Three Quick Ways to Start Speaking Omnichannel Now

If you're trying to wrap your head around executing an omnichannel solution, but the thought conjures images of data roadblocks and organizational hurdles, try flipping the focus. Omnichannel isn't simply an operational exercise or a management initiative. It’s an experience your customers are already having with other brands every day and expect from you as well.

Omnichannel is the new language of digital commerce and you need to become fluent to sell effectively to your customers. Three-quarters of consumers expect your fulfillment to be integrated across channels, and 73 percent of them are more likely to visit your store if its inventory is displayed on your website. Overall, their interaction with your digital channel affects 36 cents of every dollar spent in your stores. Your most valuable customers simply don't understand your business anymore if you don't speak omnichannel.

Yet for many organizations the question remains: Where do we start? Try focusing your team by using this mantra: "Omnichannel is a language." Visualizing it this way will help unify resources around one of your most critical revenue goals in two important ways.

First, all teams work better together when the end goal is clear. Drawing a simple picture and using that theme to communicate your strategy will mitigate the organizational obstacles that often accompany vaguely defined omnichannel objectives.

Second, and far more important, there is growing evidence that omnichannel shoppers are your top spenders. Research suggests multichannel customers (those who shop both in-store and online) spend 15 percent to 30 percent more than single-channel customers, and omnichannel customers (those who enjoy a seamless consumer experience across all channels) spend another 15 percent to 30 percent more than multichannel customers. One of our partner brands recently found that customers who had previously bought on their e-commerce site spent 17 percent more when they came in to a retail location.

In other words, not speaking omnichannel isn't just guaranteeing a future sales drag. It's causing losses in engagement, loyalty, and sales opportunities with your core VIP customers. Once your team understands omnichannel is critical to your core buyer—i.e., an initiative with serious revenue at stake—it will be easier to sell your strategy.

"Speaking omnichannel" will help you communicate more clearly and generate enthusiasm throughout your organization, but you will need to take immediate, incremental, and manageable steps to build momentum for your omnichannel program. Here are three key places to start:

1. Talk to the same customer within all channels. Personalization and segmentation play increasingly critical roles in your marketing strategy, but it's no longer helpful to assume channels are an important differentiator. In reality, your most engaged and loyal customers are using all channels to build a path to a sale. If operational challenges loom, focus on internal communication. Unify design and content to create as seamless an experience as possible. Then track user behavior to learn how they navigate channels to complete a purchase.

2. Make the returns process easy, and make your policy easier. Learn from companies like Nordstrom, which relaxed its returns policy as it shifted massive resources to digital commerce. As sales increasingly move online, most enterprises see overall gains when they remove this psychological barrier to brand commitment. Your customers should feel that wherever and however they buy from you, you will be there in any channel to support the sale. Instead of preventing your consumers from making easy exchanges and returns, focus on developing a data infrastructure that tracks this behavior across all channels and leverage it to optimize your supply chain.

3. Finally, get your in-store customers to join your database. Most omnichannel strategies focus on bringing a quality in-store experience to the digital channel, but don't forget about bringing the digital experience to your retail environments as well. The simplest and most effective place to begin is with your email database. Encourage in-store signups wherever you see an opportunity. For example, offer customers who are waiting in line the use of a store tablet to sign up for exclusive discounts. It's a low-effort initiative that boosts your remarketing efficiencies and reinforces the idea that your brand is available wherever they want to find it.

John Tomich is the CEO and cofounder of Onestop Internet.

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