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The future of retail remains a mystery—both for brands and ecommerce agencies.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the shift to ecommerce was accelerated. In fact, Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020 generated record-breaking numbers—BF recorded $9 billion and CM broke $10.8 billion in sales.
Naturally, it was predicted that the next BFCM would set another record. However, 2021 BFCM sales dropped. Black Friday only recorded $8.9 billion in sales. Cyber Monday only did $10.7 billion.
The culprit? Physical stores made a comeback and split the income between offline and online retail. In fact, reports showed that offline retail beat ecommerce in 2021.
What does this mean?
Consumer behaviors have changed. Online retail is not going to go anywhere—but offline retail should not be ignored.
Instead of looking at ecommerce and brick-and-mortar as black and white, brands and ecommerce agencies must know how to navigate both of these revenue channels in order to maximize profit potential.
It’s crucial to help your clients with both their online and offline retail channels and wherever else their customers can buy from them.
The solution? Omnichannel retailing and marketing.
First things first—what is omnichannel retailing?
Omnichannel retailing is an approach where all customer touchpoints integrate with one another for a seamless brand experience.
It’s not the same as multichannel retailing which is having multiple touchpoints that are treated independently.
Here’s a quick example of omnichannel retail:
Brand A has one database for all its items. The inventory is the same, whether customers buy through social media, their website, or physical stores.
If you pay for items in a store using credits, you can use these credits not just online, but even in physical branches of that store.
Is omnichannel the future? Yes, and it can be a lucrative future if brands play their cards right.
If 2020 showed a significant rise in ecommerce brought about by the pandemic, the year 2021 showed the shift to omnichannel. In 2021, almost one in two ecommerce decision-makers in Europe and North America believed omnichannel strategies to be very important.
Additionally, companies that used effective omnichannel strategies were able to retain an average of 89% of customers.
It’s true that a lot of brick-and-mortar shops moved online. But this doesn’t mean that all physical shopping channels should be left by the wayside.
- Trying out items is easier for customers in-store
- There are convenient options for shoppers such as buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) feature, or buying from the store and having the purchase delivered
- As stated by Ricardo Belmar, customers can again experience window shopping, something they missed during the pandemic. They also get the instant gratification of having the items in their hands when buying.
In short, omnichannel retail will create an even better customer experience that will transcend the purely online or purely physical realm.
Benefits of omnichannel retail and marketing
Not convinced of the power of omnichannel marketing? Here are some benefits that ecommerce agencies’ clients can experience:
1. Increased sales and profitability
Omnichannel marketing reduces sales friction. If the customer journey is smooth and seamless, there is a higher chance of customers completing the transaction.
More transactions, more profit.
In fact, marketers who used three or more channels in a campaign were able to get a 494% higher order rate compared to those who only used a single channel.
For example, Starbucks lets customers reload their cards through the app, their website, or in any Starbucks store. Any change to the card gets updated in real-time across all their channels.
Imagine if customers could only load their cards via phone. Or if customers topped up their card online but the in-store staff didn’t count it. For sure, a lot of customers will choose to leave instead of pushing through with their orders.
2. A better customer experience (if done right)
Omnichannel marketing equips ecommerce brands to deliver a more consistent customer experience.
In fact, 80% of customers prefer an omnichannel approach due to the seamless customer experience it gives. And of course, providing a good customer experience to customers will increase their Customer Lifetime Value (LTV).
It doesn’t matter which touchpoint online users encounter first—their customer journey will be smooth through and through.
They can access the same inventory, have the same store credits, have the same items in their cart, and so on. They can add an item to their cart via mobile phones, and complete the purchase via computer.
3. More channels to communicate with customers
Not all of your clients’ customers hang out in one spot. The truth is 73% of consumers prefer to shop across multiple channels.
Not being present where your customers are means missing out on revenue opportunities.
If your clients establish their presence on multiple channels, they will have more ways of reaching their target customers. The brand will be more visible, and they will be top of mind when customers come looking for their products again.
4. In-depth data and insights into consumer behavior
The more channels you have, the more data you have. For example, omnichannel retail and marketing give you access to the following information (to name a few):
- Which channel generates the most revenue?
- Which channel doesn’t generate a lot of revenue but is the best for customer engagement?
- Which channel is the most popular first touchpoint?
- Which channels do the purchases get completed most of the time?
As an illustration, it can be that Brand A’s website is a popular first touchpoint, but most purchases happen in-store.
These insights into consumer behavior will allow ecommerce agencies to help clients build a better brand presence where necessary. Plus, brands will be able to focus on improving the customer experience across all channels.
5. Opportunity to provide personalized experiences
Brands that can personalize the customer experience across multiple channels can generate a 5-15% increase in revenue.
Since omnichannel retail and marketing provide comprehensive data, there are many opportunities to provide personalized experiences. Brands can start more relevant dialogues, use lingo that shoppers use, and even pick the right channels that customers actually use.
For example, Sephora wanted to increase its customer base. They decided to create a personalized campaign to generate more store visits. Location-based notifications were sent to mobile-app users and gave them reasons to visit local stores. The notifications were then tailored to the customers’ communication preferences or the last time they visited.
6. You’ll have more user-generated content (UGC)
The effectiveness and popularity of UGC are already cemented. Some of our favorite statistics include:
- 79% of consumers say UGC influences their purchase decisions (Stackla)
- 31% of shoppers share that ads with UGC content are more memorable compared to traditional branded ads (Jukin Media)
- Consumers say UGC is almost 10x more impactful than influencer content (Stackla)
After all, when customers are happy about their experiences, they will talk about it. Omnichannel retail simply gives shoppers more opportunities and more ammunition to create content.
In turn, ecommerce brands will also have more UGC that they can use to promote their various channels. It’s a cycle—not a vicious one, but a winning one.
4 tips for crafting an omnichannel retail strategy for your ecommerce agency clients
Of course, just because an omnichannel strategy has many advantages doesn’t mean your clients should jump in unprepared. Here are four tips to make sure they get it right.
More is not always more
Brands don’t need to be present in all channels—just the ones that work best for their target audience.
Let’s say Brand A wants to be present on all social media platforms—Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter. Then they also want to level up their email marketing game.
Remember that being present in all those channels will take up time and resources—brands should choose which channels are worthy to invest energy in.
Your ecommerce clients should only be in channels where their target audience is. For example, if your client is selling to people aged 50 and up, they probably shouldn’t dedicate time to TikTok, since only 11% of that demographic use TikTok.
Ensure your customer support across channels is smooth and seamless
If brands aim to venture into omnichannel retail, omnichannel customer support must follow. Since customers have different customer journeys and preferences when it comes to touchpoints, it’s important that relevant customer support exists where they are.
A customer could browse a site on their phone but decide to call customer support. The following day, they may want to follow up on their request via email or live chat.
The key to omnichannel customer support is having a centralized hub for data that can be accessed by the customer support team regardless of channel or time.
Statistics show that 95% of consumers say that customer service is essential for brand loyalty, and 60% of consumers switched to a rival company of a brand they used to patronize because of poor customer service. In short, the quality of customer support will also contribute to a brand’s revenue and growth.
Treat your channels as parts of a whole, not as individual silos
The whole concept behind omnichannel retail is to create a seamless experience across all channels. It is one brand with multiple channels—thus, it’s important to create a cohesive strategy.
A brand’s channels should work together to generate maximum profit, and not work against each other.
- Customers who have accounts online can use their online store credits when they shop in-store
- Coupons or vouchers should work across all channels
- Items on sale in one channel should also be marked down in other channels
- Customer support should be able to provide which branches have the specific product that the consumer wants
Integrate the offline store into the online presence
As much as the online presence of stores can direct customers to their physical counterparts, physical stores should be able to do the same with online stores.
For example, some restaurants already offer QR code scanning for their menus, which redirects customers to their websites.
Stores can also put up signs encouraging people to shop online, create accounts, follow the brand on social media, or tag the brand in their UGC.
The game changer: Referral marketing at its full potential
Referral marketing enhances the potential of omnichannel retail. What makes referral marketing so awesome? Here are some stats we published before:
- People pay 2x more attention to recommendations from friends
- 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know
- Referred customers are less likely to leave—making them more attached and loyal to brands
Here’s the best part: people are 4x more likely to buy when a friend refers something.
What do all these numbers tell us? Simple: referrals bring new customers, more sales, and more revenue.
So why not add fuel to this fire and make the most of what it has to offer? How? By adding referral marketing to your ecommerce agency’s services.
In all honestly, ecommerce customers are probably already referring brands to their network via social media, email, word-of-mouth, and other channels.
A referral marketing strategy will encourage your clients’ customers to continue doing this and they will get rewarded as a result.
With referral marketing software like Referral Candy, referrals can easily be tracked—whether the referral was made via social media or the purchase was completed on the website.
The truth is, six out of ten users start shopping on one device but continue on a different one. The opportunity to refer follows the same concept:
- A potential customer might see a brand on one channel, then see a friend’s post on another.
- Customers can promote promos or products online and their friends may want to purchase in-store
- Customers may see an item in-store, decide to check it out or try it on and then proceed to purchase online due to an online-only limited edition discount coupon from a friend.
In short, referral marketing supports omnichannel retail strategies by adding organic opportunities to generate sales across different platforms and along different touchpoints.
Wrap-Up: Referral marketing is the cherry on top of successful omnichannel strategies
Omnichannel retailing is a powerful way to keep your client’s brand or brands always top of mind. More than just being present on multiple customer touchpoints, it’s about being done correctly. It’s a great method to increase not just brand awareness but also customer loyalty.
And when brands have loyal customers, they will have advocates and fans who will not hesitate to promote the brand. Rewarding existing customers will result in higher retention rates and lifetime values. Brands will get to enjoy revenue from both new and existing customers—it’s a win-win strategy.
While omnichannel marketing may take a while to build up with proper training, a referral program doesn’t need to take long.
Sign up with ReferralCandy so you can start helping your clients build a referral program easily so they can make the most of their omnichannel strategy.
Better yet, join our agency partner program to maximize the value that referral marketing can bring to your clients.