to optimize the management of all the touchpoints with the customer and the interaction in all phases of his customer journey? Through the data. One of the key points of an omnichannel strategy is to collect, aggregate and analyze data, in order to outline¬†personas, similar consumer groups, for which to design targeted campaigns. Adopting an omnichannel marketing approach is not possible except through a¬†data-driven¬†marketing strategy. Among these, the most collected are those concerning customer data, contact data, offline purchase history, online behavior on websites, apps and other digital assets. This is not an easy-to-manage approach, as demonstrated by the data collected by the¬†Osservatori del Politecnico di Milano, according to which, in 2020, companies with a data-driven approach to omnichannel are around 40%. Of this 40%, only 14% are able to valorise and integrate the data collected in their activities.
  • Tailored communication between company and people: You can offer contents that are not only interrelated, but also highly personalized, and this is one of the strengths of an omnichannel strategy, as well as one of the most critical to be implemented. By exploiting the data, you can create a strategy that focuses on the customer with his preferences and habits. By unifying the different channels, it is possible to use the information recorded, for example online research activity, and to base the communication via email, sms or through the app on these.
  • Automated communication: For the right information to reach the right user through the right channel, it is necessary to adopt an approach that, in addition to relying on data, is able to exploit them to the maximum. Therefore, an¬†automation marketing¬†strategy¬†cannot be missing; the use of the collected data is automated and it is based on the behavior, actions and needs of the customer. Data processing, in order to return the desired information to the user, can now be improved also thanks to¬†machine learning¬†and artificial intelligence, which are able to optimize its performance.

Omnichannel VS Multichannel

If you have heard about an omnichannel strategy at least once in your life, you will inevitably come across the so-called multichannel strategy as well. It is characterized as a marketing approach that moves on two or more channels independently. So, unlike omnichannel, these channels are not connected to each other.

Basically, if a company adopts a multi-channel marketing strategy, it uses different channels to better interact with each of its customer segments, with a view to maximizing communication at a bidirectional level. On the contrary, by adopting an omnichannel approach the communcation is built ad hoc for the customer on all channels, exploiting his activities and preferences.

They are two quite similar strategies, but they have a substantial difference in the way they are conceived. The omnichannel strategy, in fact, focuses on maximizing the customer experience in qualitative terms, putting the customer at the center. On the other hand, the multi-channel approach favors the optimization of each channel of interaction, often running the risk that they follow completely different routes.

It should be emphasized that if the management fails to involve all the channels at the same time and the integration between them is zero or inconsistent, an omnichannel strategy turns out to be inefficient. In such cases, in order to avoid confusion in the consumer’s mind, a multichannel strategy may be chosen, which requires less effort and a lower degree of involvement, and the level of integration may be increased progressively. Less is more, if done right.

Omnichannel VS Proximity Commerce

When we talk about an effective omnichannel strategy we immediately think about the most important players in the ecommerce world, who have knowledge, resources, financial and managerial availability of a high level. In fact, integrating and coordinating communication everywhere and with anyone is not everyone’s business. Does this mean that the small digital shops are doomed to fail and be swallowed by bigger sharks? Absolutely not. Very similar to the concept of omnichannel, in fact, is the¬†proximity commerce. Not always a customer is willing to buy from a large international distributor that, because of its structural complexity, most of the time can not guarantee immediate shipping or impeccable service. Taking advantage of these needs, small retailers can open up to digital commerce, exploiting a potential that, although less, still manages to satisfy those who want to buy from the shop around the corner but not physically.

The 4 main advantages of an Omnichannel strategy

In addition to those derived from personalized and effective customer-oriented communication, we can recognize other tangible and non-tangible benefits to the application of an omnichannel strategy. 

1. Consistency/coherence of communication messages

Consumers adopt different survey techniques when they need to understand where and how to buy. There are those who need inspiration and those who already know what they want, those who prefer surfing the net and those who cannot give up the experience of physical shopping. To avoid hindering the process of acquiring information about the products or services that the customer is looking for, it is important that communication messages are coherent with each other.

Through an¬†omnichannel strategy, in fact, information is shared by all touchpoints, ensuring the same quality of the message on all channels. So, if a user has read on social media a discount code for his favorite product, he already knows that through online purchase he will enjoy that discount and, he won’t need to search for confirmations on the site or contact the customer service.¬†

This strategy makes more efficient both the process of acquisition of information by the customer, and that of implementation of marketing communications by the seller.

2. Personalized communication

By studying the activity of customers, you can create a¬†personalized communication¬†that considers their recent research, their most frequent purchases, or their preferences expressed anywhere on the net. When browsing your ecommerce, do they focus on a specific collection? Or do they frequently search for a specific product? Or maybe one of them searched your social media store and went to look the same post over and over again… Conveying promotional messages, push notifications, emails, ads on that product or collection is the perfect solution to make customers feel “heard”. The idea that the trader can read the mind of every consumer emphasizing exactly what the user wants, is slowly beginning to develop. It is not a tailor-made communication, you would never be able to communicate with each of your consumers. But for each one of them, it is as if it were. And nothing could make them feel more important.

3. Increase in conversions

The conversion rate measures the effectiveness of any strategy adopted to guide users towards a certain action (purchase, subscription to a newsletter…). It can be measured in this way:

An integrated communication, such as the one that can be achieved by adopting an omnichannel approach, allows you to better follow customers and encourage them to carry out the action that you suggest to them. For example, you can send a notification when their in-app cart is full, prompting at least a portion of all those undecided users to complete their purchase. Or, if you need to give more visibility to your physical shop, which after the pandemic or for other reasons is poorly valued, you can send customers a discount code spendable in-store that can be used just for that specific product present in their virtual cart.

4. Customer satisfaction/loyalty

Conveying to your customers the idea that you know how they feel and what they want is a winning asset. It’s just what makes the difference when you choose to take an approach to omnichannel marketing. And how does it translate into benefits for your company? In a greater appreciation of your brand by customers, they will not hesitate to buy back from you if their first experience was satisfactory. This means a progressive increase in the loyalty rate of your brand, which is made possible by a high level of brand coherence and readiness to respond to the diversified needs of customers.

The advantages of an omnichannel strategy are many if compared to the resources invested to implement it.

The practical applications of an Omnichannel Strategy

One of the most important considerations remains to choose what to aim for, do it to the maximum of your abilities and satisfy the needs of the customer without him asking. Here’s everything you need to know to decide whether to implement a Ominichannel strategy and how. The options are really endless, but let’s see some:
  • In-app messages + push notifications + email + sms: The combination of in-app messages, push notifications and email (and possibly even sms) is a classic example of an integrated communication strategy application. What distinguishes it from a multichannel approach? The level of customization and consistency between the content that a user receives.
  • Click & Collect: The Click & Collect service (also known as Pick-Up) is one of the most common omnichannel applications that, by synchronising in-app purchasing and in-store pick-up activities, facilitates the most “busy” customers, who often don‚Äôt shop online for fear of not being home when the courier arrives. How does it work? You place an order, look for the nearest pick-up point and it‚Äôs done. The item should not be lost, because another dealer picks it up in place of the customer and keeps it in stock for a period in his shop. The fact that the pick-up point is usually a commercial activity located close to the place where the customer lives or who usually attends and with whom he is familiar, contributes to create trust and credibility around the brand. The pick-up point becomes the final distributor for the customer, who feels even more confident in his purchase.
  • Selling through app: Selling via app may again seem like a multi-channel marketing strategy. It emerges how thin the line separating the different approaches is. Mobile commerce can be exploited as a tool that opens and closes the circle along which the customer moves in his life cycle. Here are the three basic stages:
    1. Acquisition: an advertising banner sponsors your app and invites a user to download it; or, a dedicated section on your ecommerce site announces the imminent launch of your app with an invitation for users to download it as soon as it is available;
    2. Conversion: once the app has been installed, taking advantage of the customer preferences inside (recent searches, wishlist) and outside the app (products saved on social media, response mode and interaction with the different ads proposed), push notifications may remind the user to complete a pending order in the shopping cart or to purchase a specific product, after having searched and observed it again and again;
    3. Retention: a purchase is not enough, you have to push the customer to make more. You can take advantage of the possibility to publish news and blog posts from the web or from your ecommerce site to increase the involvement of a user within the app. Futhermore, make its use a habitual and pleasant operation, up to make him loyal through points collections, offers, exclusive discounts that can be advertised via email, push notifications and in-app messages. 

Omnichannel strategy: an example

Speedd, an Italian seller of shoes and clothing, uses the combination of instant messaging (sms), email, push notifications and in-app messages to engage its users and customers with personalized messages based on their behaviors and preferences.

How to capture the attention of their users? Suppose one of these adds a product to the cart without completing the purchase. It doesn’t matter from which platform this action is performed, whether from website or via app: Shopify records this information that can be used later to segment its users.

Subsequently, thanks to app integrations such as Klaviyo for email services, Smsbump for instant messaging and Shoppy for sending push notifications, Speedd is able to use the audience provided by Shopify and send an exclusive communication, personal and coherent to users who have abandoned a full cart.

Thanks to this retargeting action, Speedd can customize its communication in a fully automated way, integrating its own channels with each other. It doesn’t matter from which platform the user connects: it can always be reached.