The way consumers interact with our online stores is changing. Increasingly, customers are asking for eCommerce experiences that bridge the gap between the online and offline world. That’s why the commerce industry is turning to omnichannel customer experience to create a cohesive brand experience for their customers. To enable this omnichannel transition, businesses must implement modern, and flexible commerce technology into their IT infrastructure. They require, for example, a headless infrastructure and APIs to also benefit from a modular approach to software development. Want to find out more? In this article, we’ll introduce you to the exciting world of omnichannel technologies and what it means for your modern commerce business.
What Is Omnichannel and Why Does It Matter?
Omnichannel requires the seamless integration of both offline and online channels to create a cohesive, unified customer experience. This means ensuring that products are accurately displayed and available for purchase across all channels and that recommendations for similar or complementary products are consistent across all platforms. It also means being able to synchronize transactions and have an optimized checkout experience that seamlessly transfers items in your cart from a mobile device to your desktop, or even to pick up and complete the purchase in-store.
Omnichannel aims to unify:
- Brick-and-mortar stores
- Online eCommerce sites
- Mobile apps
- Telephone orders
- Social media
- Any other channel you might use
Why is the omnichannel approach so important? Customers are demanding diverse and accessible touchpoints. To foster brand loyalty and increase your revenue, your organization needs to become channel agnostic and facilitate integration across all sectors of your business.
Omnichannel vs Multichannel – What Is the Difference?
While an omnichannel approach assumes customers will want to move back and forward between channels and access the same product information, a standard multichannel approach would instead assume that customers stick to their chosen channels. Is this the case? A study from the Harvard Business Review found that with a large number of channels available to customers, customers are increasingly mixing their shopping habits and looking for an omnichannel approach. According to this study, only 7% of consumers shop exclusively online, whereas 20% only shop in physical stores. The remaining majority of 73% are called omnichannel customers since they usually use multiple sales channels when shopping.
As you can see, very few customers use a monochannel approach – and without omnichannel technology, your customer journey wouldn’t suit those who want to actively switch between channels. Adopting a multichannel approach would lead to:
- Frustration for customers as they wouldn’t be able to move fluidly between channels at their own convenience.
- Risk of abandoned purchases (and cart bounce) due to the lack of connected cart management across devices and channels.
- A disjointed brand experience where offline and online stores feel disconnected.
Omnichannel Technologies Your Business Can Benefit From
For retailers, omnichannel approaches require various technologies to help make daily business processes more efficient. Omnichannel technologies can impact several different business areas, but they’re primarily focused on customer experience, customer service, and marketing. Let’s take a closer look at each in the next sections.
Customer Experience and Fulfillment
In the realm of customer experience, retailers have a handful of options to choose from to modernize their businesses by upgrading their technology:
- Click and Collect/Reserve. This technology allows customers to order and reserve products online and pick them up in-store. To facilitate this, your commerce platform will need to have real-time data on the store stock and available times.
- Returns in store. Omnichannel networks allow customers to request and fulfill product returns easily – regardless of where the product was purchased. It allows products that have been shipped directly to a customer to be taken to a store for a refund. With a connected return management system for both online and offline stores, it’s easier than ever for employees to accept returns – cutting the limitations of the current eCommerce experience.
The adoption of omnichannel processes can therefore improve the fulfillment and allow for rises in the efficiency of warehouse management. This is mainly geared to optimizing the so-called “last-mile delivery”, which allows you to make your stores into fulfillment centers of sorts. Your customers are able to order and collect (or for stores to deliver) products directly from online stores. Extra bonus point: The optimized sync of the warehouses and in-store stock can actually reduce costs on your end and improve the sustainability of your business.
From a customer service perspective, retailers can benefit from using technologies like POS applications, customer live chat systems, and automated social media response tools to make their business more accessible and meet their customers’ expectations.
- Customer live chat systems allow customers to communicate with customer service representatives in real-time.
- Social media automated response tools enable businesses to automate responding to customer complaints, concerns, or questions through Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms.
- Giving the ability for customers to get in touch with stores directly through a website or mobile app helps get users’ issues resolved faster.
With these personalized touchpoints, omnichannel technologies boost customer loyalty and keep your customers coming back time and time again!
Businesses need to automate their data synchronization across channels to develop and execute an effective omnichannel approach and upgrade their marketing. By synchronizing data across channels, you can get to know your customer’s habits and preferences and thus target them with relevant content. Technologies that can help with this include customer data platforms, marketing automation platforms, and omnichannel marketing solutions.
Requirements for Best-Practice Integration of Omnichannel Technology
To implement an effective omnichannel strategy, your business must first invest in modern and flexible commerce technology. Businesses need a future-ready commerce architecture that empowers their omnichannel strategy and unifies all the applications and systems handling each customer touchpoint.
However, many businesses are still stuck in old, inflexible structures that create inefficiency and frustration for employees and customers. The standard “project-based omnichannel approach” uses point-to-point (P2P) integration – writing code to connect each database manually.
But this leads to difficult-to-govern networks that are near impossible to scale effectively and translate to different channels.
That’s why omnichannel projects require API-led development:
- The use of APIs leads to a headless infrastructure where each integration is decoupled resulting in a more seamless data integration process.
- This allows both new and old experiences and integrations to co-exist, and the reuse of APIs helps create a more consistent user experience.
- API-led development, particularly using the modular approach, helps create a tailored customer journey. It’s easy to add new experiences within API layers to quickly adapt to new requirements and market changes if needed.
Omnichannel Technologies: The Key to Your Success
Customers nowadays are demanding flexibility and personalization foremost in their retail experience. By cleverly using and interconnecting channels, you are leveling up your customer experience and encouraging stalwart brand loyalty.
Getting left behind in the digital transformation of retail isn’t an option. As aforementioned, 73% of consumers would switch brands to seek a connected experience. Don’t miss the huge profitability and efficiency gains of the omnichannel approach to commerce.