Let’s talk about going omni-channel. First, let’s differentiate omni-channel from its sister platforms, multi-channel and cross-channel. The easiest way to do this is to break it down to the literal Latin translation. Multi (multis) means “more than one,” and cross (crux) means “across,” both of which address the concept of how many or which. Omni (omnis) means “all,” which, in marketing-speak, means all channels, any which way. There is no choosing between one or many, but the goal is to encompass every channel and path available. Think of it as a brand reaching its customers across any media possible, interchangeably, and at all times. Though it may yet be a buzzword, omni-channel offers the kind of seamless continuity that buyers are coming to expect from sellers.
In order to understand and commit to this omni-channel structure, businesses need to change the way they see the sell. Reaching the customer is a 24/7, 360 degree experience. 2Checkout offers the following three perspectives to help shift the seller paradigm to a more buyer-friendly market. Even if you’re only an online merchant now, look at the following examples and see if spreading your touchpoints might be a viable strategy at some point for your brand.
We’re on the Buyer’s Journey
“The customer doesn’t live in channels,” said Peter Sheldon, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, at the Shopatron Client Summit 2013. “So you need to bring all the data together.”
The place that the POS (point of sale) takes place is no longer relevant to many companies. In fact, Macy’s no longer looks into what channel is selling what now that an increasing number of purchases are made from smart devices, apps, and tablets. This situation and ambiguity calls for a need to sell seamlessly across all platforms, at all times. Rather than thinking in terms of the sale per customer, Macy’s is concerned with the customer’s account. Sales are finite. Accounts encompass the buyer’s journey.
Let’s take Delta as another example. It’s 2014 and people across the planet buy the company’s airfare on the fly (pun intended). Few flyers pick up the phone to call the airline representative to book a trip to Bali. Okay, maybe when your 6 a.m. business flight is cancelled, the Delta rep is your only help to get on a three-tier layover that avoids the blizzard… but given the choice, world travelers demand the ability to purchase airfare on their own terms, from anywhere, on any device. Delta delivers just that. From one customer account, each flyer can access any related piece of information to a purchase — flight information, bonus miles, personal data, past purchases, favorite seats — from all devices. The same password will buy the flight from your desktop at work and let you choose seats from your iPhone while waiting in line for coffee. In time, airlines that do not provide this continuity will lose their frequent flyers to the likes of Delta.
The Experience, Not Only the Product, Sells
Seriously, look at Amazon. There is nothing tangible about shopping on Amazon.com, yet the company, with not one brick-and-mortar location, is one of the biggest — if not the biggest — e-commerce retailers in the world. Amazon knows how to reach its customers by catering to a digital and innovative shopper. That’s why, even if the shopper tries out that Shiatsu Neck Massager at the mall, it just might be the Amazon drone that brings the massager to the front door hours later. This is proof that companies no longer need to stock the physical product to make the sale.
How are companies like Audi reflecting this simple reality? The luxury car company has gone digital. In one of its London showrooms (in Mayfair) there is only one physical car on display: one color, one make, one model. Instead of a space parked with a variety of choices, there is a small city store where customers use touchscreens to swap makes and models, and use a large interactive display to play with the different features available. In Audi City, pick paint colors, swap out interiors, and choose hubcaps until you get it right enough to drive off the lot. It’s not about the test drive, but about offering the opportunity for people to craft their next, new automobile on site.
Omni-Channel Spreads From the Inside Out
According to MITX’s E-commerce Summit, 55 percent of retailers say their competitors have already rolled out a system that provides a seamless purchasing path that crosses both the digital and physical channels. Now, just because this path is perfect on the outside (as seen by the customers), this does not guarantee the path is perfect from the inside. When businesses offer multiple POS — the best example being a brick-and-mortar offering same products online — the chance is higher for disparate information across different channels, due to inconsistencies such as manual data information here and online processing there.
For example: George’s Music. The 36-year-old in-store and online retailer of musical instruments just opted for cloud-based technology to run its back and front offices, its two e-commerce sites (georgesmusic.com and musiciansbuy.com). This move not only cleared up multiple mishaps on the back end, but more importantly allowed for a single omni-channel view for each of its customers across all touch points. “NetSuite is the foundation we need to deliver the information and quality necessary to grow the company,” said George Hines, George’s Music Founder and President. “NetSuite allows us to be very fast and flexible and makes it easier for customers to shop with us no matter what channel they choose.”