Omnichannel appeared as a term in the eCommerce world not too long ago. Many believe it’s the path to success and many are still left wondering what it means and how to use it as an instrument for a successful eCommerce presence.

What is omnichannel?

We’ll start unraveling omnichannel from the most obvious thread: the name. Omni comes from the Latin omnis, which translates as every or all. Its synonym is universus (universal).

Commonly confused with multichannel and cross-channel, omnichannel is more their superior than a term that stands alongside these two.

It literally means to be everywhere with your brand, to turn the experience of your customers into something universal.

Let’s take a look at the usual path a customer goes through in order to make a purchase. First, they do a product search. They research for shoes, for example, on the web and stumble upon many brands. One of them could be yours. This is just a research step for them and they are still not sure about their purchase.

Then comes the selection of the perfect product. Perhaps you’ve managed to take their attention online but what if your customer goes shopping offline? What if they enter a huge department store and they plan on executing the last and final step there – the payment.

A picture of a clothes shop taken from above
Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

If you’re not offline, as well, you lose them. This is, of course, a one-off situation. But it’s something that happens more and more often. There is a rise in brick-and-mortar shopping. Many young people prefer to make their purchase in a physical shop these days.

So, your goal in 2018 should be to create a continued user experience with data that can be used universally. You need to be everywhere for your customers.

An example of mixing offline and online presence and marketing across all channels could be this:

If someone made a purchase in one of your stores and they had a great experience, they could try and connect by mentioning you on Twitter or Facebook. In those cases, you must always try and pull them back to your online store. You could reply and tell them that a discount code for your online store is waiting in their direct messages box.

And vice versa: When someone visits your website, give away coupons for shopping in your physical stores.

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

This is an example of being both online and offline and leading your customers to both. Now, let’s go a little bit deeper into the meaning of omnichannel.

Deeper into the funnel of your brand

building that create something like a funnel
Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

Many eCommerce stores make the same mistake. They have one inventory for online shopping, a different inventory for their physical store and a catalog that applies to just one of the above. It shouldn’t be like this.

Tip number one: The inventory should be treated as one company.

Tip number two: Be consistent across all channels.

But omnichannel isn’t just about consistency. The definition Shopify gave to omnichannel is this:

“True omnichannel shopping extends from brick-and-mortar locations to mobile-browsing, e-commerce marketplaces, onsite storefronts, social media, retargeting, and everything in between.”

This is, in other words, having your customers participate in your sales channel without even being aware of how they got there.

So, what do we have up ‘til here? We know we need to be everywhere. What else we know is that we need to be consistent everywhere. We also know that we need to engage our customers in such a flow that they don’t feel forced. What do we do with all that?

Here’s what. E-commerce store owners need to create a continuous customer path that feels like a voluntary funnel. Here’s how.

Grabbing the attention of your customers from an order they made online

Flow-chart explaining omnichannel process

Or another way you can do this is the following.

Grabbing the attention of your customers in your physical store

2nd Flow chart explaining omnichannel process

The flow charts above start offline and online in the most common ways or so to say, in the most obvious situations that a customer can fall into your hands.

Your end goal should be to simulate an interaction that is not forced in any way and to have customers fall deeper and deeper into the experience your brand offers.

In order to succeed in this, you need to test, test and test. Walk in your customers’ shoes. Become the customer, if you have to, so you can realize what communication feels natural to you and what communication feels like a flow.

The understanding of all customers

And perhaps this is what universal means – understanding all customers, not just your own. This is what omnichannel is. It’s having a presence everywhere for everybody. 

So, this is the general idea behind omnichannel. It’s a nirvana that many want to reach. It’s something big in the eCommerce world and unraveling it is a long journey. We’ll take you on it with us. Stay tuned for our next article on omnichannel and give us your opinion on this one in the comments below.

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