The Basics of Omnichannel
What Is Omnichannel?
You undoubtedly have heard of omnichannel. The word is widely used when talking about everything from mobile devices, customer loyalty, online marketplaces, and digital channels to the customer experience. Do you really know what omnichannel is?
Whether you work for a financial institution like the Bank of America or in a supply chain business, omnichannel has pretty much become a way of life.
Basically, the term “omnichannel” refers to the unification of all physical and digital channels to provide a consistent, collective customer experience. At its core, omnichannel refers to a strategy that brings together all the various marketing channel touchpoints with the consumer at the center. Every interaction is relayed and coordinated across the marketing channels to enable the consumer to shop for an item online or in a physical store one moment and then purchase from another channel, for example through a link in an email advertising a sale. Consistency, communication, and coordination are key.
Customers can shop in person, using a mobile app or mobile device such as a Smartphone or tablet and every interaction follows them seamlessly whether it involves a physical store or a digital experience. How consumers receive product information on a mobile app, search for information on a physical store, shop both online and offline is all connected to the buyer experience.
Omnichannel strategy seeks to enable the seamless integration of all online and offline experiences, melding consistency of message, imagery, branding, shopping, and delivery experiences to form one cohesive positive experience for customers. Companies want to provide customers with a seamless, identifiable brand experience, one that helps to build and ensure customer loyalty.
In other words, customers who shop and buy online should have the same positive, similar brand experience when shopping both online and offline. Shopping carts, online marketplaces, mobile apps, catalogues, retail stores should all provide a similar brand experience. Yes, social media marketing, whether using Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Tik Tok or other forms of social media should be part of that consistent brand experience as well.
Most consumers do not make a buying decision on their first visit to an online store. It can take time to build trust between online marketplaces and consumers. Familiarity is a critical cornerstone to that process. Every time a consumer uses a marketing channel for an omnichannel brand, it interacts with the consumer and automatically responds to meet the customer’s needs.
How Does Omnichannel Relate to the Supply Chain?
When customers shop for and purchase goods, having their order fulfilled accurately and on time is a critical part of the customer journey, one which has been found to be the single most important factor in determining customer loyalty.
Omnichannel fulfillment strategy encompasses the approach of inventory management for the goods that are being ordered as they may be warehoused and transported to and from many different places such as from suppliers or third party logistics warehouses. Many 3PLs now offer omnichannel fulfillment for both B2B and B2C customers.
As an omnichannel fulfillment service provider, the 3PL will provide inventory management and order fulfillment services, optimizing their picking, packing, and shipping operations per channel. Leveraging top notch technology, the warehouse management software will manage inventory based upon its characteristics including lot number, expiration date, serial number and other factors and act as one centralized system, managing all the sales channels to which your products ship.
The WMS will need to integrate with ecommerce platforms such as Amazon and Shopify, online marketplaces, shipping carriers and other systems. It is important to note that e-commerce fulfillment is much more complicated that traditional wholesaler or brick-and-mortar fulfillment. Because customers can order online day or night, the demand tends to be less predictable. Consumers especially want fast, low cost delivery and fulfillment service providers must process much higher volumes of smaller orders more quickly. Because of the increase in speed, volume and complexity, fulfillment costs tend to be higher.
Omnichannel is not a “one size fits all” strategy. Period.
Having access to and using customer data is vital as it can provide clues that can be used to help define the appropriate strategy, especially as it pertains to each customer segment or group. By segmenting customers, fulfillment service providers can help to define and prioritize services for each customer group, such as speed of delivery.
Examples of Effective Omnichannel Marketing for Optimal Customer Experiences
Here are a few success stories from notable omnichannel retailers:
1. Crate & Barrel
This company teams up with Cloud Tags to develop a system that joins the connected store with mobile totes. The software can have product information in the palm of their hands, check out of the mobile tote and have their wish list sent to them for future use in purchasing.
With their iconic catalogue, expansive showroom and online store presence, IKEA brings their products to life in the mind of consumers.
With both brick and mortar stores and an online presence, Timberland wanted to create an interactive experience for consumers in their physical stores. The stores provide interactive TouchWalls for in store shoppers.
Attention consumers. The world is your oyster. From online channels to interactive TouchWalls, omnichannel retailers have made it easier for consumers, while making selling their products a seamless experience with multiple paths to purchase.
From click to curbside pickup, the shopping experience has taken on new life, whether it starts with a catalogue, blog post, email campaign or other omnichannel approach to gain the attention of various customer segments.
Get ready for it. Get some help from a 3PL, technology or omnichannel marketing expert and help your business flourish.
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