Omnichannel Retail Strategy: What It Is and Why It's Important for Brands Today

Explore omnichannel retail and its importance as a brand strategy today.

August 28, 2019

What is Omnichannel Retail?

Omnichannel retail empowers brands to reach consumers at every touchpoint of the buying experience — online and off — to provide a relevant consumer experience across all channels. This holistic approach goes beyond optimizing each sales channel individually, focusing instead on ensuring consumers have a unified experience in-store, on your website, on social media, in online marketplaces, and anywhere else they encounter your brand.

Google emphasizes the importance of an omnichannel approach to retail:  

The most sophisticated retailers are ensuring their marketing strategies are geared toward enabling customers to convert on any channel. Why? Because they realize that a shopper who buys from them in-store and online is their most valuable kind of customer. 

Shoppers that buy both online and in-store have a 30% higher lifetime value than those only using one channel.

And this strategy is expected by today’s consumer: the Harvard Business Review reports that 73% of consumers use multiple channels during their shopping journey. 

The following definitions lend some additional clarity to how omnichannel relates to other aspects of retail today.

Omnichannel v. Multichannel

Just because your brand is multichannel — available for sales or communication on multiple channels, online and off — doesn’t mean you are omnichannel. Too often, these channels are siloed and consumers experience different views of your brand at different touchpoints. 

“Brands must ensure seamless transitions and consistent experiences from one channel to the next,” according to Glossy. Forbes puts it differently: “Silos belong on farms.”

Direct Sales v. Channel Sales

At the highest level, sales are divided into two categories: direct and indirect. And while to some degree these terms are self-explanatory, today’s retail market adds complexity.

The ability to sell online has redefined how brands sell directly to consumers, whether the sale takes place on a website, social media, apps or other channels. These direct sales are an important channel not only for revenue, but also for the opportunity to establish direct, one-to-one communication with consumers.

Channel sales are all the ways brands sell their products or services through third parties. ”That can include resellers, affiliate partners, distributors, value-added providers, independent retailers — basically, anyone who doesn’t work directly for your organization,” according to Hubspot.

Today, even brands in industries that historically only sold through channel sales are reevaluating the possibilities of direct sales. 

The Importance of Direct to Consumer Sales

Brands leveraging direct sales gain more control over their relationships with consumers. Vision Critical summarizes the importance of direct sales:

  1. Consumers are demanding a better experience
  2. The direct-to-consumer model gives companies an opportunity to build their brand relationship with customers
  3. Direct sales allows them to collect customer data

Vision Critical points out that many retailers are opening their own brick-and-mortar stores, even those in industries that previously sold primarily through third parties — Telsa and Nike are cited as examples. This creates new opportunities for the brand to tell its story directly to consumers:

When wholesale manufacturers sell through retail distributors, they have very little say on how the product is sold. They’re at the mercy of the distributor to ensure that the customer leaves the store (or the website) happy and satisfied.

This aligns with the larger picture of a new type of brand strategy that focuses on creating an optimal consumer experience at every touchpoint in today’s Amazon world. 

Optimizing Across All Channels

With omnichannel retail now the default consumer expectation, it’s time to look at how brands optimize for omnichannel. Adobe says brands need to move beyond “click and mortar” — simply having both a physical and online presence — and focus on creating consumer journeys that feel unified and “span both physical and digital touchpoints”:

[D]espite customers’ expectations of omnichannel experiences, some brands still separate their customers into ‘store’ and ‘online’ segments. But, the fact is, most customer journeys may start online, but they end in the store. In fact, 92 percent of all retail purchases still happen in-store, making the true omnichannel experience critical for all retail businesses. You can’t afford to have stellar customer-response rates on Twitter while in-store staff members are rude (or vice versa).

“Customers are much more demanding,” said Marcia Flicker, Ph.D., associate professor at the Fordham University Gabelli School of Business. “They know they’re in control and that marketers and retailers have to adapt to them. If they don’t like what they see, they know they can keep shopping and very quickly find something else that better suits them — and an experience that better suits them.”

How Blue Bite Helps Brands Create an Effective, Seamless Omnichannel Retail Strategy

“Omnichannel retail doesn’t require you to be everywhere, just everywhere your customers are,” says Shopify. Of course, knowing where your customers are requires extensive research and data.

Brands today can open a direct communication channel with consumers that lasts through the entire sales cycle. Here at Blue Bite, we do this by leveraging technologies like NFC and QR in existing products to create a new channel that offers a better experience for consumers and more information to brands on how consumers interact with products.

Brands attach digital experiences to NFC or QR codes embedded into existing products that consumers tap to activate, offering contextual and engaging content before, during and after the sale. Post-sale — when many brands lose connection with their product — an NFC or QR platform can report how consumers are engaging with the products after bringing them home. Analytics can show how many times these NFC or QR experiences were launched, where they occurred, if they led to additional sales, and more.

This cumulative information gives brands the necessary information to see how effective their omnichannel campaigns were and the ability to adjust in real time. 

Omnichannel retail is the new standard, and successful brands will not only take advantage of new, cross-channel retail, but also gather and effectively use data from these channels to create better marketing campaigns and, ultimately, better products.

Blue Bite creates a new channel empowering you to reach consumers like never before