How to build the best omnichannel retailing strategy in 2022

When it comes to shopping, most people are inherently lazy. We’d love our browsing and buying, whether online or offline, to be the equivalent of reclining poolside while being served tasty drinks and snacks. We expect to be courted by human sales reps and non-human digital assistants alike. We’ve gotten spoiled by having personalized expert help finding what we want (and what we didn’t even know we wanted) and being able to do it in a supremely relaxed fashion. 

The pandemic’s impact on ecommerce

It’s safe to say that ecommerce has emerged from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic with a substantially different look and feel than it sported a couple of years ago. Digital retailers have been busy making “retail therapy” increasingly effortless. The pandemic has accelerated certain changes in online selling, including the use of omnichannel retailing. The omnichannel experience is focused on creating a seamless shopping experience that’s consistent and well-integrated personalized shopping experience from start to finish, whether we’re browsing in the company’s brick-and-mortar store, reading product information in online marketplaces, clicking its ad links on social media platforms, or engaging with it through some other sales channel. 

Cross-channel merchandising undoubtedly creates a seamless customer experience. It means that regardless of whether people are using digital channels or offline options, they’re treated to a consistent brand and content marketing messaging. Regardless of how they’re interacting with your company, their personal information is accessed from a central knowledge base for consistency throughout the buying-process touchpoints. 

Who could argue with the fact that the buzzword “omnichannel” has lived up to the “seamless experience” hype? Perhaps companies that don’t have the retail sales budget to bother with it. However, omnichannel, arguably the future of retail, is proving to be a conundrum for businesses that aren’t keeping up in the customer-delight department. So with the advent of increasingly effortless omnichannel retailing, business executives who want success, or even to simply stay competitive in their sector, must consider the upside of upgrading their companies’ many-channel user experiences.

Already embracing multichannel for a better customer experience? One way to start getting on track for higher profitability is to add breadth to your omnichannel approach so that your customers can easily find and interact with you through your various channels.

According to a study involving almost 46,000 shoppers that was cited in the Harvard Business Review, 73% of shoppers at one company used more than one channel during their shopping experience. “Even more compelling,” say the researchers, is that “with every additional channel they used, the shoppers spent more money in the store.”

Hmm. So how can you start upgrading your company’s omnichannel interactions for customer satisfaction in 2022 and beyond?

First, consider how well you’re handling these three key components of the omnichannel approach:

  • Click and collect
  • Return in store
  • Customer-loyalty apps 

In the click-and-collect model, meant to simplify in-store buying, consumers click to choose or buy something online, then go pick up the item at a retail store or another physical location. 

The return-in-store option lets people buy their items online and, if they have an issue with the item, easily return it to a physical store, eliminating the hassle of shipping it back (and, in many cases, the perceived outrage of having to pay a return shipping charge). 

Loyalty apps (typically mobile apps for ease of use while on the go) make it easy for consumers to buy items and simultaneously enjoy promotions. For instance, the Peet’s Coffee app allocates a “point” for every dollar spent, plus lets customers conveniently pay by having their QR code scanned. 

Together, these features are helping create an enhanced overall experience for consumers who’d prefer to be doted on and not have to lift a finger off of their figurative drink glass other than to lazily press “Buy.”

What is omnichannel retailing?

The omnichannel retail strategy is focused on enhancing experiences in offline channels such as in-store experiences as well as online shopping experiences, whether they occur on an ecommerce site, through social media, or in email marketing. The aim is to give customers a consistent, highly personalized experience no matter how they interact with the business.

The omnichannel strategy isn’t new. It was conceived almost a decade ago, paving the way for convenience features such as being able to reserve a product and then pick it up in the store. Significant progress occurred just before the pandemic, in 2018, as click-and-collect was utilized by 40% of consumers. 

Offering a cheaper — and often faster — solution to standard product delivery, click and collect represented a highly scalable option for retail businesses. Since then, the rollout of omnichannel commerce has begun to touch every aspect of the customer experience — from marketing to sales to the customer journey to checkout, and all the way into post-sales and loyalty. 

A modern omnichannel approach includes interaction with the customer through: 

  • Mobile devices
  • The mobile web
  • Social media
  • Ecommerce websites
  • Main-street brick-and-mortar stores
  • Email campaigns 
  • Chatbots 
  • Dedicated shopping apps 
  • Smart assistants (Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri)
  • Traditional advertising

Building a winning omnichannel strategy

Despite the potential of omnichannel marketing, creating an omnichannel shopping strategy that improves customer engagement can be a challenge. With all the advances in retail technology, there are numerous possibilities and no one-size-fits-all omnichannel retail experience that works for every organization’s business model. 

How can you figure out where to start? Think in depth about your demographic. 

Nailing the demographic

An effective omnichannel strategy requires extremely accurate customer data. If you know your customer inside out, then you should be able to predict exactly where they’ll first interact with your brand, how much content they’ll read, watch, or listen to before making a decision, and how you can best attempt to influence them across multiple platforms. 

It’s likely that you collect user data on your website by using cookies, and that you monitor your social media engagement through dedicated dashboards. But for an omnichannel retailing strategy to really work, you need to be able to pool this data. 

That’s where first-rate content management, knowledge management, and intelligent search come in. And how’s mobile integrated in your multi-channel strategy?

Going mobile first

In a mobile-first world, it’s important that your mobile site is in tip-top shape so that people can quickly jump on it while they’re on the go and find what they need. That means they enjoy a smooth browsing experience from their phone, which could help you generate more revenue. 

However, there’s a more urgent reason to double down on perfecting your users’ mobile experiences. According to PYMNTS, almost half of smartphone owners use them while they’re shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. Before buying, people often like to check the product reviews, compare prices, and maybe find out what other store locations carry the item. If you provide the right options, mobile friendliness could win you prospectively loyal customers who are at that moment standing in a competitor’s physical store, ready to make a purchase. That’s how powerful a streamlined omnichannel strategy can be, and it’s only one aspect of the prospective shopping journey.

Optimizing the customer journey

Customer behavior has changed dramatically in certain ways during the pandemic years. For example, 75% of US consumers have tried out a new shopping behavior due to economic pressure, stores closing, or priorities changing. These changes have had a huge impact on brand loyalty as consumers have switched to private-label store brands and major brands that they trust for their purchase decisions. 

With this in mind, you may need to adapt your expected customer journey to meet the unique needs of your customers. 

For example, let’s say your company sells products for babies —  bottles, sterilizers, and formula. You may find that an increasing number of people in your target audience of parents are using voice search to look for your products, as they rarely have the time or free hands to search on their phone or computer. 

So in this case, focusing on voice search optimization could increase your brand loyalty and revenue. If your customers then want to pop into your physical store for more formula, or order it on their computer while their baby is napping, omnichannel marketing would ensure that their personal preferences and other data are carried over to the store, where their store pickup experience can then be consistently personalized. 

Be consistent

Why are consistent experiences so important? Ensuring consistent experiences in the store, online, on social media, and while using smart assistants enhances your professional image. It helps build a strong bond with your customers and elevate your brand.

To achieve this consistent experience, you need to bring together all the user data from back-office programs and ensure that your visitors’ personalized experiences are synchronized across your available channels. You also need to make sure that your different channels have the same look and feel. If your high-street store and online store don’t have the same feel, for instance customers may notice the lack of attention to detail. Without consistency, they may be hesitant to fully trust you.

A hub for your omnichannel strategy

Since the start of the pandemic, if there’s one thing an omnichannel retailing strategy requires, it’s non-siloed data. If your channels are pulling from different data silos, it will be difficult to create a consistent experience for your customers. If your online channel doesn’t “know about” someone’s in-store purchases, for instance, they may be turned off by how disorganized you seem about your professional customer relationship with them and their already-established loyalty.

One way to create an effective omnichannel marketing strategy is by instituting an Algolia search and personalization engine, which can:

  • Pool your customer data from different apps, programs, and databases to create a unified search-and-explore experience for customers 
  • Tailor recommendations to your customers based on the data from all your back-office systems, from CRM to CSM 
  • Through utilizing AI, let potential customers search for prices while they’re on the move (or in competitors’ stores)
  • Provide the option of voice search functionality to customers who use Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, iOS, Android, Chrome, or Edge 
  • Create a consistent personalized experience for every customer

To find out more about our omnichannel-strategy-enhancing features, contact the Algolia team. You can also do an easy free trial and see how well we can help you get your omnichannel customer experience into great shape.

About the authorCatherine Dee

Catherine Dee

Search and Discovery writer

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