Omnichannel Retail Strategy More than Sales, Marketing
By now, just about every store owner has heard the term “omnichannel retail strategy.” If not, it refers to the concept of having a single, cohesive, all-encompassing approach that links all marketing and sales efforts. In theory, shoppers recognize and can easily purchase the same items they find on a store’s website that are on its brick-and-mortar shelves. It also links branding, advertising, marketing and sales, customer rewards, and more. In 2020, many brick-and-mortar stores with omnichannel strategies and tools were able to keep selling and serving customers while their doors were locked while stores without dynamic e-commerce sales and curbside pickup or delivery programs failed. Omnichannel retail became essential during the economic shutdown.
However, omnichannel means more than linking sales and marketing, though. If it’s utilized completely and correctly, it also means having a single touchpoint or a control panel that can manage all aspects of a business.
The Latin root of the word “Omni,” simply means “all.” Its combining form, which is commonly used as a prefix as in omnipresence, omnivore and omnipotent, means “all, in all ways, places, et cetera. Without limits.”
Applying that to marketing, an omnichannel retail strategy is one in which organizations use many channels – online, social media, print, in-store and more – in a single, cohesive effort to improve their shopping experience and create better relationships with their customers. The omnichannel retail strategy allows brands to be more easily recognized and used by customers no matter how they chose to engage.
Advantages of Omni
Cohesiveness is the most obvious advantage of an omnichannel retail strategy. Brick-and-mortar stores that also sell through their own websites, maybe have a Facebook or Amazon account, offer online content such as a newsletter or blog, and use print advertising or in-store coupons, can tie all those products together with such a strategy.
Linked together through a digital retail platform, omnichannel retail strategies can be easily controlled and monitored providing customers an enjoyable, cohesive shopping experience while providing businesses improved and more trackable results.
“Consumers expect more from merchants today. Due in part to the evolution of retail, which now offers more personalized choices from e-commerce companies, shoppers want similar features from their neighborhood stores,” says Dan Nesmith, president of Paladin Data Corporation, which develops and provides digital business platforms.
Reasons to Omnichannel
All generations are now using technology to shop. Not surprisingly, Baby Boomers favor the hands-on abilities of touching products and trying on apparel in brick-and-mortar stores while the younger generations are more apt to use digital means. However, just about all shoppers today use a variety of channels when either researching or making retail purchases.
A new study of 46,000 consumers by Retail Dive shows that 73% of them use “multiple channels” – meaning internet searches, mobile apps, in-store kiosks, or browsing – when shopping. The study also shows that these omnichannel consumers spend an average of 4% more when shopping in a store and 10% more when shopping online. Those shoppers also make 23% more repeat visits to those stores within six months of their initial trip. Other relevant reasons to omnichannel include:
- 40% of shoppers use Buy Online, Pick up In-Store (BOPIS) (Source: National Retail Federation)
- Around two-thirds (65%) are using e-commerce apps mostly to receive offers and deals (Source: Clutch.co)
- 40% of e-commerce sales came from mobile devices in 2018. This figure is expected to grow to 54% by 2021. Mobile apps are primarily used to: check prices (71%); make purchases (62%); reserve items for pickup (34%); and navigate a store (22%)
With the right tools, independent businesses can build omnichannel customer experiences just as efficient and effective as the online giants and big-box stores. It all starts with a comprehensive plan and a platform on which to build it.
In its “Global Omni-Channel Consumer Shopping Research Report,” Big Commerce says businesses planning an omnichannel retail strategy should consider:
- How to capture and track sales data to target marketing messages
- Truly using multiple channels
- Consider the shopping experience the top priority
- Automating the process as much as possible using helpful technology
A comprehensive digital retail platform which includes inventory and sales data management, a customer incentive and rewards program, and multimedia features and integrations, provides many of the tools businesses need to manage an omnichannel marketing strategy. These platforms capture data and allow businesses to use it in a multitude of ways to enhance the shopping experience.
“It’s important that independent businesses shift their thinking about data. Businesses need to become more aware of the data they have at their disposal and how to use it to their advantage,” says Jeff Rogers, marketing, sales and partnerships director at Paladin Data Corporation. “All businesses need to focus on the data they have available through their digital tools to constantly be improving their customer experience and product offering.”
For online channels, it’s a good idea to utilize a marketing automation platform such as HubSpot that facilitates creation, distribution and tracking of email and social media and website traffic.
Omnichannel is more than marketing and sales. It also means having a single point of control for an entire business whether it’s a single site or a multistore chain. The digital retail platform on which an omnichannel retail strategy is built can also allow owners or managers to control all aspects of a business from ordering, inventory and sales all the way to product delivery, workforce management and accounting.
“All businesses need to focus on the data they have available through their digital tools to constantly be streamlining their operational processes and improving their customer experience, and product offering,” Rogers explains.
Modern retail technology, through an array of features and specialty integrations, can simplify all retail processes, virtually eliminating tedious, time–consuming work. This gives business owners and managers more time to work with customers and connect with new shoppers. It all starts with an omnichannel retail strategy and the tools to make it work.
The U.S.-China tariffs and the coronavirus pandemic exposed weak links in the global supply chain. The fallout from the tariffs caused many worldwide suppliers to begin shifting away from a reliance on China for so many of their goods, and the from COVID-19 created unprecedented problems for suppliers and retail businesses. It forced stores to drastically alter their ordering processes because their doors were closed. The apparel industry was extremely hard hit by the shutdown with coronavirus being the knockout punch for companies like JCPenney, Brooks Brothers, J. Crew and Neiman Marcus.
Other businesses deemed essential – hardware, pharmacies, big-box department chains – bought more to fulfill increased consumer demand. Many independent businesses experienced triple-digit increases in demand. Lowe’s sales in the first quarter of 2020 were up 11.3% over 2019, while Ace Hardware was up 3.8%.
The U.S. LBM industry was forced to aim at a moving target in the first quarter of 2020. Many industry experts speculated the economic shutdown would crater new home construction. Mills curtailed production and then many closed due to health and safety concerns.
The relatively quick rebound of home construction and a sharp spike in DIY home projects from people suddenly out of work or working from home made lumber supplies plummet and prices skyrocket.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, the Random Lengths Framing Composite Price reached $523 per 1,000 board feet for the week ending July 10. It was the first time since July 2018 that lumber prices have topped $500. It also marked a 50% increase since April 17.
The resulting upheaval has left the businesses that have remained standing with some valuable lessons. It’s not wise to place all your supply chain eggs in a single basket. It’s also smart to have the ability and data you need to change your ordering processes quickly and efficiently.