What is ‘Omni-channel retail’ and what does it mean for E-Commerce?

Let’s break this down. By definition, omnichannel commerce is a multichannel approach to sales that focuses on providing a seamless customer experience whether the customer is shopping on a device or in-store. 

Many might be confused as to what the difference is between omnichannel and multichannel retail. Even though both terms signify connecting and engaging with customers via multiple channels, the main difference is that omnichannel aims to connect all those channels. Omnichannel retail is based on the foundation that one should integrate multiple channels and touchpoints that add value to the brand – from branding, to ordering, to purchase fulfillment, whether that includes a marketplace, social channels, in-store experiences and more. The goal of this is to provide a unified experience, where shoppers can transition smoothly from one channel to the other, while maintaining brand coherency. Therefore, without multichannel, there cannot be omnichannel retail.

For retailers, the rise of e-commerce and the sudden shift in consumer behaviour after the COVID-19 pandemic have consequently given rise to omnichannel retail.

According to Harvard Business Review, 73% of shoppers use multiple channels during their purchase journey – a significant amount that must be taken into consideration. This proves that 73% of shoppers examine their sources and gather as much information as possible around their purchase decision either to search for discounts, compare prices or to browse for alternative products before making a purchase. So, why is omnichannel so valuable for the retail industry?

  • It allows your brand to meet customers anywhere they are. Shoppers today can encounter your brand anywhere, either on television, online, on social media, on a shopping platform, and so on. Showing up where your customers are makes shopping much more convenient for them and leads to a fast buy.
  • It helps you stand out. Failure to engage in omnichannel ordering can result in retailers falling behind competitors who do. Having customers who resonate with your brand on all channels gives you a better chance of tackling any market changes and track competitors.
  • It allows you to optimise data. A solid omnichannel strategy empowers you to centralise data from all sources and channels, adjust any marketing strategies, balance inventory and provide a better shopping service.

Should a retailer embrace omnichannel ordering? According to CB insights, only one in ten consumers thinks that companies deliver a seamless omnichannel experience. Retailers using omnichannel strategies started reporting higher annual revenues in 2021, highlighting how this is a way of attracting peak consumers and gaining advantage within the industry. BigCommerce researchers also show that in 2020, 46% of retail executives said they are planned to increase their investment in omnichannel retailing within the next year.

Price and convenience have become paramount to the modern-day shopper. Retailers who make it easier for shoppers to browse all product options available are embracing the future and adapting to the modern shopper’s behavioural patterns, making themselves available on multiple channels. When it all comes down to sales, providing a unified shopping experience is the foundation of a good relationship that results in repetitive buys for shoppers, retailers and wholesalers alike.