Companies today have more channels of interaction with their customers than ever. The traditional ones, such as physical stores, have been joined by digital ones, such as applications, social networks and online sales. The challenge now is to unite them all. Its integration into a single system is the goal of omnichannel, a strategy, increasingly in vogue, which allows consumers to move seamlessly from one channel to another during the purchase process and obtain the most satisfactory experience possible.
Óscar Katime, partner responsible for Innovation at the consulting firm EY, lists its benefits: “With omnichannel, a better service is provided, and this will boost market positioning; which, in turn, will make the company more accessible, close, transparent and friendly. The increase in the number of transactions, therefore, will be the consequence ”. In addition, brands will obtain through this integration valuable information about their customers’ habits.
The opportunities for organizations to promote this strategy are multiplying in the face of the rise of the hybrid consumer, which combines traditional shopping with digital. “In 2020, 52% of citizens said they go to the physical channel and the internet indistinctly, but in the future this percentage is expected to be 78%”, says the president of the Spanish Confederation of Commerce (CEC), Pedro Campo, when referring to the conclusions of the last congress of the organization.
The physical store represents the traditional place where companies offer their products and services and carry out transactions, but few businesses today can do without digital channels, which multiply the opportunities to interact with the consumer. Victoria Labajo, professor of Commercial Management and Retail at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas ICAI-ICADE, he mentions the most common: “The web pages [que cuentan con buzones virtuales y robots conversacionales, denominados chatbots], commerce through mobile devices, sales platforms and applications, social networks and marketplaces like Amazon or eBay. In addition to product aggregators [sitios que comparan distintas marcas del mismo tipo de producto, como ShopAlike] and promotional flash sales platforms [que ofrecen descuentos por un periodo de tiempo limitado]”.
If managing several of these channels at the same time is defined as multichannel, omnichannel is the fusion of all of them in a single system. In this way, “they are presented perfectly integrated into the same shopping experience or some of them are combined at different times in the process”, explains Labajo. For example, “digital contact points can be incorporated in the physical store: tablets to check stocks or for customers to consult the catalog or search for information on products, as well as augmented reality applications, such as virtual fitting rooms, among others” , describes the teacher.
For Luis Soler, Deloitte Consulting partner, a clear example of an omnichannel business model is “the restaurant with its own website, which takes orders by phone, has a presence on home delivery platforms and, of course, has tables in your local ”. Consumers thus have multiple avenues to make reservations and orders and obtain useful information about the business.
Communication with the client by all possible means
Communication is a key factor in omnichannel. When referring to it, the director responsible for Digital Business at KPMG in Spain, Benjamin Evans, mentions several essential actions that are part of its digital aspect: “Advertising display [anuncios que combinan imágenes y texto, y que se muestran en la parte superior o lateral de las páginas en forma de banners, en español, pancartas], the search engine marketing [anuncios en buscadores, SEM por sus siglas en inglés], email campaigns, messages push on the mobile phone [los que llegan de una aplicación, aunque no se esté utilizando en ese momento] and social networks, among others ”. Likewise, the typical traditional channels To develop a communication campaign are the press, outdoor advertisements, radio and television, he adds.
A combination of both worlds that this expert brings up is the gradual transformation of a medium such as television into something more personalized and interactive thanks to the Smart tv (connected television). “Increasingly, users will see advertisements on the screen that will direct to a landing page [una página web a la que se accede desde un enlace], by pressing a button on the remote control ”, predicts Evans.
In any case, what must be taken into account, emphasizes Erik Rigola, specialist in digital strategy at the consulting firm RocaSalvatella, in the Banco Sabadell Podcast Simple ways to sell online, is that “there are not only digital or only physical consumers, but omnichannel, so the channel through which the customer acquires the product is not so important but the shopping experience that is provided.”
For Evans, the center of the strategy will always be the user. “And it is necessary to accompany him throughout the purchase process to facilitate the knowledge of the product, the brand, or the company, but especially so that he feels the most important thing,” he adds.
Inditex represents one of those cases in which omnichannel is a success, says Labajo. “Despite having come to electronic commerce later than some of its competitors, this firm is committed to the integration between digital and traditional, and has achieved this by favoring the generation of traffic to physical stores from its internet channels by prioritizing the collection of orders in their establishments. And all this supported by the application of the latest technologies in logistics, in radio frequency control [para el registro de las existencias] and in augmented reality ”.
A useful strategy for any company
Experts agree that company size does not matter when it comes to running omnichannel. “In fact, it will be easier to implement it in a small and medium-sized company (SME) or a start-up, since it will not have all those layers of bureaucracy, processes and policies typical of large companies and that make it difficult to redesign the customer’s shopping experience so that they can jump nimbly from channel to channel ”, says Katime, partner of EY.
This expert believes that few companies correctly approach this strategy, whose objective should be to eliminate frictions and barriers that the customer may encounter. “If what drives it to implement it in the company is only to sell more, it is implicitly saying that it does not matter what the consumer thinks, and that is what unfortunately happens on many occasions”, he emphasizes. The increase in sales, far from being the ultimate goal, is just one more benefit, which occurs as a result of its correct application.
Omnichannel in small businesses
Adopting this strategy is a great challenge for all types of businesses. Its implementation requires, according to Soler, from Deloitte, learning to efficiently exploit the data provided by the channels to make decisions, adapt and make the supply chain more flexible, innovate in customer interaction and train staff.
In the face of the outbreak of the pandemic, retail, however, has had to make a virtue of necessity. “During the strict confinement, many entrepreneurs started selling through web pages and social networks, established new forms of payment such as Bizum, sold directly through WhatsApp, or increased their presence on platforms such as Instagram, broadcasting on direct with their clients ”, indicates Campo.
“Now it’s time to analyze these tools, which are widely used in companies, especially to answer queries and gain visibility,” admits the president of the CEC. However, “the buying process usually ends in the physical store”, underlines the expert, for whom this is the essence of this type of business. For this reason, retailers defend an omnichannel approach in which the traditional channel and the digital one complement and enhance each other, without one replacing the other.