Single & Multichannel Retail: From Obvious to Obsolete
Historically speaking, single-channel retail has been the predominant form of customer experience. Shoppers can either buy products directly in-store, or more recently, purchase items online and have them delivered to their homes. In both cases, the company only offers one method of communication, sales, and shopping experience. Though this has worked and continues to work for many, it severely limits consumers in terms of how and when they shop and also constrains the methods in which they can access customer services.
As eCommerce grew, multichannel retail became more common. Brick-and-mortar retailers made online stores, companies created social media accounts, and customers now had more than one way of viewing products, ordering, and interacting with a business. Though this is a remarkable improvement compared to single-channel retail, it has one major limitation: Customers cannot have a single experience.
Though multiple channels are available, they aren’t connected in any way. For example, a customer cannot use a previously created online shopping cart to purchase in-store, or their history of liked social media posts doesn’t allow them to purchase any differently on an online catalogue. Though having access to more than one channel is undoubtedly an improvement for consumers, each channel is working more or less independently, which can end up having a negative impact on a business as they unintentionally are pitted against each other competing for customer interactions and sales.
How Omnichannel Changed the Retail Game
Omnichannel retail came in and changed the entire retail game in this regard. It takes a consumer-first approach in how a customer interacts with a company in all forms from marketing to sales and service. Customer experience is optimized in every channel from in-store to social media and designed to provide a seamless customer experience. With omnichannel retail, there is no preferred method of interaction with the customer from the company’s point of view; it all comes down to the consumer’s preference.
This has several obvious advantages from the customer’s point of view. The majority of customers are already using multiple channels to interact with a store, so having these channels being able to synergize with each other instead of working independently gives customers more flexible shopping options. For example, they can shop online and pick up in-store, while asking questions about products on a company’s social media account simultaneously. Customer experience is of utmost priority for omnichannel retailers, so it’s no surprise that customers find omnichannel stores advantageous.
For retailers, putting customers and their shopping preferences first leads to better sales and revenue. It removes the roadblocks that multichannel or single-channel retail inevitably has due to its restricted and rigid shopping structure, and expanding these options for customers leads to them being more willing to shop with a given company. As these channels are no longer pitted against each other, retailers can start using a more competitive pricing strategy, which further maximizes sales and revenue and bolsters customer loyalty.
For primarily brick-and-mortar retailers, adopting an omnichannel strategy allows them to compete better with eCommerce by using their in-store option to their advantage, obtaining the same engagement rates as online stores do whilst using physical store layouts to entice customers to return or purchase more items. ECommerce retailers also find their own businesses performing better when they utilize omnichannel communications and shopping options. Creating physical pick-up points for shoppers, for example, allows more frugal customers to avoid shipping fees and makes them more willing to shop without limiting other customers’ ability to have items delivered.
In all cases, an omnichannel, customer-first approach equips retailers from all corners of the industry with the right tools to maximize sales and revenue. This allows any company to start winning the retail war no matter which channel they started out with. The future has spoken; customers are using multiple channels to interact with companies, and they expect a seamless experience. Only omnichannel retailers can provide this for them, so it’s no surprise that more retailers are making the switch from single or multichannel to omnichannel retail strategies. The advantages this provides the customer are undeniable, and the benefits omnichannel has for the businesses themselves are also becoming more evident in the form of sales and revenue.