Going Omnichannel to Drive Sales: Rethinking retail and e-commerce


Consumer goods companies are engaged on daily wars against each other to control larger market shares; and this competition is projected to intensify into the future. This war is waged on three major fronts. On the first front, retailers face competition from their suppliers who have finally decided to adopt the direct-to-consumer (DTC) route. These suppliers are now “woke” and they have realized  DTC enables them to be in more control of their brand experience; and they can gather important insights from the customer interaction among many other benefits. On the second front, consumer-packaged goods (CPGs) manufacturers also face competition from retailers who have been ascendingly embracing their private labels. The third front of this war is waged by mega online stores such as Amazon which are threatening the existence of both retailers and CPG companies. These mega stores provide greater customer experience, faster delivery timelines and convenient returns, among other perks that their incumbents are unable to competitively meet.

This market share acquisition and retention among  war among consumer goods companies is a fierce one. Companies have no choice but to re-invent their offering to defend themselves and capture new opportunities that arise from the ever-evolving market. They need to either evolve or die. As the companies evolve, their offering many a times ends up being costly, milking their margins even drier. Adding various layers of digital marketing channels to maximize customer acquisition might sound promising. However, more often than not these attempts end being disappointing. It is not uncommon for companies to carry out various media marketing campaigns and not result in significant sales. A mixture of traditional and digital channels (multichannel) is not enough to reap the results the business intends to achieve. Customer behavior has evolved. The superior way to win in the dynamic current and future markets is the omnichannel way. Rewards will come in multiples once traditional and digital channels are fused into a solid omnichannel offering.

While multichannel marketing is a blend of disjoint marketing campaigns; omnichannel serves to be more customer-centric, providing the customer with a seamless shopping experience. For example, in multichannel marketing, a company may undertake several campaigns on social media, billboards, and retail stores. However, the company cannot isolate which of the campaigns got them a particular purchase. A customer could have known your product through a social media ad and decided to make the purchase in-store, after first trying out the product. In this case, the store has no idea how that purchase came to be made. The two channels are completely disconnected as they do not share any data. In addition, customers get different experiences depending on the channel.

In omnichannel marketing however, the customer starts their journey through one platform and ends it through another, creating one seamless experience. Even though there could be various channels targeting the customer, all channels work together using the same process, systems and same data. As a result, the customer’s experience is frictionless at every point in their journey; drawing them closer and closer to making the purchase. What’s more, customers’ data is not lost at any point in the journey. Not only does the customer build on their journey towards making the purchase; but the company is also well aware of the exact point where the customer is on the journey, and hence it eliminates the need to repeat any information that the customer was already made aware of.

In a world where both the traditional and digital worlds are fused with the customer at the core, the capacity to unlock more sales as customers continuously build upon making a purchase is limitless. Studies have shown that an omnichannel experience boosts customer acquisition by 30%. This is a big win for a company especially when every percentage gross margin matters.

How online retailers can build an optimal configuration of an omnichannel experience to grow their sales

To begin with, each company’s optimal configuration of its omnichannel experience will be highly dependent on its unique position and the environment they operate in. However, the general rule is that you need to find out where your customers hang out and shop. Proper identification of which platforms your customers frequent is key to focusing your efforts there. A good place to discover your popular channels would be Google Analytics’s “acquisition” reports. This will give you an overview of how customers come to discover your business.

Once you’ve known where your customers reside, you need to convert all the touch points into being ‘shoppable’. If your customers are on Instagram, set up an Instagram shop to allow the customers to buy your products without leaving the platform. Big brands such as Nordstrom have adopted this despite having a dedicated online store and several physical stores. Of course, one key problem that might arise is customers purchasing products that may be out of stock. As a result, companies need to put in place measures to ensure that stock-keeping units are centrally monitored; something that BigCommerce has been able to solve.

Lastly, a smooth transition between the online and offline channels is critical and non-negotiable. This could be in the form of customers placing orders and then picking them up at the store. However, you need to have a dedicated area in the physical store for such customers. This will save online shoppers time as they will not be mixing in queues with physical store shoppers. Some brands such as Warby Parker have gone the extra mile to allow customers to order several products from their online store, have the customers try out the products at home, and finally pay for what they want to keep. Customers in this case do not have to go through multiple stages of the ordering, paying, returning the products they did not like and then pursue refunds.

Ultimately, a winning omnichannel experience strategy is more than just having multiple channels of sales. It is about centralizing all the efforts around the customer and maximizing every touch point.

Author: Dickson Ndoro