Looking at recent research on the progress of ecommerce retailing, not only has it consistently grown over the last years, but its growth is nowhere close to slowing down.
Online and mobile sales have continued to grow, and businesses that were traditionally brick-and-mortar stores are putting in huge efforts to establish their presence in the ecommerce world. The statistics prove this – ecommerce sales are predicted to increase by over 9% each year, for the next five years.
Any business that isn’t moving toward an omnichannel retailing strategy will likely be left behind by its online savvy competitors. Learn the advantages of omnichannel selling below.
What is Omnichannel Selling?
Here’s a scenario that has likely happened: A customer comes into your brick-and-mortar store, finds the perfect pair of jeans, but realizes you don’t have their size in stock. What follows probably goes like this:
- You check in the back for additional stock, then call another location to see if they have what your customer wants.
- You both wait to see what the other store says.
- Next, one of two things will happen:
- The other location will have the size in stock and claim to hold them while the customer drives there to make the purchase.
- The other location doesn’t have the size, so you offer to order them and they’ll have to return to the store when the order comes in.
If this customer is a patient person, the scenario may not be too upsetting. However, the average customer today doesn’t want to wait. When a situation like this happens, the customer is likely to go to a competitor and make a purchase rather than be inconvenienced.
Omnichannel selling is a solution to this problem. To put it simply, omnichannel selling allows you to offer products through multiple channels – brick-and-mortar, online website, ecommerce marketplaces, etc. – while providing communication and real-time updates between those channels so that each channel has total visibility over inventory and other operational processes.
To illustrate this, let’s look at the jeans scenario again. If your store used omnichannel retailing, the customer experience would likely be very different. You’d be able to access the inventory of jeans in the customer’s size across all sales channels, and then have it same-day shipped from an in-stock location directly to their home.
How Can Ecommerce Businesses Benefit from Omnichannel Selling?
Using an omnichannel approach to selling can benefit businesses in numerous ways, not just the customer experience as shown in the above scenario. The following are a few to consider:
- Inventory Transparency – Because businesses that use the omnichannel method centralize data, they can see their inventory across all channels, creating a high level of inventory transparency. There are various advantages ecommerce sellers gain from this one feature.
- Decreased Shipping Costs – If a business can see all inventory across all warehouses or suppliers, then choosing the location that will be the least expensive to ship from is easy.
- More Fulfilled Orders – When the inventory of all sales channels is visible, sellers can potentially fulfill more orders. For example, if a shopper wants to purchase an out-of-stock product, the omnichannel seller can quickly check all their warehouses to see if the item can ship from an alternate location, saving a sale that could have been lost.
- Improved Forecasting – Having increased visibility of inventory, sales, and demand allows ecommerce sellers to accurately forecast both sales and restocking needs.
- Savings on Advertising and Marketing – Because advertising and marketing are becoming more and more data-driven, having an omnichannel system that centralizes all business information regarding customers’ buying habits can help lower spending on ad dollars.
- Lower Warehousing and Storage Costs – Using an omnichannel system that improves the accuracy of forecasting and ordering will result in less inventory sitting on shelves collecting dust – and storage fees.
- Increased Sales – Businesses that become omnichannel-enabled have a much simpler time adding additional sales channels to the mix. Because all information is centralized, products can easily be added to alternate marketplaces, online stores, and ecommerce platforms without complication.
What Makes a Good Omnichannel Retailing Strategy?
When you’re creating an ecommerce strategy, there are multiple aspects you must take into account. From listing and pricing to fulfillment and shipping, having a plan is crucial. Omnichannel selling is no different. In fact, it takes more effort since you’re dealing with online and offline sales. Here are some essential steps on how to develop your own omnichannel retailing strategy:
- Collect information – The first step is to use the data collected to obtain a baseline understanding of your customers’ interactions with your business. Analyzing the data collected by your ecommerce platform will let you know how and where customers are engaging, and the places where they may need more encouragement.
- Cover all the basics – Make sure you have a firm grasp of these features
- Search Engine Optimization
- Mobile-Friendly Website
- Social Media Marketing
- Targeted Email Marketing
- Centralize your business operations – Create an environment in which all parts of your business are visible to each other, rather than being organized in a system of siloed channels. All departments of your business must be able to work closely together for an omnichannel strategy to be established.
- Discover your customers’ paths – Map out a typical customer’s journey through the buying process. Consider all the ways customers engage with your brand and make purchases, online and off. Start small, by picking the most typical customer paths to study, from inquiry or search to point of sale.
- Continuously review and adjust – Omnichannel retailing and marketing can’t be set on autopilot. You have to be diligent in reviewing your strategies and tweaking them to fit current trends, market evolution, and customer preferences.
What is Omnichannel Inventory Software?
Omnichannel software can alleviate inventory-related issues such as overselling and can provide better business insights and reporting than manual processes alone. This is especially important when you’re managing products across multiple channels. Now some tools only cover online marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, and eBay, but omnichannel selling software can sync sales orders and update inventory from transactions that occurred offline, such as at trade shows, craft fairs, physical stores, etc.
Sometimes (but not always) omnichannel tools will have more robust functions and integrations. So even if you’re unsure about testing sales out ‘on the road’ or in a store, an omnichannel tool can still accomplish everything you need it to, and give you further options for growth down the line.
Use Omnichannel Selling to Stay in the Lead
You can see that there are some really great benefits that will both increase revenue and lower expenses when you utilize an omnichannel system. Shoppers’ expectations of quick, convenient, and easy online shopping are only going to continue to grow along with their offline shopping expectations. Online merchants following an omnichannel strategy are preparing for the future of ecommerce. Achieve better customer satisfaction and increase your store’s success with omnichannel selling.
Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published November 2017 and was updated in March 2021 to reflect more accurate and relevant information.