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Omnichannel as the 'New Online Shopping Norm'

06/09/2021 New Industry news

For quite some time, omnichannel shopping has been considered the next-level marketing buzzword that is a nice extra for companies to offer but not necessarily something they must provide. However, as technology advances and the COVID-19-pandemic presents new challenges for commerce, omnichannel shopping has become the holy grail for many businesses to survive by facilitating presence and accessibility on the market.

Consumers nowadays are discovering brands across various touchpoints and are expecting new and more convenient ways that help guide their shopping experiences. In addition to switching between a brand's online and offline channels, a whole range of fulfillment options such as click-and-collect and contactless deliveries and returns added to the mix of 21st-century retailer-and-user possibilities. This article will discuss what retailers can do to offer their customers an ideal omnichannel shopping experience for their audience. 

What is omnichannel shopping?

In brief, omnichannel shopping describes the perfect connection and interplay between a brand's physical and digital channels. However, omnichannel shopping goes beyond the so-called multichannel shopping, the concept of products being available in physical stores and online stores alike. Omnichannel shopping encompasses this aspect and combines online and offline in new and flexible ways; Thus blurring the lines between shopping in-store, online, or via the app. 

The goal of omnichannel shopping is to meet your customers wherever they are and deliver a consistent and seamless experience throughout their shopping journey. A perfect omnichannel approach also includes a comprehensive integration of your data and systems to optimize your business. 

The benefits of omnichannel commerce

1. Improve customer experience. 9 out of 10 consumers demand omnichannel strategies; 72% expect businesses to know their history regardless of the communication method and channel. 

2. Increase turnover and customer loyalty. Studies have shown that omnichannel shoppers spend more money and log a higher return rate to a store than single-channel users.

3. Better data collection. Tracking customer behavior via several channels enables retailers to offer improved personalized customer experiences. Learn more here.

Understanding consumer behaviors

Even though most people got used to digital and contactless shopping by now, one could argue that ecommerce still cannot fully replace the interpersonal and hands-on experience of actual shopping. People will always want to have the option to go to physical stores. 

Although in-person engagement re-emerged after the recent lockdowns, research shows that instead of fully going back to in-store shopping or sticking completely to digital, consumers go for cross-channel mixes. They move flexibly between different channels - in-store or digital via webshop or app - the way it suits them best.

Studies show that consumers today use an average of six touchpoints on their shopping journey, with nearly 50% using more than four regularly. Buying online and collecting in-store is the new way to go - which is why even online retail giants like Amazon and Zalando are building physical stores or are partnering up with retailers to offer click-and-collect services. There is growing evidence that more than half of all consumers research products online, visit a physical store to view them and return online to buy the product eventually. According to further research, over 70% of consumers in the Netherlands, for example, stated they preferred shopping regardless of the channel, whereas 17% preferred online shopping and only 13% offline shopping. 

Ideal omnichannel strategies

The main channels to consider for an optimal omnichannel experience are brick-and-mortar stores, webshops, marketplaces, and social media. However, as discussed earlier, omnichannel shopping is all about the ways to combine these channels to create a seamless experience for your customers. 

Some key features for an ideal omnichannel experience are:

  • Customers can look up items in-store, scan them via an app, and purchase it later at home.
  • They can browse your webshop, look them up on social media and buy items in-store.
  • Click-and-collect options
  • Customers can return items regardless of where they purchased them.
  • Data connects in-store purchases with subscribed or regular customers so that they get notified when items are available again. 

Be prepared: How to integrate omnichannel 

1. Connect channels

As already mentioned, an ideal omnichannel experience aims to create a coherent, aligned experience across multiple channels. 

With more interaction between different channels and connecting the data accordingly, omnichannel enables retailers to create one single entry for each customer within their shop ecosystem rather than having multiple entries divided per channel. This allows consumers to pick up and continue their journey regardless of which channel they decide to use, at what point they are in their journey, where they left off before - and retailers to leverage these insights to create more personalized experiences and increase revenue. 

2. Targeted marketing 

Businesses will benefit from leveraging all data and integrating all systems comprehensively. The keyword here is targeted marketing: If a customer adds an item from the webshop to their cart, it is ideal to automatically add it to the mobile app's cart at the same time. If customers go on social media, try to improve visibility by showing suggested products based on what they were previously viewing. 

3. Improve in-store options

While we have highlighted the importance of omnichannel shopping, in-store experiences are still highly relevant. As highlighted earlier, a sound omnichannel strategy creates one coherent ecosystem with only one customer entry across all channels. To optimally include physical locations, retailers can integrate click-and-collect and payment link services, grant their in-store staff access to online channels, and enable the possibility for customers to make exchanges or returns regardless of where they originally purchased an item. This way, you can maximize your customers' shopping experience and leverage the possibility to convert returns into sales! 

4. Personalize the shopping experience

Individualized shopping experiences are becoming more and more important for customers, especially for younger audiences. Going one step further and taking initiatives to create personalized omnichannel experiences, such as providing recommendations based on past purchases, sending notifications, or Second Chance emails, increasingly helps make your brand stand out. 

With more than 20 years of experience in ecommerce and a variety of tools, features, and digital payment solutions, we can help you adapt to your customers' demands and stay ahead of the market. 

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