Why you should care about omnichannel

Omnichannel has become the buzzword of the century in retail and digital innovation - and not without reason. Experts point to shop's ability to be omnichannel as crucial for future growth. But what does it mean to be omnichannel and why should we care?

On Thursday 22 September, Virke released the Trade Report for 2022-2023, which gives an overall picture of the development in Norwegian goods trade. Figures from the pandemic year 2021 show a (quite expected) sharp increase in store chains that establish themselves online. In a statement to E24, Virke predicts that this growth will continue and points to the shops' ability to be omnichannel as crucial for further growth. It may sound simple, but the truth is that it takes significant investment and resources to become omnichannel.

What does it mean to be omnichannel?

Let's start with the most important first; What does it really mean to be omnichannel? The American sales and marketing giant Hubspot defines omnichannel as an approach to customer care and engagement where a company provides access to its products and services on all channels, platforms and devices. To use a more popular definition, omnichannel is a term that describes stores' ability to be present in all sales channels, both physically, online and in social media.

In today's market, omnichannel has almost become a requirement for stores to survive. Being omnichannel is important because it ensures that the shopping experience takes place on the customer's terms. It is a strategy where emphasis is placed on the comprehensive and long-term relationship with the customer, rather than only looking at the purchase transaction as the "gold".

Being relevant

When we as customers shop in a store, we have a certain expectation that the purchase experience is seamless and efficient. In other words, we expect a customer experience that is personalized, relevant and tailored. This means that the store knows what we are interested in, that we receive relevant marketing about these products and that we receive tips and advice based on behavior and shopping patterns. These are expectations we have regardless of the channel through which we meet the store.

A survey by McKinsey shows that 80 percent of American consumers prefer stores that can offer an omnichannel shopping experience. The survey points to the stores' ability to personalize the shopping experience and offer relevant marketing as the reason for this. Being omnichannel is simply about being relevant to customers across channels.

What does it take to become omnichannel?

What is required to become omnichannel is therefore just as much a question of what is required to be relevant. Today's consumers demand products, services and information that are relevant. Of course, the shops also know this, but there are very few who really manage to offer it. The lack of enough data, and not least data of high quality, is one of the reasons for this.

Many shops find it challenging to use this data in a smart way, often because the IT systems they use are not equipped for extensive data capture. In order to deal with these challenges, there is a great need for a comprehensive digitization initiative in retail, regardless of whether you are a pure online store or operate in several channels (omnichannel).

Many stores are currently building digital platforms to solve these challenges. Such platforms give the shops the opportunity to use this data in a smart way. They provide increased flexibility and facilitate scaling and growth. Simply put, a digital platform is a technical link that gives businesses the opportunity to exploit the value that lies in an ever-growing amount of data, regardless of which IT systems they have.

This is also data that we consumers have said we are willing to share in exchange for relevant and good customer experiences. It is when this data is made available and used in a smart way that the magic happens. This is when stores can really personalize the customer experience in all channels and create lasting competitive advantages.

That is why stores must care about omnichannel.