Omnichannel shopping. Omnichannel commerce. Omnichannel retail. Whatever you want to call it, it’s quickly becoming consumers’ preferred shopping experience. And that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

But what is it?

In short, omnichannel shopping is a retail strategy where every touchpoint in the shopping journey is integrated seamlessly. The omnichannel approach delivers a consistent experience to the customer regardless of the channel, be it digital or in-store. In other words, omnichannel shopping ensures retailers deliver a consistent brand experience to shoppers, regardless of whether they’re browsing the store’s mobile app or pushing a cart down the aisle.

Still not clear?

One great example of omnichannel shopping in action is the Buy Online Pick Up in Store (BOPIS) service offered by many brick and mortar retailers. As the name suggests, a BOPIS purchase begins online with the customer making a purchase on the retailers’ mobile app or website. When the order is ready for pickup, the customer heads to the store and picks up the item. If the shopper opted for a curbside pickup, they might not even have to get out of their vehicle. The customer may receive text messages and alerts from the retailer’s digital platform telling them when the purchase is ready for pickup, directing them to a designated pickup location, sending them a QR code to scan upon pickup, or providing them with other instructions.

Along the entire shopping journey, from shopping online to picking up their purchase in-store, the retailer is in continuous communication with the shopper, facilitating an easy, convenient transaction. Each channel is working in lockstep with each other to guide the consumer through a seamless shopping journey. That closed loop is the crux of the omnichannel experience.

So how is this different from multichannel shopping?

Great question. Both multichannel and omnichannel shopping involve reaching customers through a variety of physical and digital channels. Traditionally, a multichannel operation may involve a retailer operating both brick and mortar stores and an online store or other ecommerce platform. Unlike omnichannel commerce, these channels are siloed off from each other, almost as if they are two separate businesses. A consumer’s online shopping experience is completely disconnected from the in-store experience and vice versa. In contrast, omnichannel shopping is a symbiotic hybrid of all channels, digital and physical alike.

Another key difference between multichannel and omnichannel shopping concerns data. Omnichannel retailers rely on sophisticated AI and data analytics collected from each individual shoppers’ behaviors across all channels. Omnichannel retailers then use those data insights to tailor a personalized shopping experience for each consumer based on their preferences and shopping behaviors. Because multichannels retailers’ channels act almost as completely separate entities, they can’t collect the same breadth and depth of data, which means they can’t personalize their shoppers’ journeys or meet consumers where they are.

Are you sure omnichannel shopping isn’t just a fad?

Although omnichannel purchases rose 50% during 2020, the holistic shopping experience is expected to thrive long past the pandemic as the digital and in-store shopping become increasingly intertwined. The vast majority of consumers research products online before heading to the store. An increasing number of shoppers are consulting their mobile devices while in-store, especially when an effective omnichannel shopping apparatus is sending them personalized offers, alerts, and coupons based on their shopping behaviors and preferences. Omnichannel retail makes consumers’ overall shopping experience easier, and increased convenience isn’t going out of style anytime soon.

If customer retention rates prove anything, it’s that consumers prefer omnichannel commerce. Research shows that retailers who invest in cohesive omnichannel capabilities retain an average of 89% of their customers compared to a 33% retention rate for retailers with weak omnichannel engagement. That means 56% of your customer base decides not to return if you haven’t implemented an effective omnichannel experience.

Curious to learn about how Swiftly can help you implement an effective omnichannel strategy that increases customer retention, overall trips to the store, and basket size at checkout? Get in touch to find out.