Retail Trends

Interest in omnichannel reaches high as retailers focus on expanding initiatives

We hear the term omnichannel a lot in retailing. It has been one of the industry’s favorite buzzwords and indeed some would argue it is overused and has lost its value. So what exactly does omnichannel mean?

Interest in omnichannel is at an all-time high, as you can see from the chart below, which shows the growth in interest as measured by the popularity of “omnichannel” as a search term on Google.

Relative popularity of “omnichannel” as a Google search term

This finding is backed up by the RIS/Gartner Retail Technology Study, which says retailers see expanding omnichannel initiatives as one of their two top priorities for the next 18 months, along with leveraging social media. It’s relatively easy to leverage social media better – maybe you just need to hire a community manager or reach out to social media influencers.

But it is much more of a challenge to expand omnichannel initiatives. It takes money and it takes time, and that probably explains why there is a certain amount of scepticism around omnichannel today.

What does omnichannel mean?

How do retailers define omnichannel? Source: eMarketeer

So what exactly do retailers understand by omnichannel? A survey conducted by eMarketeer reveals some interesting results:

  1. The most popular answer, given by 67% of retailers, is “having different methods for transacting with your customers”. That’s probably the answer most customers would give too;
  2. Close behind in second place, with 66%, is the answer “delivering a seamless and consistent experience across sales channels;
  3. The third most popular answer, given by 64% of respondents, says omnichannel is “marketing geared towards customers converting on any channel”.

The less popular answers narrow omnichannel down to a specific capability, such as having “click and collect” processes, giving customers the ability to see orders in one place, or faster delivery times.
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Irrespective of the chosen definition, it is clear that most retailers recognize the need to become “omnichannel,” not least because omnichannel shoppers generate higher lifetime value. While they represent just for only 7% of all customers, omnichannel shoppers accounted for 27% of all sales, according to eMarketeer. The figures refer to Q1 2018 and are for the US market.

Perhaps the most significant finding is that the majority of retailers, 58%, said that their omnichannel business was now profitable, up from just 45% in 2017.

It is clear then that omnichannel is not a fad but it is a profitable strategy for growing sales and, equally importantly, satisfying your customers.

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