Omnichannel may be one of the most promising strategies in commerce, but only a handful of companies have mastered this art — and derived value from it. So, what are the elements behind a successful omnichannel strategy? From customer data and analytics to channel orchestration, here are all the fundamentals you need to know to meet your customers’ omnichannel expectations.
If your reaction to reading yet another article on omnichannel commerce is an eye-roll or a shrug, don’t worry: You’re not alone! Omnichannel, alongside other overused business terms like innovation or customer experience, has been around for a long time. Many “experts” toss around outlandish claims and definitions, leading to wild misconceptions of what omnichannel is and how it works. Often, content found online about this elusive topic is focused on multichannel strategies, like adding a new channel (think social media or virtual reality) to customer experiences. Plugging yet another channel is, however, only part of what omnichannel is about.
So, what is omnichannel? In a nutshell, it comprises two elements: One, customers use the channels they’re comfortable with. And two, they seamlessly switch channels without disruption across the user journey. As a result, brands can capitalize on fluid shopping experiences, convert more sales and increase revenue streams. It may sound straightforward enough, but the reality is that, for most brands, bringing this “omnichannel dream” to life has proven to be a challenging journey.
As consumer expectations evolve, omnichannel commerce seeks to create a holistic and seamless experience that revolves around the customer's needs and preferences. Indeed, with consumers’ expectations in perpetual metamorphosis, brands face immense pressure to deliver cohesive customer experiences. The digital shift accelerated by COVID-19 is also likely to persist, with customers continuing to shop online due to their positive buying experiences during lockdowns.
The million-dollar question is, how to turn the omnichannel concept into practice? And how to leverage the undeniable benefits omnichannel can bring to your business? To amplify seamless customer experiences across channels, here are three (out of six) core principles for a successful omnichannel strategy.Download the Omnichannel Playbook to unlock all 6 principles
Principle #1 — Customer data and analytics
Achieving your omnichannel vision is intrinsically connected with customer data and analytics in order to personalize and optimize customer experiences.
Creating a single view of customer data is crucial for your omnichannel and personalization tactics, avoiding multiple entries for customers across the organization. Customer profiling involves collecting and analyzing customer data, such as demographics, behavior, purchase history, engagement, preferences and feedback. This helps to create personas and/or profiles down to the individual level as a baseline for personalized approaches.
In addition, consider using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to collect and analyze real-time data from various channels, so you can identify patterns, trends and correlations that would be difficult to identify manually.
Principle #2 — Channel orchestration with APIs
The most common FAQ in the omnichannel space is: How can businesses orchestrate a seamless experience? Clearly, omnichannel experiences require each component to work in harmony — much like an orchestra playing a symphony. At the heart of omnichannel is coordinating data to create a single stream of information for customers — aka, an API.
In simple terms, an API (application programming interface) is basically how systems exchange information and communicate with one another. Achieving this orchestration is possible when all channels are connected to one centralized commerce system where all data is stored, consuming a single information stream instead of disparate flows.
Principle #3 — Adaptability
Companies must be agile and flexible to keep pace with a rapidly changing digital landscape, personalizing customer experiences across channels, as well as taking into account customer data and feedback. To achieve this, companies must also focus on incremental innovation by continuously testing and refining their strategies to stay ahead of the curve.
To become adaptable in omnichannel, incorporating constant change as a tool instead of a threat is key. According to market analyst Gartner, this shift to a “composable business” means everything is modular and changeable, so companies are faster and more adaptable over time.Download the Omnichannel Playbook to unlock all 6 principles
The omnichannel-ready engine: Composable commerce
Instead of disjointed platforms that aren’t in sync, composable commerce provides a modern and modular approach that perfectly fits the needs of customer-centric omnichannel experiences. This is because you can leverage best-of-breed building blocks like search, cart or checkout and “compose” them according to your business needs.
We also see real omnichannel commerce actually happening for the very first time. It used to be that everybody had a digital channel and then a physical channel. And those are two pretty separate channels. Now, we’re seeing them collapse. And folks are using their commerce platform or commerce APIs as the point of sale system. We actually see real omnichannel commerce, which is amazing. So we’ve been talking about it for 20 years, and it’s finally here.
Chief Strategy Officer, commercetools
With composable commerce, the Canadian luxury menswear retailer Harry Rosen was able to marry physical and digital CX flows without friction. A great example is how the retailer turned the images of its quarterly fashion magazine into shoppable moments. Every head-to-toe image online has a “Get the Look” button, while print images have QR codes, taking the customer directly to a shopping list prepopulated with the exact items in the photo. Customers select their suitable sizes, add to their cart and check out — or go to the “shop similar styles” button. The result: A 300% lift in content page value.
The beauty retailer Ulta Beauty has also made inroads into omnichannel commerce and personalization with its Virtual Beauty Advisor for personalized recommendations and GLAMLab for virtual makeup try-ons powered by augmented reality (AR) and AI. Moreover, the company can successfully leverage data across channels and customer moments by managing an incredible amount of data — such as member preferences and purchases — with ultra-low latency data processing even during volume upticks.
Omnichannel commerce is the foundation for brands of any industry or size to create fluid and personalized customer experiences. Armed with the modularity and flexibility of a composable commerce approach, you have all the tools to get omnichannel right.
To learn more about how composable commerce enables your omnichannel strategy, download our Omnichannel Playbook now.