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From mobile, desktop, and social to brick-and-mortar stores, direct-to-consumer (D2C) websites, and third-party retailers, consumers have a wide range of options for how, when, and where to shop.
But how a brand engages them along their journey can differ depending on whether the company uses a multichannel versus omnichannel ecommerce strategy.
The two approaches may sound similar, but there are unique differences in how they affect the customer experience. Here we'll break down both the advantages, disadvantages, and how they work together.
Multichannel and omnichannel ecommerce both involve using multiple channels to engage consumers along the customer journey. However, multichannel is more channel-focused, while omnichannel is more customer-centric.
Multichannel commerce increases your brand’s visibility across several customer touchpoints. It allows you to tailor and focus your strategy on a specific channel, which creates more accountability in terms of performance.
For all these benefits, multichannel also comes with certain disadvantages. A multichannel strategy often reinforces existing channel silos because each channel is treated independently, with its own strategy, performance metrics, and distinct customer experience.
With multichannel ecommerce, a brand’s Facebook strategy will be separate and apart from its strategy on Amazon or its D2C site, so a consumer moving across these channels as they get closer to a purchasing decision will get a disconnected experience.
It’ll feel like they’re starting from ground zero every time they land a new channel, with no sense of familiarity or understanding of their unique preferences — almost like visiting someone’s home multiple times and having to reintroduce yourself again and again.
Along with reinforcing channel silos that obscure a brand’s understanding of its customers, multichannel ecommerce also creates data silos. Whether crucial customer information is stuck in a walled garden like Facebook or kept in a separate customer data platform (CDP) or customer relationship management system (CRM), these silos make it more difficult for brands to achieve a holistic view of their customers.
To deliver a more connected customer experience, you need to understand where a customer is in their journey and how they’ve already engaged with your brand on different channels, and then bring all these insights together to unify their experience across all these touchpoints and lead to more efficient conversions.
This is exactly what omnichannel ecommerce does.
A modern consumer uses an average of six touchpoints during their shopping experience, which means they gather information from multiple channels to determine whether to buy your product. They may discover your furniture company on Instagram but cross-check Google Shopping for pricing and availability before they eventually purchase their new sectional or end table from your brick-and-mortar store because they need to touch, feel, and see the product before they make such a big purchase.
With omnichannel ecommerce, all these interactions are connected, and a customer will get a seamless experience regardless of where they interact with your brand.
Research shows consumers who seamlessly engage with your brand across multiple channels often turn into repeat customers. One Harvard study of 46,000 shoppers found that omnichannel consumers spent more with a brand, were more likely to recommend that brand to friends and family and shopped 23% more in store with the brand compared to consumers who only engaged with a company on one channel.
For example, a customer who signs up to receive email discounts after landing on your website from Instagram might see a sponsored ad for the same product they browsed but didn’t buy on social when they go to an online retailer. They still decide not to buy your product, but they search for sustainable furniture companies on Google later on.
Rather than continuing to serve them the same product content days later, you serve them a pre-roll ad about your brand’s story when they’re browsing YouTube videos. Through the ad, they learn your company only uses sustainable and ethically-sourced materials and that you donate a share of your annual revenue to fund educational and environmental projects in underserved communities. These values align with the consumer, so they finally decide to make a purchase.
As this example shows, an omnichannel strategy allows you to provide a more relevant, contextual experience that increases conversions and fosters greater customer loyalty through higher-level personalization.
Omnichannel offers clear benefits for companies and consumers, so why aren’t more brands doing it? For one, it’s difficult to achieve and sustain without the right platform partner.
Companies that enter the omnichannel world must optimize their tech stack to bring all their customer intelligence together to achieve a 360-degree view of all their customer interactions.
Today, it’s difficult to identify customers across devices and channels to create unified customer profiles, apply analytics to understand what customers want, and deploy this information in near real-time and contextual ways as they swiftly move across various online and offline channels.
When the customer journey was more linear, it was much easier for brands to tailor their experience and carefully guide them further down the funnel.
That’s no longer the case today. Omnichannel ecommerce now requires brands to be more adept at customer segmentation and understanding where customers are in their journey to deliver personalized, immersive content that speaks to them within this context.
Executing an effective omnichannel strategy requires breaking down the channel, data, and organizational silos. A commerce experience management (CommerceXM) platform can help brands overcome these barriers to deliver a more unified customer experience.
A CommerceXM platform can bring your brand’s multichannel and omnichannel strategy together to deliver a seamless experience at every stage of the customer journey.
It allows you to manage all your product and operational data and marketing content in one place, creating a single source of truth for customer and product information, enabling you to deploy this data in dynamic ways across multiple channels simultaneously.
Brands often encounter challenges with product accuracy across their own sites, mobile apps, and third-party sites like Amazon, Target, and Walmart.
However, the right platform allows you to better manage and repurpose digital assets to meet specific channel requirements while giving you access to analytics that optimize internal workflows and change processes to increase conversions across these channels. You also can leverage this platform to create and scale enhanced content, like comparison charts, videos, and graphics. This is critical because enhanced content can increase conversions.
Whether your brand is focused on a multichannel or omnichannel strategy, a CommerceXM platform can marry both strategies to improve your product and shopping experience.
Customers want to feel like you’ve taken the time to get to know them — whether they walk through your brick-and-mortar storefront, one of your digital storefronts, or that of your retail partners. With the right tools and technologies, you can make their experience feel more familiar, so they don’t have to go through the trouble of reintroducing themselves all over again on a different channel.
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