Same same but different: Omnichannel is more than a consistent experience

Consumers expect consistency across channels - but  this doesn't mean the same experience in each.

Recognising how, why, and when consumers use various channels at different stages of the shopping process gives you insight into how your channels should ‘match’, how they should differ, and how they should work together.  

Sales Channels

Consumers choose to shop in physical stores in order to:

  1. Examine products by touching, feeling, or trying them on (whether or not they have seen them online first)
  2. Get personal service or expert advice
  3. Experience and enjoy a brand
Shop Online

Conversely, the top reasons consumers give for shopping online are:

  1. Convenience
  2. Price
  3. Range

In my view, good execution of an omnichannel strategy involves three key elements

1. Consistency

It’s fundamental that prices, promotions and inventory availability is the same across channels to ensure a seamless shopping experience.

Likewise, consumers expect to be recognised regardless of where they interact with you, whether it’s in store, online or on their phone. This recognition includes their purchase history and how/when they earn, redeem or check loyalty points or gift cards. 

2. Differentiation

It’s usually not practical or profitable to carry every product in every physical store. Particularly when your business is geographically dispersed, products that sell like hot cakes in one store may sit on the shelves gathering dust in another.

To optimise inventory cost and streamline store displays, you’ll want to understand the profile of each of your stores and range the products most likely to sell by location. Then you can focus on creating a highly relevant experience with expert personal service that you achieve with staff training and by giving staff immediate access to relevant data.  

When it comes to casting your net wide, use your digital channels to showcase the depth and breadth of your range and capture consumer interest. 

3. Collaboration

To offer a great omnichannel experience, your channels need to work together and enable your consumer to make a purchase or transaction wherever they like. Here are a few channel collaborations to consider:  

  • Displaying individual store stock levels online: Seeing real time stock levels empowers your consumer to see what’s available where, which drives more foot traffic to one of your physical stores.  
  • Click and collect: This method gives consumers the convenience and range of online shopping, with the added bonus of no delivery charge or delivery delays because they can pick up their items in store when it’s convenient to them. 
  • Quote in store, buy online: When you’re selling a complex or high-priced item, it’s helpful to let your consumers visit you in store, discuss their options and get a quote. Then they can take that quote home or to work and when they’re ready, go to your website to buy the item online. 

When your systems are working together with the same information across channels, you'll please customers and create more goodwill towards your brand.  

Technology as enabler

In order to offer consistency, differentiation and collaboration, your underlying data and transaction structure needs to be consistent, while the interface needs to be tailored by channel. 

In store, your transaction interface needs to be simple, letting store staff focus on providing the exceptional service the consumer is there for, rather than on the mechanics of processing transactions.

Your online store needs a richer interface with more information on display so consumers can get all they need in one place. 

When you’ve got technology designed specifically for all these purposes, you can execute a polished front end as well as an efficient back end without duplication and high risk of errors.

A successful omnichannel strategy blends the alignment of this back end information with the differentiation of channels to create a cohesive and comprehensive brand experience.