What is an omnichannel e-commerce? How to take user experience to the next level

Put yourself in your clients’ shoes:

Do you like obstacles and problems when interacting with a business or do you prefer a pleasant, flexible buying experience with no hitches no matter what channel you’re using?

It’s pretty obvious that people prefer the second option, but this doesn’t mean that it’s always possible.

That’s why today’s post is going to explain exactly what an omnichannel online shop is. We are going to focus on the following aspects:

  • What is it?
  • Why it can be a factor of differentiation from your competitors.
  • How to start an omnichannel strategy without putting your business at risk.

Pay attention – we are talking about a strategy that is already defining the present and future of e-commerce (according to José Carlos Cortizo)

What it is and what it means to have an omnichannel e-commerce

No matter how small your online shop is, it’s nearly impossible to work with only one selling channel.

In addition to the website or the physical shop, marketplaces such as Amazon are also quite frequent as well having a Facebook shop, an app, or some other type of commercial distributor.

So far, so good.

Every e-commerce is multichannel, but are they all omnichannel?

Multichannel vs. omnichannel

Omnichannel means having a detailed strategy that is consistent and user-friendly across all of the various channels.

Being multichannel is unavoidable – being omnichannel is compulsory.

If you’re able to build a user experience in which clients don’t know which channel they are interacting with, you’re on the right way. In order for that experience to be 100% omnichannel, it has to meet these three conditions:

  • It’s consistent: This means that the message, the response, and the user experience are similar across all the channels.
  • It’s customized: Attention should be as individualized as possible. We will see how to achieve that later, but using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) always helps.
  • It’s flexible: It has to adapt itself to the needs of the purchaser at all times, on any device, and for every product or service. If the model you design is too strict, users will feel that it doesn’t adapt to their needs and that you’re wasting their time.

Do you think that’s easy to achieve?

Before we start talking about the challenges and the keys to making the task a bit easier, let’s take a look at the advantages.

Advantages of offering a captivating multichannel experience

Everyone likes to be treated well, right?

Omnichannel shops offer clients a feeling of professionalism that makes them feel special and it fosters loyalty. ;)

Customization is one of the keys to achieving that; it’s the small details that make all the difference.

Perhaps it’s easier to understand with a reverse example.

Surely you’ve had a problem with your phone, your plan, or your bill and you had to call the customer support number of your service provider – a call that typically requires a double dose of patience.

After seven minutes, by the time you finally manage to talk to a human being, you have already explained your problem to two machines. The first agent who talks to you doesn’t know anything about your problem, so you have to repeat it all again.

Most likely, the agent won’t be able to solve it either, so you’ll then be transferred to a different person. When the new agent picks up the phone, your hope is that he’s already been informed about your situation, but that is never the case. Once again, you have to tell them that they made a mistake on your bill or that you’ve haven’t had a signal for two days.

At this point, you’ve explained the same situation six times and your user experience has been completely ruined. And we haven’t even mentioned the never-ending hold music.

Each channel you have been through was completely independent from the other, so you had to start all over again each step of the way.

This is what we can avoid by being omnichannel.

But it’s no easy task – let’s find out why.

Resources, the main obstacle to being omnichannel

Having a transversal and personalized strategy that keeps your e-commerce full of satisfied clients sounds amazing, maybe even over the top.

As you already know, there is a big gap between theory and reality. In this case, the usage of resources is the main obstacle that you will find in your way.

Could one of those agents have told the other what the problem was? Of course, but that would have meant spending time needed to answer another call.

Assigning extra resources would solve the problem, but it’s not always an option.

In this sense, your online shop could have…

  • A chat to follow up with clients who have already contacted you on Facebook messenger with a doubt.
  • A professional looking client manager linked to your email marketing tool.
  • A bot in the mix to seamlessly send clients to the most suitable channel.

But wait, there’s even more…

  • If you have a physical shop, you can offer a “click and collect” option so that clients can buy online and pick the product up in the physical shop.
  • You could even allow returns through any channel (returning at the physical shop when you bought online or viceversa).

User experience shouldn’t change even if the channel does, and that’s why it requires a significant use of resources.

Being completely omnichannel comes with a high price that cannot always be swallowed, but clients appreciate every detail, no matter how small.

Here are some ideas you can use to start making your strategy more omnichannel.

How to become an omnichannel online shop

Let’s start with the idea that you’re working with only an online shop and not a physical one.

As we’ve already mentioned, a strategy for a physical shop would include more complex actions and we’d have to talk about showrooming (testing products in the shop and buying online) or webrooming (looking online and buying in the shop).

But for the online world, here are some ideas you could implement:

1. Wish list

Even if most of your e-commerce traffic comes from mobile phones, there are still many people who browse on their phones and then switch to their computer to make the purchase.

Another common situation is when people see something they are interested in but can’t or don’t want to buy it at that very moment.

To make sure people don’t “forget” what they wanted to buy, we can offer them the option to add the product to a wish list. This way, they can complete the purchase from any device at a later time.

You can also offer price monitoring by email, which will connect them to a new channel: email marketing.

2. Recently seen

While the use of cookies on browsers is sometimes criticized, as the Webmaster of an online shop, you can get quite a lot out of them.

Thanks to cookies, we can show visitors the last products they were looking at. You’ve probably seen how Amazon does it – they have a dynamic home page where they show recently visited and related products.

The best part is that if you are logged in, it doesn’t matter if you are connected from a mobile phone, a tablet, or from your computer, the experience is 100% omnichannel.

3. Customized search settings

If users always look for size 42 shoes, you could set the search engine to show them that size by default.

This would ease the buying experience, don’t you think?

It’s not just about searches and products – technology can also measure and track user interactions and make decisions to offer them customized content.

4. CRM

Think about the possible points of contact that a client has with your brand:

  • Email
  • Contact form on website
  • Direct Message on Twitter or Instagram
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Posting or commenting on any social network
  • Phone or WhatsApp
  • Live Chat on website

This list could go on and on, and the more options you offer, the more difficult it is to be omnichannel. Luckily, it’s possible to integrate all those channels into just one place thanks to a CRM.

A CRM aggregates information from different sources so that it’s not such a daunting journey to find out what type of relationship clients have with your brand.

There are many different options adapted to a full range of budgets, so it’s no problem if you don’t want to invest too much money.

5. Contextual information

Not all your clients are in the same place at the same time. E-commerce magic allows you to receive visitors at any time – your shop is open 24/7, after all.

Contextual information is the external data corresponding to each area that can affect buying behaviors.

For example, you shouldn’t send your newsletter out at the same time in all locations. Not only is the time or location relevant, but you should also take weather and specific situations into account. On mobiles, geolocation can play to your favor in that regard.

A consistent offer that takes into account what may seem like minor details is a great example of an omnichannel shop.

Is being omnichannel essential for any online business?

It is, but with nuances.

It’s obvious that big businesses such as Fnac or Amazon are worried about being omnichannel and they spend tons of money on every detail related to user interactions.

They play in another league. Don’t worry – it’s OK to understand what your limits are. There’s always something that can be done to create that feeling of professionalism and to improve sales.

Have a look at your competitors.

  • Fake a purchase
  • Contact them through different channels
  • Surf their website from different devices
  • How are they doing?
  • Can it be improved?

Being omnichannel doesn’t mean going to your clients’ houses. What it means is making the conversation between a customer and the brand a bidirectional relationship with just two interlocutors instead of having a different voice at every point of contact.