Mar 11, 2014

Selling online: The move towards omnichannel retailing

written by Anya Amrith

It was just a regular day, buying an item online like I usually do when I need something. But this time, my mind went wondering. It got me thinking about how much we have come to rely on online shopping these days. Where would we be without it and how does it impact our in-store behaviour?

Whilst trying to find a book for a friend’s daughter, I soon realised that going into Waterstone’s wouldn’t help me. The particular book I wanted wasn’t available and ordering it would take 5 weeks. 5 weeks! In this day and age, it seems absurd. Or is it that I’ve come to expect faster deliveries due to companies like Amazon, who incidentally could deliver the book the next working day?

Omnichannel Retailing: What does it mean?

Lots of thinking about online shopping later, I decided to see how the UK in particular has been affected by the ‘click to buy’ phenomenon. I found a study by Ebay entitled ‘The omnichannel opportunity’. It was a fascinating read:


Omnichannel retailing is the new system of retailing – connecting stores, e-commerce, mobile apps and social media. It’s a flexible and seamless shopping experience, regardless of where consumers are, what time they are shopping and how they are shopping (in person, using a browser or app on the phone, using a computer or laptop or simply calling a telephone number).

The study took place in the UK and Germany and these are the facts which glared out at me:

Up to 25% of recent online or mobile purchases in the UK and Germany involved products which customers could not have purchased locally

Frequent shoppers and those planning high-value purchases are more likely to use a range of channels for their purchases, so a presence across channels allows retailers to capture this market segment

Up to 63% of shoppers used multiple channels when making orders over £100

Retailers should seek to be present across a breadth of channels, from stores and catalogues to websites, apps and social media, in order to maximise the chances that consumers find them and engage with them at any stage of the shopping journey

Over 74% of individuals in the EU have internet access with the majority of consumers in the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy now owning smartphones and about 18% owning tablets

34% of consumers report using online resources, including social media and mobile apps, before or during a recent purchase in store

29% of internet users follow brands on social media

22% claim to be influenced by a retailer’s social media presence

34% of consumers take a picture of the product to retrieve information

25% of consumers compare prices while in a store

57% of UK consumers shop online at least once per month; 22% at least once per week

Moving to an omnichannel retailing solution

Many large retailers have already realised the potential of seamlessly integrating offline and online buying methods, plugging their own applications in-store and prompting you to like social media channels upon your checkout. TV commercials also integrate Twitter into their ad campaigns, encouraging interaction and engagement. 3G are famous for their ads, including #singitkitty and #dancyponydance.


#singitkitty – Another winning ad campaign by 3G


#danceponydance – The famous 3G ad campaign from 2013

But smaller retailers and entrepreneurs can also benefit from the statistics too. Although you may have a smaller budget, there are many ways to make sure your business is ready for the omnichannel movement:

Ensure your pricing is competitive and emphasize your USP. If your product/service is of better value compared to a competitor, offer as much information about the comparison on your website and across the marketing mix.

Consider using a range of channels to promote your business: Utilise the relevant social media channels, ensure you have a responsive website, get yourself listed on referral websites or websites where consumers can submit legitimate reviews. You could even invest in getting a small but valuable app written to benefit your consumers and encourage sign-ups to newsletters and promotional offers. Write a blog that helps consumers to encourage them to keep coming back.

Don’t eliminate offline marketing completely. Depending on your target sector, your business could benefit from sending out a targetted mailshot or advertising in a relevant industry magazine. Do some research and don’t be afraid to negotiate for good deals. Exhibitions could also be an option, look out for smaller local exhibitions as an alternative to National exhibitions.

Encourage feedback from consumers once they have purchased and used your product/service – set up an automated email where consumers can submit reviews on your website or facebook for example.

Advertise, promote and invest some time into your marketing: To really utilse an omnichannel approach, ensure that you’re doing the best you can on each channel. For example, if you want to use Twitter, make sure you’re active at the right hours and use hashtags to engage with other users and join discussions. If you’re using Facebook, don’t be afraid to promote your page to the relevant target market. Using Google Adwords correctly can also drive traffic to your website and so on. This doesn’t mean that you have to take an ‘all or nothing’ approach, and if you’re thinking ‘I can’t afford this’ remember the most important thing: It’s all about planning. Plan your marketing schedule for both online and offline. Spread out the cost and keep everything consistent. Plan your time effectively.

If you’re selling products or service online, ensure you know what’s happening at every stage. Use Google Analytics to see where potential consumers could be dropping out. Integrate your website with plugins that send out an automatic email when a shopper abandons their cart, and even sends out emails with similar products/services that they might be interested in if they purchased something from you. For example, Woo Commerce is a WordPress eCommerce toolkit that allows you to build an online store. With a big offering of plugins and a flexible system, it’s worth looking into if you’re considering selling online.

Woo Commerce

Offer help on your website – include online chat and a contact telephone number that reinforces the brand values. Remember, it’s all about making the overall shopping experience seamless.

Online isn’t going anywhere

The way we shop these days is a far cry from 20 years ago. Personally, I think it’s a good move as it’s forcing businesses to be more competitive as well as giving consumers more choice (and savings if you know what you’re doing!). If I have the time, I’ll have a good shop around to find a product/service that offers me good value as well as having good reviews. Even if I’m in a rush, I might have a quick browse on my mobile and, if I can, reserve a product before popping in-store to collect it. Shopping is not the same, but it does mean that I’m more likely to know what I’m getting and be assured that I’m happy with what I’m purchasing. It’s also less time consuming – gone are the days where you can’t find out if something is available before you get there.

The move towards shopping online has already happened, and the next stage of encouraging consumer loyalty and repeat purchasing is already here. We’re not just talking about enhanced copy on your website, things have already advanced much more than that. With technology developing at an outstanding rate, it’s important to place emphasis on reassuring consumers – offering information and making the potential to purchase seamless across a range of marketing channels. Businesses have to work hard to keep those all important consumers coming back and sharing their positive experiences with other potential consumers.

It might be hard work, but it can be done. And it’s important that omnichannel marketing is embraced now…

By Anya Amrith