How to Prepare your Business for Omni-Channel Commerce


The latest buzz in e-tailing is omni-channel commerce – the concept that retailers should provide a seamless customer experience across all devices, making every interaction your customer has with your brand a holistic sales opportunity. Whether researching or shopping on their computers, mobile devices or at your brick-and-mortar store, consumers now expect to relate with your products, services and marketing. So how do you meet the new consumer demands? Let’s take a closer look.

Why go omni-channel?

As opposed to multi-channel commerce, which perceives different sales channels as distinct marketing avenues, omni-channel commerce enables consumers to interact with your brand as a whole regardless of the point of contact. Central to omni-channel is the idea that it’s up to the customer to choose how to buy from you and that they should be able to do it through whichever channel they want and from whichever channel they find you.

For merchants, in the age of the cloud, both the technology and the infrastructure are in place to provide customers with a seamless experience – meaning, both product and customer data remain consistent and specific across all platforms.

But the real reason you need to go omni-channel is that it’s not just the latest new marketing technique (it wasn’t dreamed up by industry gurus) – it’s simply the way shopping habits among the public are developing. Omni-channel commerce is what consumers want and expect from you.

The fragmented sales and marketing tactics of multi-channel commerce mean that businesses are splitting their resources into what amounts to several similar but channel-specific brands, while in omni-channel commerce, the full force of your marketing can be unified across all channels. Marketing in any single channel benefits brand awareness in all of them and increases consumer confidence overall.

ML-Display-Stats-Jan-2014-copy-300x262How to go omni-channel

The concept that different channels consist of different audiences is false. Consumers take a multi-device path to purchase. Brick-and-mortar stores are a component of the supply chain in which, even when purchases are in the store, they are researched using other devices (webrooming) or vice versa (showrooming).

Instead of perceiving your brand in terms of specific touch-points, you need to maintain consistency in your products and promotions across all sales avenues. For example, logos and colour schemes on your website need to match your product displays in store. Similarly, prices (including sales) need to be the same regardless of the channel.

Omni-channel integration can be divided into two categories:

  • Device2Web: The consistency of branding and marketing across all connected devices, such as a responsive web design that allows online shoppers to experience the full scope of your brand whether they are browsing on a phone, tablet or desktop computer.
  • Brick2Click: The consistency of the consumer experience both online and in-store, such as a purchase history that is shared across channels and customer support that is available in any channel regardless of where the purchase was made.

There are a number of ways to achieve omni-channel consistency and integration, including:

Real-time data and inventory

Omni-channel marketing is consumer-first, not channel-first. The secret to success lies in data management. Consumers expect you to remember their progress as they jump from one device to another. Therefore, sharing data in real-time across all channels is integral to providing a satisfying customer experience. For example, when you sell a product in-store, your inventory should update in real-time on all channels. Additionally, if the customer has an account with you, that purchase should appear in their purchase history online, even though the purchase was made in-store.

Personalised marketing

Gathering data about your customers allows you to shift from channel-based marketing to customer-based marketing. Remembering what’s in someone’s shopping cart is only one step in personalising their customer experience. You should also followup on incomplete purchases with personalised emails and let them know about promotions and offers based on their location, shopping habits, history or social network preferences.

QR codes

Rather than resisting showrooming habits, encourage them. Add QR codes to in-store product displays so that customers can use their mobile devices to collect further information, read product reviews, etc. This encourages customers in your store to go directly to your website and stay engaged with your brand and products, rather than leaving your “environment” by googling information they’re looking for. Another way to engage with and convert more customers is by adding QR codes to your store window displays – this is your chance to entice passing foot traffic to your website even if they were just casually window shopping without any intention of stepping foot inside your store.

In-store pickup and return

Part of the draw of omni-channel commerce is that it allows the entire business to operate as a single unit, rather than being segmented into separate online and physical stores. By giving your customer the option to pick up an online purchase at your store (or to return an online purchase to your store):

  • It offers the customer more control over their shopping experience and preferences, and therefore increases the likelihood of conversion;
  • It generates more brand awareness and loyalty by adding a physical dimension to the online experience;
  • It brings more customers into your store, opening up another avenue for marketing.

Staff training

Digitally-savvy shoppers are researching their purchases before entering your store. They come to you already well-informed about your products and prices and they expect you to provide them with even more information. In a Retail Systems Research study, 82% of respondents said the role of retail staff in customer service is more important than ever, so a successful approach will require knowledgeable, well-trained employees.

Click here to learn about app-based training

It’s an investment

Omni-channel integration requires an investment of both time and money, but it’s one that’s bound to pay off since omni-channel shoppers outspend single-channel shoppers by almost 50%. To prepare your business properly, inter-departmental communication needs to be smooth and robust so that brand consistency and marketing strategy are strong and well-understood across the company.

It’s an investment in success and Why Online Retailers are Embracing Omni-Channel Commerce. For more of the latest news and advice in the world of omni-channel retail, subscribe to the DalPay Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Why Online Retailers are Embracing Omni-Channel Commerce


The internet is naturally memetic – ideas replicate and spread among groups of people with mutual interests. These ideas are called memes and the most successful ones transcend their local group and spread around the world. The e-commerce industry is certainly no stranger to memes and the latest “contagious” idea is that of the omni-channel consumer.

Omni-channel is an evolution of multi-channel. While multi (meaning many) refers to the importance for retailers to communicate with their customers through a multitude of channels, omni (meaning all) places the emphasis on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels. In other words:

  • Multi-channel: Many channels, distinct from each other and managed differently so that customers have their experience tailored based on whether they’re shopping in-person or online and whether they’re using a laptop, tablet or smartphone.
  • Omni-channel: All channels, providing the same products and services so that customers can fully experience the brand regardless of their chosen method of shopping or browsing.

OmnichannelJust another buzzword?

Defining omni-channel marketing is still a work-in-progress. Industry analysts agree that it’s the future of commerce, but they don’t all agree with how exactly to describe it. Part of the reason for this is that omni-channel commerce didn’t start as a business concept or marketing strategy, it was actually invented by the consumer.

The relationship people have with their devices has changed. Because cloud computing and software-as-a-service infrastructure have become the norm and the public has grown accustomed to them, people now expect to have a seamless online experience independent of the channel.

For example: Say you are browsing on your smartphone while on the bus. You’ve been meaning to get a pair of professional headphones and you find just the right pair from the online store of a local music retail chain. You add it to your cart just before you get off the bus. When you get home, you visit the same website on your laptop and see the headphones sitting in your cart. They’re a little expensive though so you decide to sleep on it.

By morning you’ve forgotten about the headphones. A couple days later you receive an email from the store reminding you that you have an item sitting in your shopping cart. They’re offering free shipping if you add more items to your order, but you can’t afford that so you check the in-store stock and discover that the store closest to you is carrying the headphones. You head to the store and sure enough, the headphones are the same price as online but you’ve saved yourself the shipping costs.

This is an example of well-executed omni-channel marketing:

  • They remembered the customer’s choices across different devices.
  • They followed up with a personalised email to the customer.
  • Their products and pricing were consistent across channels, including in-store.

Today, people expect to have the same services, prices and customer experience regardless of the shopping channel or device they choose – and they’re right to do so. This is what we call the omni-channel consumer.

In some ways, omni-channel marketing is a natural development of multi-channel marketing, though in others it marks a significant change of direction. While e-commerce is and seems poised to remain the preferred term for the industry, the line between online and traditional commerce has blurred. Merchants have to abandon old black-and-white ideas such as e-commerce vs. m-commerce and online vs. in-store.

Sales avenues that were once totally separate are now converging. E-commerce and m-commerce are no longer distinct because consumers don’t view their devices as distinct channels – they don’t expect there to be any difference in their online experience.

multi-device shopping

Brick-and-mortar businesses also can’t deny the influence of digital channels. In-store sales informed by online searches are four times higher than total e-commerce sales twitterbuttonbig and the line between digital and physical sales is further blurring as the popularity near-field communication (NFC) payments rises, allowing people to pay for goods in-person with their e-wallets and smartphones.

Why omni-channel marketing works

Online retailers are embracing omni-channel commerce for one reason: because it works. It’s not a “new paradigm” dreamed up by a marketing guru, it’s simply how consumers choose to behave. What better marketing advice is there than to give people what they want?

Central to omni-channel commerce is the idea that it’s up to the customer to choose how to buy from you, so successful marketing is represented in how well businesses enable their customers to engage with their brand. Instead of perceiving their brand in terms of specific touch-points, marketers need to maintain consistency in their products and promotions across all sales avenues.

This strategy ultimately benefits overall brand awareness and builds loyalty. By providing the same experience to everyone, retailers allow their customers to experience the brand rather than the channel. Thus the brand becomes the focal point. The customer can be marketed to across all channels and the marketing efforts within any single channel benefit the brand as a whole.

Preparing for an omni-channel presence is a worthy investment for any business. For more information about how you can start taking your business omni-channel and  several invaluable marketing tips for how you can address today’s consumer, read our post about how to prepare your business for omni-channel commerce. You can also keep up to date with the latest posts by following us on our Facebook and Twitter pages and by subscribing to the DalPay Blog.