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What Is Omnichannel Retailing and Should You Be Doing It?

The prospect of becoming an omnichannel retailer certainly sounds appealing: a seamless buying experience, happy customers and increased sales. However, becoming one is easier said than done.

It’s not enough to sell your products on your website, through a mobile app and direct mail catalogs, to call yourself an omnichannel retailer. For you to earn this title, all of your customer data, technology, departments and decisions must be fully connected in order to provide the truly seamless experience that so many retailers are striving for.


There is an ever-increasing need for companies to create an omnichannel experience. Research conducted by Forrester found that 42% of customer service agents are unable to efficiently resolve customer issues due to disconnected systems, archaic user interfaces, and multiple applications. Moreover, Aberdeen Group discovered that brands with effective omnichannel engagement programs keep 89% of customers. Therefore retailers would be wise to embrace an omnichannel culture in order to ensure they create a customer-base that is satisfied and highly profitable.

What is omnichannel retailing?

Omnichannel retailing is selling products in a way that provides shoppers with an absolutely seamless purchasing experience regardless of the channel they are on e.g. website, brick-and-mortar store, phone, etc.

In contrast to multi-channel retailing, which simply consists of distributing your campaign via multiple channels, an omnichannel approach is about pushing an offer or message that is consistent regardless of the channel.

The importance of being an omnichannel retailer 

Let’s say that you are a retailer and a customer is using your mobile app to browse a specific pair of shoes. They have been considering these shoes for some time, and you recognize they have not purchased before, so you present them with a 20% off voucher to encourage a first time purchase. The customer then goes in store to try the shoes on and decides they are a good fit. They claim they have seen a 20% off voucher to one of your sales assistants – who has no knowledge of the offer!

It transpires that the customer was only being offered the 20% off voucher based on their personalized browsing habits. But because your online and offline experiences are disconnected, the store has no knowledge of this! The assistant looks on the website, and because it does not connect to the personalized experience, the offer does not appear. Likewise, the customer attempts to find the offer on their phone but the devices have not been linked to the user effectively.

As a result, the customer walks away frustrated without purchasing and you have lost that sale and potentially many more, thereby highlighting the importance of becoming an omnichannel and connected organization.

It’s clear that customers want a unified shopping experience across all channels - there is little doubt about this. For example, they also want to know that if they submit a complaint via email, the customer service advisor they are speaking to on the phone shortly after will understand the issue without them having to explain it again. An omnichannel strategy will enable this!

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How to become an omnichannel retailer


Customers make purchases not just through brick-and-mortar stores, but also through apps, websites and even social media. Whilst each of these platforms are capturing more customer data than ever before, marketers are struggling to manage this data in a way that can be used for effective marketing campaigns and messages.

All of these disparate data sources and channels need to be connected in order to provide personalized promotions and omnichannel real-time offers to drive the customer experience and encourage sales. So, how do you achieve this?

Well, becoming an omnichannel retailer requires you to take two main steps:

1.      Unify your customer data

It’s imperative to ensure your brick-and-mortar stores offer a seamless experience and connect with your digital experience. Both your online and offline experiences need to complement each other, so each touchpoint must be unified in order to bring an omnichannel experience to your customers.

By unifying your customer data in one centralized location, you can create a Single Customer View based on cleansed, deduplicated data. This 360 view ensures that every department, team, campaign and customer interaction within your organization is using the same consistent data and there is one record for every single customer.

2.      Unify your marketing channels

Unifying just your customer data simply isn’t enough! True omnichannel retailing also combines the data coming back from every channel – this means every click, open, like, share, purchase, web visit and even complaint.

If you’re executing your email campaigns through an email platform, your SMS campaigns through another tool and your customer service team is using a disconnected CRM system, none of these are integrated. This is not conducive to an omnichannel approach and therefore you need a centralized hub from which to unify all your channels.

By integrating all your marketing channels into one central decision system, you can execute next-best actions and automate marketing campaigns that allow every channel to trigger every other channel. This means that if a customer does something at one touchpoint, it impacts everything else, giving you a real-time, omnichannel view of your customer, and provides the tools to better understand attribution.

Omnichannel retailing – More than what meets the eye

It’s important to remember that becoming an omnichannel organization is far more than just unifying your data and technology systems. There is a cultural implication that needs to be addressed and there must be company-wide buy in, ensuring that your digital and real-world experiences are truly integrated and consistent.

But overall, the best place to start is by merging your online and offline customer data and unifying every touchpoint and channel. This will give you the solid foundation you need from which to provide a seamless customer experience and it will be your first step to becoming a truly omnichannel retailer.

Ebook: The Ultimate Guide to Single Customer View


To discover more about how a Single Customer View can be used to enhance your omnichannel experience by unifying, cleansing and deduplicating your customer data, have a read of our Ultimate Guide to Single Customer View ebook! 

Download now

Topics: omnichannel