What Is Omni-Channel Retail And Why Should You Use It?

Once upon a time, there was only one 'channel' to buy from: the faithful brick-and-mortar store. But, over time, we've seen the unrelenting emergence and growth of technology and a plethora of new platforms.

First it was computers, phones, and emails; then it was smartphones, mobile apps, tablets, and social media. These innovations have made the world a dramatically different place, and nowhere is that better exemplified than in the world of retail.

This has all created a unique challenge for retailers; increasingly, it has become a fundamental expectation of the customer to be able to shop anywhere via retailers who maintain a presence 'everywhere.'

Multi-channel has evolved

We used to call it 'multi-channel.' But multi-channel has now evolved into 'omni-channel.'

What exactly does that mean?

Well, whereas multi-channel pretty much treated each channel as its own independent entity, omni-channel is all about unifying the experience for our customers – so, however we engage with them, it's all unmistakably a part of one, connected experience.

Essentially, omni-channel is the recognition that modern customers shop more diversely than ever before – across multiple websites, platforms and devices – and that, in order to be successful, we have to deliver a consistent, seamless experience across every one of these touch points.

Omni-channel empowers the customer to buy what they want, from wherever they want and at any time.

The multiple dimensions to omni-channel

Unsurprisingly, many of the more prominent examples of omni-channel involve the bigger brands, merging their established physical presence with technology to empower an online / offline experience that is unified. As a fairly basic example, let's look at click-and-collect.

So, a customer may research, browse and buy online, but still want to travel to the store and pick it up in person. Smart retailers recognize that customers like the convenience of shopping online, but don't always like waiting around for a package to be shipped to their door.

Click-and-collect gives customers the best of both worlds, unifying the experience across online and offline channels, and, of course, it's been a huge success - 79% of shoppers reported having used the facility in the past year.

Beyond the brick and mortar store, customers want to access your products and the shopping experience across all devices they have access too – and they expect to get the same, consistent, high quality and connected experience regardless of the device they use.

Customers simply don’t care where they shop for your products, so whether it's eBay, Amazon or Google Products, it's critically important to ensure your products are 'there' so they can be discovered by the millions of users who frequent these sites. This aspect of omni-channel, whereby your products are accessible and visible across the web in various market places and shopping channels, is often considered one of the biggest drivers to going omni-channel.

It’s a smart move to ensure your products have maximum visibility – marketplaces, high traffic sites and discovery engines are all good ways to do this. AmeriCommerce gives you the power to integrate your store with some of the biggest players in the online retail world, including Amazon, eBay and more. GoDataFeed integration is a direct solution for connecting to shopping engines and marketplaces, and is a great way to consistently increase the visibility of your products.

Discovery engines are great, too. They're essentially shopping directories which pull and display products from all over the web. Some use 'crawlers' like search engines and pull your products automatically, whereas others require you to sign up and post content yourself.

Essentially, omni-channel success is all about walking in your customers footsteps and analyzing their journey. What are they looking for? Where do they go to find it? And how do you make sure you're there?