What Is an Omnichannel Experience, and How Can Your Brand Create One?

“Omnichannel experience” is a broad term with many facets. Ask a handful of marketers or executives to explain it, and you’ll wind up with a slew of definitions. But this isn’t just a marketing buzzword you should know. It’s a strategy your brand should employ if you want to provide the best possible experience for consumers and maximize sales.

In this guide, we’re going to walk you through everything you need to know about creating an omnichannel experience, including:

  • What omnichannel means
  • Why being omnichannel is so important for ecommerce brands
  • How to actually create an omnichannel experience

For starters, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what this term means.

What does omnichannel mean?

Omni comes from the Latin word, omnis, meaning “all.” So omnichannel literally just means “on all channels,” which is why it gets used in so many different ways. But omnichannel doesn’t just mean that your brand has every possible channel consumers may want to use to interact with your brand. It implies a strategy that uses all these channels together to create one cohesive experience, rather than treating each channel as an isolated touchpoint.

As consumers move from one channel to another, an omnichannel experience allows them to continue their customer journey—rather than forcing them to start over every time they cross into a new channel. 

It’s seamless. It’s personalized. And it puts your customers’ needs first.

But defining omnichannel isn’t that simple, either. Because “channel” can refer to the channels you use to sell your products, the channels you use to market to consumers, and even the devices consumers use to interact with your brand. 

In ecommerce, you’ll likely hear about omnichannel marketing and omnichannel retail. People sometimes use these terms interchangeably, but they’re describing slightly different aspects of the same process: creating a seamless customer experience and using every channel at your disposal.

Omnichannel retail

Consumers often use multiple touchpoints before making a purchase. According to the Harvard Business Review, only 27% of consumers shop exclusively through one channel, and the more touchpoints a shopper uses, the more money they spend with your brand and the more loyal they become.

Omnichannel retailing means providing a consistent experience at every point of sale and recognizing that there are many paths consumers can take to buy your products. Rather than trying to force people into one particular channel (such as direct-to-consumer), you allow them to retain control over their experience and choose the path they prefer.

Someone may research your product on your website, read reviews and customer questions on Amazon, and finally choose to buy-online and pick-up in-store through Target. Rather than creating obstacles to the customer journey by exclusively driving D2C sales, brands that want to maximize conversions should highlight a variety of buying options at every touchpoint and let consumers select their preferred retailers.

Omnichannel marketing

Omnichannel marketing refers to the channels you use to communicate with consumers, such as social media, email, advertising, and physical assets.

True omnichannel marketing is difficult to achieve due to the limitations of data collection, tracking, and cross-channel integration. Retail partners aren’t going to give you a list of people who visited your product pages. If someone doesn’t have an account with you, you can’t recommend what they might like based on their previous purchases.

But omnichannel marketing is an ideal every brand should strive for. The key is to find ways to use one interaction to lead to another, and to build on previous interactions wherever possible. As people interact with your brand and progress on their customer journey, their past experiences should inform and change future ones. 

Most brands rely heavily on retargeting consumers with ads to deliver an omnichannel experience.

If someone views a product page on your website, for example, they should start seeing ads and offers for the product or product category they viewed, and stop seeing unrelated promotions. The best omnichannel marketing anticipates someone’s needs, reservations, and desires based on what they’ve viewed. If someone has been looking at a particularly expensive product, for example, you might show them an ad featuring a monthly payment plan for that product, a coupon, or a free add-on that would increase the value of their purchase.

Another way brands facilitate omnichannel marketing is through packaging. When someone buys from a retailer, you don’t have access to their contact information and you can’t retarget them with ads. But you can include packaging materials that encourage them to sign up for your newsletter or membership program, explore add-on products, or check out relevant content (like tips for getting the most from the product they purchased). 

By using packaging to drive customers to unique URLs, you can start targeting them with ads and reaching them through other channels, even though they didn’t purchase through your own store.

Being attentive on social media can also create valuable opportunities for omnichannel marketing. Using social listening tools, you can join in on public conversations about your brand, product category, or industry. And when consumers come directly to you with questions and comments, you can steer them toward relevant content.

Omnichannel marketing aims for synergy between all the physical and digital touchpoints you use to communicate with consumers.

Omnichannel experience

Omnichannel experience refers to the entire experience someone has with your brand. As with omnichannel marketing, the ideal omnichannel experience builds on past interactions to provide personal recommendations and relevant content.

But delivering an omnichannel experience often means simply providing a consistent brand experience regardless of where and how consumers encounter you. This means keeping information, pricing, and assets up-to-date on every product page and channel, and ensuring that sellers who carry your products are accurately representing your brand to consumers.

When rogue sellers violate your pricing policy and cause your product pricing to fluctuate everywhere, that impacts how people perceive your brand and creates a wildly inconsistent experience. That’s why if you want to facilitate an omnichannel experience, you need to protect your brand integrity.

Why is being “omnichannel” so important for ecommerce?

Your goal is to get your products in the hands of as many consumers as possible—however they find you, and wherever they buy. But a lot of brands sabotage this goal by treating their retail partners like competitors and taking every opportunity to drive direct-to-consumer sales. Their websites don’t provide paths to where consumers can buy their products from major retailers.

For consumers who have a preferred retailer this puts obstacles on their ideal path to purchase. They have to work harder to buy your product in the way they want. And that means they may either give up or encounter your competitors when they start searching for your product in search engines. 

One of the most basic tenets of conversion optimization is to reduce the number of steps between your prospect and your objective. If you truly want to maximize sales, you need to leverage every channel consumers use to find and buy your products. 

Someone prefers to take advantage of Amazon’s free two-day shipping? Great. Point them to your product page on Amazon.

Someone else wants to pick up your product at Target on their way home from work today? Perfect. Show them the product page.

Maybe they have a Walmart credit card. Or they want Best Buy’s Geek Squad to protect their purchase. Or the convenience of Costco’s returns. Or simply the convenience of having an account with saved credit card information.

Whatever someone’s reasons for wanting to buy from a retailer, you don’t want to stand in the way of your own sales. An omnichannel approach uses retailer perks to your advantage, and helps you close the sale by creating the most convenient path to purchase.

So, how do you create an omnichannel experience?

How do brands create omnichannel experiences?

Creating an omnichannel experience requires a combination of strategy, execution, and technology. Without the right tools and preparation, you simply won’t be able to create a seamless, consistent, and personalized experience.

Identify all your touchpoints with consumers

The first step to creating an omnichannel experience is to take inventory of all the places consumers interact with your brand, both online and offline. This includes: 

  • Any social media accounts you use
  • Marketing channels like email lists, a blog, etc.
  • Every product page on a retailer’s site or your own
  • Brick-and-mortar stores that carry your products
  • Packaging materials
  • Digital advertising
  • Mobile apps
  • Mailers, billboards, and other physical ads
  • Customer service
  • The product itself

As you document each touchpoint, make note of the ways these channels can crossover and work together. Remember, the more touchpoints a customer has with you, the more they spend and the more loyal they become.

Once you’ve identified all the ways a customer may encounter your brand, it’s time to look at how each channel can best support their customer journey.

Create customer journey maps

Customer journey maps are a visual representation of how consumers move from awareness to purchase. The goal of creating one is to help you see the entire experience with your brand from the perspective of a potential customer. At each stage of the journey, you’ll consider the questions they have, their motivations or goals, as well as the channels you could use to help them progress to the next stage.

Remember, you’re not trying to create shortcuts to your buy button. You’re trying to understand what your customers are really looking for, what’s holding them back, and how you can help them overcome the obstacles that stand between them and your product—whether that’s a knowledge gap they have to overcome or even just the inconvenience of account creation.

Protect your brand

A big part of delivering an omnichannel experience is ensuring that consumers have a consistent experience with your brand, no matter where they find you. It can be jarring for consumers when a seller uses outdated product images or copy, or the price is dramatically different than what they see everywhere else. Consistency is a crucial signal consumers use to identify authentic products.

This is why the temptation to let anyone and everyone sell your products can hurt your brand in the long run. You don’t need 20 sellers on every marketplace, and having that many will hurt you when consumers search for your product. You need to be selective about who you allow to sell your product and equip yourself with tools to enforce your price and protect your brand

If a retailer doesn’t comply with your pricing policy or honor your brand guidelines, they’re damaging your ability to provide a quality omnichannel experience.

Streamline the path to purchase

When someone is ready to click “buy,” you need a convenient way for them to find their preferred channel. That’s what a Where to Buy button is for. These customizable widgets transform every product page on your website into a hub your customers can use to buy in the way that’s most convenient for them—whether that’s on Amazon, another major retailer, or their local mom and pop shop. You can give them the ability to filter stores based on their city or area code, and add stock availability so they don’t head to places where your product is out of stock.

Additionally, you’ll gain valuable new insights into the customer journey. When someone clicks through your Where to Buy button, we’ll track their purchase and give you access to in-cart data like how much they spent and what else they bought alongside your products. This means you can finally measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and you’ll have a better grasp of what your customers are looking for.

Create an omnichannel experience

If you want your customers to have a seamless experience with your brand, you need to fight for consistency. When you have thousands of products sprawled across hundreds of sellers, that’s a daunting task. But it’s a lot easier when you have the right tools.

PriceSpider’s conversion optimization platform comes with a suite of software that tracks everywhere your product is sold and shows you who isn’t complying with your brand guidelines and pricing policies.

Our Where to Buy solution also keeps your customers in charge of their shopping experience, helping you streamline the path to purchase and letting them decide where and how and where they buy your products while giving you the insights on their shopping behavior.

Talk to an expert, and find out how PriceSpider can help you deliver an omnichannel experience.

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