Fintech Insights

What is omnichannel retailing? The power of omnichannel commerce

February 21, 2022

“Omni” here is intended to mean “everywhere.” And the omnichannel retailing customer experience is designed to go everywhere a shopper goes. It’s not just multichannel. It’s the experience of often seamless shopping via all available channels, from smartphone to brick-and-mortar store to desktop. Add in new technology and business innovations, and today’s customer experience is being lifted to a whole new level of omnichannel commerce.

Today, omnichannel customer experience that could include mobile ordering and onsite pickup, mobile wallet payments, digital loyalty programs, inventory checks before shopping in-store, mobile apps, product reviews, product comparisons, online returns, shopping cart “wish lists,” and more.

Stores everywhere and of every size and type are getting creative to deliver a consistent, integrated, convenient shopping experience. And more and more modern-day customers expect to flow easily from one device to another, and from one location to another. They expect to have answers and information at their fingertips, and to have it all without a hitch.

What does omnichannel mean in retail?

One of the best ways to illustrate how omnichannel works in retail is through the consumer experience. Take “Layla” for example.

Layla is shopping for some new running shoes. She checks on her mobile device and, after browsing online reviews, finds that her favorite shoe store carries the three pairs that she likes best. There’s a store across town, but do they carry all of the shoes in Layla’s size? She goes onto the store’s app and sees that, yes, that store does have her size in stock.

Layla drives to the store, tries on the shoes, and selects two pairs for purchase. She remembers she has a loyalty coupon from the store saved in the app. Layla pulls it up, and the cashier waves the code near the POS, automatically discounting her shoes. Then Layla uses her phone to access her mobile wallet, and, with another wave near the store’s POS, she pays for her shoes and receives additional loyalty rewards.

Once Layla gets the shoes home, she decides she’d like to return a pair. Rather than drive all the way across town to the store, Layla goes to her desktop and visits the online store, prints out a free return label and drops off her package at the nearby post office. Layla then taps on the shoe store’s mobile app and reviews them for their seamless, easy buying experience––five stars.

5 things a small business can do to elevate the omnichannel customer experience

For the sake of discussion, let’s assume you have a brick-and-mortar location, as well as an online store. If yours is a small business, you may not have your inventory available for your customers to view, and you may not have your own mobile app.

But, there are a number of things small-to-medium-sized businesses can incorporate into the browsing and buying experience that will keep customers coming back. Here are five:

1) Mobile site optimization

Online shopping continues to grow, and mobile purchases are growing rapidly. Consumers expect the desktop and mobile experiences to be the same or similar. So, if you haven’t already, it’s time to optimize how your customers experience your website on a mobile device. Then, integrate your business’s mobile and desktop experience with the instore experience, and you’re on your way to omnichannel retailing.

2) Mobile purchases, onsite pick-up

A customer may be sitting at a coffee shop when they buy an item from your online store, and they may want that item immediately. If you can have the item ready for them when they arrive at your store, and top it off with curbside delivery, you may have just won a customer for life.

3) Easy returns

Consumers are more likely to buy online if free delivery and free returns are a part of the deal. They also want returns to be easy, and they want options. If customers can choose to print a return shipping label or return at the store, you’ve just given them the benefit of choice and convenience. And who doesn’t want that?

4) Digital wallet payments

If you have an EMV-enabled point of sale device, you likely have near field communication (NFC) built in. NFC allows digital wallet payments like Apple Pay, Google Android Pay, Samsung Pay and others. A simple wave of a smartphone near your device is about all it takes for customers to make a purchase with a digital wallet. Apple Pay can also be used with a simple click on the new MacBook Pro computer. In-store or online, accepting digital wallet payments makes life easy for everybody––your business included.

5) Digital loyalty program

Long gone are those dog-eared customer punch cards. Keep customers returning to your website and your store with loyalty rewards. Consumers expect to be rewarded via an app, email, text, or on a business’ website.

You can entice customers using all types of rewards––even in real time. If you know a customer is nearby through the location of his or her mobile device, you can send a reward coupon for stopping in to your store right now.

Omnichannel experiences and commerce are basically those in which your store goes everywhere your customer goes. The goal is to connect all of your customers’ touch points with your business in order to provide an exceptional shopping experience.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in July 2019. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.