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What is Omnichannel Retailing & Why Is It Important?

To start, let’s establish a solid understanding of what we mean by omnichannel

Omnichannel marketing provides the customer with an integrated shopping experience across multiple channels (think email, web, social, mobile and in-store). The goal here is to create a seamless experience for the customer, whether they are shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, or in a brick-and-mortar store.

Omnichannel marketing caters to the new wave of personalized experience-seeking consumers. “Omnichannel marketing” is no longer just a buzzword. It has surpassed the “trend” phase and stationed itself as a key strategy necessary to implement in this new era of technology.

At its core, omnichannel marketing is a multi-channel sales approach that provides the customer with an integrated overall shopping experience. The customer can transition from shopping online on a desktop or mobile device, to the phone, or a brick-and-mortar store, and the experience will be seamless. 

This is all made possible by one thing — data. With the smart use of customer data and AI, brands unlock the ability to create campaigns that engage customers with personalized content in real-time. Combined with machine learning, some of the top omnichannel marketing automation platforms can even use historical data to predict future performance before campaigns are launched. 

The benefits of omnichannel retailing

In a world where customer engagement is a critical commodity, brands who invest in omnichannel stand to win. Although omnichannel strategies can take time to pull together, brands that make the investment stand to reap major benefits. 

Improved customer experience: With omnichannel retailing, you break free from mass messaging and create content that anticipates your audience’s needs. By prioritizing frictionless engagement over intrusive advertising, you deliver a seamless, more personalized customer experience across all channels.  

Increased customer retention: By engaging customers across multiple channels and genuinely providing value with your content, you increase the chance of first-time sales, and keeping customers coming back for more. 

Boosted brand loyalty: When you connect with customers across multiple touchpoints and engage them with personalized content, you not only show them that you understand them, you show them that you’re willing to take the time to get to know them. By doing so, you’ll build brand loyalty that will increase Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) and Average Order Value (AOV). 

Improved foot traffic: By unifying your product, sales, and customer data, you turn in-store and online shopping into a seamless, connected omnichannel customer experience.

Omnichannel Retail Examples

Considering a move to omnichannel retail, or looking to expand on your existing strategy? Explore the best-in-class marketing from these industry-leading names and get the inspiration you need.

Sephora

We’ve applauded Sephora’s Beauty Insider Rewards program as a means of building stronger relationships between consumers and the brand. Beauty Insider has set the standard for customer loyalty programs and become an integral part of the brand’s omnichannel strategy. 

Sephora Beauty Insiders can tap into the Beauty Bag on their phone or desktop and have access to a truckload of data. Consumers can shop, see their favorites list, view past purchases and rewards points, scan items in-store to see other options available online, watch tutorial videos, and locate stores near them.

This extremely successful application of omnichannel retail strategy has nurtured 11 million members, who spend 15 times more money on Sephora.com than the average user.

Walgreens

Forbes recently highlighted Walgreens’ mobile retail app as one of the highest regarded in the US. Its success can be attributed to the omnichannel strategy implemented by the pharmaceutical retail giant.

The app allows users to manage their pharmacy prescriptions, fill out rapid refill requests, find deals on products in the stores, and make orders that they can pick up at the nearest location. 

While this is a mobile-focused shopping experience, the app is actually oriented toward improving a user’s in-store experience. This is the brilliance behind Walgreens’ strategy.


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Starbucks

Starbucks is frequently revered as an omnichannel savant. Why? Because they get it, and they’re doing it right. 

Starbucks does an excellent job of providing a seamless user experience. Every time a Starbucks user pays with a Starbucks card, via a physical card or mobile, that user accumulates reward points. 

The linked app also allows coffee lovers to:

  • Find stores near them 
  • Send gifts 
  • Order drinks ahead of time for a quicker experience 

Plus, with the recent Spotify integration, consumers can view what songs are playing in that specific store and add them to their playlists.

The brilliant effortlessness of the app embodies a near perfect application of the omnichannel experience. As explained by Misia Tramp, the EVP of Insights and Innovations for Tahzoo, “omnichannel involves using data to understand where effort exists in the customer experience and how to remove — rather than add — effort.”

Disney

Disney has mastered omnichannel by making it easy for consumers to feel an emotional connection. The company is built around imagination and creation, so it is no surprise that they are leading the way in the realm of omnichannel marketing.

Disney’s experience is all in the details. Every piece of their website is mobile-responsive and optimized for every device. After a visitor has booked their Disney World resort visit, they can plan every minute of their trip through the My Disney Experience tool. In the park, they can use the mobile app to locate attractions they earmarked in the experience tool and see estimated wait times for each attraction.

This year, Disney introduced their Magic Band program. It’s a brilliantly executed weapon in Disney’s omnichannel arsenal. Disney World and Disney Land visitors can enter the parks, unlock their hotel rooms, check-in to FastPass lanes, connect to their Disney PhotoPass account, and charge all purchases made in the park to their Magic Band. And of course, all of this is linked with the My Disney Experience account, accessible through the mobile app.

Amazon

Giants in the world of online retail, Amazon haven’t achieved their top-tier status without reason. 

It’s the same reason that every Amazon meeting has at least one empty chair. That chair represents the customer, and it reminds them of their mission — “to be earth’s most customer-centric company”. 

Amazon fuels their customer-centric approach with the wealth of data they’ve accrued in their 20-year history. By connecting this data across multiple channels, Amazon gives their customers the option to browse and purchase how they want, where they want, and when they want. 

Through their customer-focused approach, Amazon discovered that the biggest roadblock on the path to purchase conversion was shipping costs — so, they moved to overcome it. Off the back of this, the e-commerce giant launched Amazon Prime, a paid loyalty-style program that gives their customers free, fast shipping and a host of other benefits in return for a monthly payment. 

The data Amazon collects from Prime members gives them a unique look at customer shopping preferences, which they use to build a unified, increasingly accurate single customer view. 

Final Thoughts

Omnichannel is without doubt the future of retail. However, with many brands setting their sights on omnichannel (but few having perfected it), it’s clear to see that getting an integrated, customer-focused retail strategy right isn’t easy. 

This is where Emarsys comes in. The Emarsys customer engagement solution helps brands unify their data, achieve true 1:1 personalization, and accelerate their business outcomes. Discover what Emarsys can do to accelerate your omnichannel success by watching a 3-minute demo now.

*This blog was updated and refreshed June 2022


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