The retail and e-commerce industry is full of acronyms and code words that to an outsider might consider another language – everything from ERP and OMS to wholesale and omnichannel can be confusing – especially since many of the terms overlap, are misused, and simply mean different things to different organizations.
Omnichannel and multichannel e-commerce strategies are two of those terms.
Omnichannel examples vs. multichannel: What’s the difference?
The difference between omnichannel and multichannel is that omnichannel includes all possible sales channels in e-commerce. For many organizations, omnichannel means you’re selling everywhere possible, online and offline.
Multichannel selling is considered the selling of goods through multiple – though not all possible – sales channels.
Consider for a moment all of the possible sales channels available to e-commerce brands:
- Brick and mortar store
- Wholesale relationships
And those are just possibilities right now. New platforms and new ways to sell are popping up every single day.
Omnichannel and multichannel are the terms used to describe the ways retailers tackle multiple channels, whether from an all-inclusive point of view (omnichannel) or a more niche and nuanced strategy (multichannel).
What is an omnichannel strategy?
Most of what experts refer to as an omnichannel strategy is also relevant to a multichannel strategy. This is because the goal is to create brand-unique experiences across all sales channels you’re in, but experiences optimized specifically for that channel.
For instance, brands that sell on Amazon as well as their own website often have different products and SKUs they sell through Amazon versus their own site. This is an attempt to better own and understand the customer journey, and build brand loyalty even after a purchase from a marketplace.
Why does this matter? Because when a new customer purchases through Amazon, Amazon brands the entire experience. What you lose by selling on Amazon is a branded customer experience that builds loyalty.
So, how can you get that customer to come back? Well, you can sell different items for the various consumer mindsets. Those who purchase your product on Amazon have a different shopping mentality and relationship with your brand than if they’re buying your item on your own website, or through your Instagram account.
This is the kind of thinking that needs to go into each one of your sales channels:
- Who is the customer who is shopping from this channel?
- Is this customer in shopping mode on this channel, or just browsing (think about the difference between an Amazon customer and a Facebook customer)?
- When the customer purchases through this channel, how much of a branded experience do they get?
- Can we measure average order value based on channel?
- What about lifetime value from this channel, or repeat purchases?
- Better yet, can we determine lifetime value to cost of acquisition across the various sales channels to optimize for each (as well as our bottom line)?
The answering of those questions for each of your channels, whether you’re going for an omnichannel strategy and approach or a multichannel strategy, is how you build out your plan of attack.
Omnichannel examples: Best retailers to learn from
Three of the best retailers out there with the best omnichannel examples are Starbucks, Disney, and Nike. These brands have figured out how to infiltrate nearly every aspect of their customer’s lives with branded touch points across a variety of channels.
Omnichannel example #1: Starbucks Strategy
Starbucks doesn’t just have omnichannel strategy, they have an omnichannel funnel that drives in net new customers and increases loyalty over time. This is why they’re considered one of the best at omnichannel strategy in retail.
“We have to think of it (digitally registered customers) as the top of the funnel; an enabler of the relationships that we can create that lead people eventually into the Starbucks Rewards Program.” – Matthew Ryan, Executive Vice President & Global Chief Strategy Officer, Starbucks
The way their funnel works is something like this:
- Net new customer comes into the store to buy coffee either because they saw a store, or they heard a friend talking about it, or they saw an ad –– likely all of the above.
- That customer orders and checks out incredibly quickly, all while getting the Starbucks experience (the smell in the store, the quirky way they pronounce and spell all of our names, etc.).
- That purchase likely signs them up for the Starbucks newsletter –– which they can easily get off of, buy why? This newsletter contains multiple dollar and percentages off of purchases in store.
- After you use one or two of those, you’ll get a prompt to join Starbucks Rewards, which has even more discounts and makes checkouts at a Starbucks ever easier.
Omnichannel example #2: Disney Strategy
Disney is a fantastic example of omnichannel strategy, yes. They are also an amazing example of perfect linear commerce execution.
The company began by producing content and building a community.
- With the backing of a loyal community and audience, they launched products for that community and sold through wholesale partnerships.
- Eventually, they also expanded to sell through some of their own stores, as well as continuing to produce high-quality content that would eventually merit its own product line.
- Finally, they have launched Disney+, their own streaming channel that drives subscription revenue for their beloved content and services.
Omnichannel example #3: Nike Strategy
With their personalized suggestions and brick and mortar stores updated to optimize the customer experience, Nike is an outstanding omnichannel example.
Their dedication to revamping their CX is paying off – recognizing digital revenue growth of 35%.
- Using the Nike+ app, customers have long been able to sync their user data, driving customer loyalty.
- Personalizing the customer experience for women with services like bra sizing and clothing hemming.
- Utilizing the in-store experience to analyze athletic performance and make suggestions, Nike becomes a trusted advisor.
It’s not luck; it’s strategy
Mastering an omnichannel strategy isn’t easy. But you can begin with mastering multiple channels and figuring out how to create a funnel that drives in net new customers, surprises and delights them, and makes them repeat customers whether through existing channels –– or a completely new one (like Disney+).
Good omnichannel examples and multichannel strategies understand their audience wants and needs, as well as keep a finger on the pulse of innovation and changes in consumer behavior.
From Boomers to Gen Z, online buying behavior varies by generation.
Discover the trends HERE.