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The Omnichannel Strategy: Marrying Online and Offline Processes to Leverage Growth

An omnichannel strategy is a sales and marketing approach that offers customers a seamless shopping experience. Omni-channel strategies integrate user experiences across multiple touchpoints, such as physical stores, websites, and mobile apps. Within this article, Digital Dom will take a deep dive into the omnichannel strategy approach with real life business examples.

We all remember when the first iPhone came out; it was revolutionary.

Before smartphones if you wanted to plan a route, take a photo, or even make a call, these all had to be done on separate mediums.

But then all of these processes became integrated into one seamless, online gadget, and no-one’s looked back since.

Think about how each element of interactivity with the iPhone has developed since then, with the camera gaining massive pixel quality, the maps app listing local restaurants, and the more advanced weather app that can tell you granular details about the current weather.

The iPhone and all other smartphones wouldn’t be so loved and advanced if care hadn’t been given to each individual channel.

This is much like the customer experience with an omnichannel approach; if you give equal weighting to different methods of interactivity, you can create a complete, cohesive experience that breaks down communication barriers and enhances both brand trust and revenue.

Processes within businesses also need to take this natural evolution if they are to keep up in our modern world. But if this transition isn’t properly managed, with a clear plan of execution, businesses can end up in positions much worse than before.When you’re trying to keep up with everyone else and your changes are not coming as a result of learning about what your customers want and need, the result is often disjointed online and offline journeys.

Primark is a harrowing example of failing to bring together offline and online channels: failing to develop an omnichannel presence led to the closure their 189 UK stores, and a loss of £430 million during the 2020 lockdown.

Since then, Primark have reopened their stores and have adopted the omni-channel approach, creating a website where customers can check stock availability and reserve items for collection.

What is omnichannel?

Omnichannel, also spelled omni-channel – seeks to provide customers with an easy and fuss free shopping experience by using multiple channels no matter how they’re shopping. Basically, the process should be easy for shoppers whether they’re using a desktop or mobile device, or shopping over the telephone or in a store.

Adopting an omnichannel approach has benefits for your company, including greater reach, increased profits, and better customer satisfaction.

In this fast paced world, customers want to be able to contact you in a way that suits them, whether it’s Facebook messenger, on a desktop, or by calling, and many customers are frustrated when omnichannel technology is not available, because we’re so used to it now.

What is the Difference Between an Omnichannel Strategy and Multichannel Strategy?

The omni-channel approach aims for a consistent consumer experience regardless of which platform they use to interact with a business, whereas with multi-channel approaches, online services may be given a much lighter degree of consideration, which can lead to an unsatisfying, inconsistent experience for consumers.

How Businesses Have Developed an Omnichannel Strategy

For years, speculations have circulated that brick-and-mortar stores are dying while e-commerce is flourishing. However, retail fails when online and offline retail do not collaborate. A physical store provides credibility to the brand by allowing customers to touch and try on the items before purchasing. E-commerce is the tool required to attract customers who may live far away or prefer to shop late at night. It all comes down to being available to your customers wherever and whenever they need you.

Often, omnichannel retailers generate the majority of their revenue online but rely on a small number of brick-and-mortar stores to view and test their products, which is often aligned with the branding and marketing strategy.

The standard journey for businesses over the past 20 years was:

  1. Technology started to play an important role – offline processes began to be automated.
  2. Custom-facing interfaces helped allow for scaling within an organisation.
  3. eCommerce took off, and technology became one of the biggest factors in business.

Because of these steps, offline and online channels became increasingly disconnected, almost competing with each other.

Then, the omni-channel approach was born, marrying online and offline processes for a cohesive experience for both consumers and businesses.

But reworking software code that had been developed and used for a number of years proved to be a very difficult task.

This is where we come in.

The omni-channel process needs to be adopted, and we’re here to help develop a strategy for your company that identifies potential challenges and creates solutions in order to efficiently marry both offline and online channels.

Creating synergy between your online and offline channels is the next step forward, a step towards a unified customer experience that solidifies your brand identity and merges each channel together to create one complete experience.

Doing this wrong can have disastrous effects for both brand reputation and revenue, as we will explore with the example of Target.

Failing To Integrate an Omnichannel Approach | Brand Reputation Consequences

A perfect example of a failed integration is of Greg Sterling, from MarTech. Greg purchased a treadmill off Target’s Ebay store as this seemed to have the best deal: $999 cheaper than their brand site. This lack of consistency raises questions about the authenticity of the Ebay treadmill, an issue which would have been avoided with an omnichannel approach.

The treadmill didn’t arrive, and Greg had many issues with the delivery company. Due to a lack of customer support from different channels that could have reacted faster, such as social media, Greg was left dissatisfied with his experience.

This could all have been better dealt with if equal attention had been given to all channels.

A Better Approach: marrying online and offline processes

Virgin Media had a similar problem, but thanks to their proper implementation of an omnichannel approach, customer service was given equal attention on both official lines such as the customer service phone number and email, and social media. As a result, the customer, Robert Fransgaard, was left feeling positive about their brand experience, reinforcing Virgin’s brand image.

Common Challenges Faced When Introducing an Omnichannel Approach

When branching out into online sales, it can be difficult to manage inventory and ensure that a brand’s image isn’t damaged by poor delivery or online support.

During COVID-19, many UK retailers started to struggle with online food delivery orders, and a solution had to be developed. ‘Click & Collect’ soon took off as a safe way to reserve and pay for groceries without having to step in the store, allowing customers to park in a bay outside the supermarket and have their shopping wheeled out to them.

Without an omnichannel approach, supermarkets would have been more focused on the in-store experience, and would have missed out on such a large opportunity for revenue.

But, issues did arise. With supermarkets now having three channels of sale: in-store, online deliver, and ‘Click & Collect’, stock was running low and customers were being given incorrect products. Staff that were picking out items for online orders used handsets that designated what product was to be picked next, and to address this issue, the devices featured recommendations based on the company’s software and customer data to suggest the next best replacement product, an approach that required aligned channels with equal attention to each.

The supermarkets’ focus on delivering an excellent experience regardless of the channel consumers interacted with allowed them to maintain growth and customer retention during a challenging operational period.

The issue with Omnichannel

The issue with omnichannel is not so much an issue with omnichannel itself, more with the fact that there’s fifteen years of code to unravel to offer the best omnichannel solution, and lots of companies don’t have the time or money needed to do that, especially if it could cause a break in their business-as-usual.

But this might be a necessary evil. Companies who try to get ahead of the competition by leveraging omnichannel strategies typically see their revenues and profits decline during the transition period before they go back up again. For that reason, lots of companies are left following the same strategy as before; doing the bare minimum to keep themselves at least marginally technological, whilst not wanting to rock the boat too much by doing what they know deep down really needs to be done

Omnichannel Market Leaders:

Amazon – Omnichannel case study

Amazon encompasses the omnichannel philosophy; everything done by this corporation works together in a seamless, synergistic way.

Not only do they combine streaming, fast delivery, and voice technology with their Alexa, Amazon has also taken revolutionary steps to bridge the gap between online and offline sales.

In 2018, Amazon opened their first supermarket with no queues and no checkouts, simply allowing customers to scan their items and pay; with offline (store) and online (app for paying) channels coming together in a symbiotic relationship.

However, some businesses may not have the funds to undertake an endeavour as ambitious as Amazon’s, but with companies like Starbucks operating a rewards card that can be used physically or digitally, there is proof out there that this approach can be done on a smaller scale.

ASOS – Omnichannel case study

Remember when you wanted a red t-shirt and you would have to type that term into Google, visit an online store, then browse the red t-shirts. If there were none you liked, you would have to leave the store and choose another? That wasn’t so long ago!

Now, you can type ‘red t-shirt’ into Google and see a whole host of red t-shirts right in the search engine. Or, you can visit a site like ASOS and use the search engine on their website to browse red t-shirts specifically.

On the move? Use their app. No time to buy now? Don’t worry, they’ll remarket you with that t-shirt later on Facebook, or through the Google Ads display network. They’ll repeatedly give you opportunities to buy, and they’ll offer you the opportunity to do so via the Paypal app you have on your phone, so there’s no need to even enter your payment details.

But this isn’t just about the hard sell. ASOS knows that their key audience loves social media. They constantly engage with them there. They’ve got millions of followers on Instagram, they utilise social media influencers to sell products, they’re all over TikTok, which is a new social media platform not all brands have managed to perfect yet.

But the real star here is the fluidity between desktop, mobile and their app, which allows users to put items in the basket on any channel and pick it up again on another platform.

And when it comes to delivery, this entirely online brand still offers click and collect, for those who would prefer to collect their item personally.

Shopping with ASOS is easy, and that is the key to their success. This level of omnichannel usage, this synergy, is what all brands should be aiming for.

Where would you start with your business?

There are two extreme ways to approach an omnichannel process:

Implement changes fast and take a short term hit to revenue streams

or

Implement changes slower to minimise the revenue impact

The approach to take varies from business to business, and we are here to help you make the decision that works best with your goals.

When you take a new direction and expand into a new area, you have to build new capabilities and hire engineers with skills in software. Hiring new talent and developing new skills and integrating them into the old system, can be quite tricky and time consuming.

A Smooth Transition, Tailored to You, by Digital Dom

At Digital Dom, our digital transformation team carefully considers your position in the market and designs a custom transition plan. Omnichannel customers have a 30% higher lifetime value than single-channel shoppers. This is only one of many motives to jump on board and improve your customers’ omni-experience.

Our software engineers are at hand to help speed up the software development process to move to a new platform and onboard a team with future tech skills.

Get in touch with our experienced, proven team and take the next vital steps towards your business growth today.

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