Why an Omnichannel Strategy for Retailers as Important as Ever

By Ed Smith,freelance writer...

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, you may have read that offline marketing channels such as billboards had seen a significant spike in demand over the last few years.

This is thanks largely to a sustained rise in the popularity of integrated marketing campaigns, which seek to combine both on and offline marketing channels as a way of assisting conversions and optimise the typical customer journey.

Make no mistake; omnichannel marketing and sales is now considered to be crucial driving sustained sales and building consumer loyalty, and this is borne out by several statistics. For example companies with robust omnichannel engagement strategies retain 89% of their customers on average, compared with a retention rate of just 33% for those with weaker or non-existent strategies.

But what exactly is omnichannel marketing, and why is it arguably more important to businesses than ever before?

What is Omnichannel Marketing?

In simple terms, omnichannel marketing refers to a multichannel sales approach that provides consumers with an integrated and rewarding shopping experience.

This immersive and holistic approach is applicable on user experiences at every stage of the consumer journey, while it simultaneously draws on the various behaviours that drive brick-and-mortar shopping, mobile browsing and everything in between.

This leads us neatly onto the relevance of omnichannel marketing in the modern age, as consumer behaviour continues to shift and evolve in line with wider market and technological trends.

At the heart of this is the notion that approximately 45% of modern-day shoppers find reassurance in the experience of actually picking up and touching products before they make a purchase. The same survey found that 52% of Britons believe retailers need to adopt a more omnichannel marketing approach, while a staggering 80% of consumers still prefer shopping in brick-and-mortar locations.

At the same time, brands cannot ignore the rise of online sales and ecommerce, which has arguably been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. One estimate suggests that Covid-19 has caused online sales to surge by £5.3 billion this year to a total spend of £78.9 billion.

Similarly, augmented reality has also evolved to the point where it can replicate a real-life shopping experience, with 40% of customers hoping to see this technology used more by retailers in the near-term.

An Omnichannel Strategy in Action

As we can see, integrated marketing and the adoption of an omnichannel sales strategy enables brands to meet the complex demands of modern customers while seamlessly combining the best of both on and offline consumerism.

One brand to understand this fully is Radley, the popular handbag and accessories retailer. Recently, this firm launched an innovative digital in-store shopping app, with the aim of driving an omnichannel strategy and enabling customers to access the brand’s entire range of products regardless of where it’s located geographically.

The strategy, which has been developed in collaboration with OneStock’s cutting-edge ‘Order in-store app’, taps expertly into modern consumer trends and behaviours, while allowing Radley to unify its inventory and deploy a holistic fulfilment channel across its 32 stores.

Most importantly, it allows customers to touch and sample the merchandise directly, before searching for their chosen items online and arranging for them to be delivered to a local store or distribution centre. In an interview with Management Today in 2019, Radley CEO Justin Stead commented on the importance of an omnichannel shopping:

“Everyone is digitally savvy these days, there is a big transition going on. Customers go for a day’s shopping, see an item, take a photograph but then go home and buy it online.”

He went on to say:

“It’s about providing the best customer experience. In our Birmingham pilot store, close to 15 to 20 per cent of business is now through customers looking at an item, but buying off the tablet with a sales associate, for delivery at home or for collection on another day.”

This undoubtedly represents the very embodiment of omnichannel sales, while blazing a trail for other stores to follow in the future. It also highlights how an omnichannel strategy can help to optimise sales conversions, while continuing to blur the lines between on and offline shopping.

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