As the evidence has been screaming at marketers for years now, fading brand loyalty means that consumers can no longer be counted on to come back for more. A good shopping experience may be enough to land one sale, but it no longer guarantees future customer purchases. The answer? Go omnichannel.
What’s the difference between omnichannel and multi-channel inventory management?
As per usual in the commerce tech space, there’s an infinite list of clunky names to describe selling products across multiple channels: multi-channel order management, multi-channel inventory management, multi-channel ecommerce management, omnichannel management, omnichannel retail and on, and on and on.
The truth is it doesn’t really matter what you call it. With commerce anarchy showing no signs of abating, products still need to get to consumers. To do this, products have to be available where consumers spend their time, and consumers’ time spent engaging with products needs to be favorable. That means all product data at every consumer touchpoint needs to be synced to keep a consistent brand presence.
If you look at the current commerce landscape – shaped by evolving ecommerce tech innovations – it’s not hard to see that an omnichannel strategy can create tremendous opportunity for companies. Still skeptical? Let’s explore the top reasons to ditch your old ways and go omnichannel.
1. Social commerce is booming
Unless you spent the past two years locked in a room watching the entire Marvel series back-to-back, you’ll know that social commerce is booming and, well, booming. Did I say booming?
But before you pat yourself on the back for running an exceptional Instagram account, let’s put your social multichannel strategy to the test. Do you use TikTok? Have you tried live stream shopping events? How are your Pinterest ads performing? What about your Facebook Shops?
The rate at which social media channels are adopting commerce capabilities is nearly impossible to keep up with. Just consider TikTok’s plans to open a chain of delivery-only restaurants to convert recipe videos on its app to food orders.
While social channels are becoming more shoppable, most companies have barely scratched the surface when it comes to social commerce. Less than 25% of companies sell their products on the world's largest social media platforms. Specifically, only 20% use Facebook as a sales channel, while just 14% use Instagram.
Managing the perfect Instagram account for your business while failing to exist in the dozens of other social channels can actually cause damage to your brand. When a consumer opens their phone, they don’t just open one app before putting the device down. They open Facebook where they see a reminder that their friend’s birthday is coming up, which prompts them to open Pinterest to reference their board for party decorations. From there, they hop over to TikTok to get inspiration from their favorite influencers on the best party themes.
This is today’s consumer behavior – from Gen Z up to the Boomers. To drive omnichannel sales, you need to consider a centralized product content syndication solution ensuring an enhanced consumer experience on every channel.
2. Offline and online commerce are merging: Hello hybrid!
You might be reading about big retail store closures in the headlines like CVS or Bed, Bath & Beyond, but these headlines don’t capture the massive shift to hybrid shopping experiences that accelerated since the global lockdown in early 2020. “Brick-and-mortar is dead '' is a false narrative. The reality is that offline shopping experiences need to complement online ones – which means you need to leverage both physical and digital channels as part of your omnichannel strategy. And we are not just talking about the huge explosion in click-and-collect (BOPIS) services offered by retailers.
Take a consumer doing their weekly grocery shopping. They start by scrolling through Instagram and TikTok recipes to build their shopping list. Next, they visit their local grocers’ websites to compare prices of pomegranates and greek cheese and check to see what’s in stock. The thirsty shopper may place an online delivery order for a case of beer-free beer, so they don’t have to worry about lugging that around a store. Finally, logging off their laptop – or mobile device – they head to the supermarket to purchase the rest of their items. This is hybrid shopping. And this is happening more and more.
The line between physical commerce and ecommerce has become a blurred smudge, and it’s not enough to just depend on one without the other. Just look at companies born in the cloud that are investing in brick-and-mortar, such as Shopify’s patent for in-store commerce tech. Or vice versa, companies that have traditionally dominated in-store sales are developing more ecommerce capabilities, such as Walmart’s delivery service expansion. Consumers are shopping in all dimensions, so you need an omnichannel approach to best master both worlds and all the channels these hybrid worlds are creating.
3. More marketplaces, everywhere
You might have heard of Amazon, Walmart, and eBay? They’re a pretty big deal. But do they own the whole market? Why is craft retailer Michaels launching its own marketplace? Or why is Steve Madden opening a secondhand marketplace? Because there is space for everyone, especially after the announcement of meta-marketplaces we’ve heard so much about. Think of the new NFT marketplaces that are popping up, like GameStop or the Associated Press.
Brands, retailers, service providers, and everyone in between seem to be hopping on the marketplace bandwagon. And there is a lot of interest out there as companies are looking for more opportunities to reach new customers, acquire new sellers, and ultimately compete with the giants.
The new proliferation of marketplaces means there are more channels for consumers to find products and make purchases than ever before. If someone is shopping for a scarf to give as a present, they might search for a handmade scarf on Etsy or Michaels, a used scarf on Poshmark or eBay, or a trending scarf on Amazon or Walmart. The companies that build brand trust and win sales are the ones that appear across all relevant marketplaces.
4. Global is the new local
Similar to offline and online commerce merging, local and global shopping experiences are blending together. Programs like Google’s Local Inventory Ads direct online shoppers to store locations that have the products they’re looking for readily available. This feature enables them to search for items on a global scale while providing an option to source them locally.
So in other words, consumers can live in California, order a jacket from a UK brand online, and pick it up at a local retailer. Consumers are happy because they receive their items faster and avoid paying expensive shipping fees. Brands are even happier because they can fulfill orders with available inventory.
Enhanced logistics, marketplace global fulfillment centers, and smart translation services all make global growth easier than ever. The digital nature of feed management, multichannel inventory, and content syndication means that the e-paths you create to reach local buyers are the same as the paths you could use to move your products to consumers around the globe and across all channels.
But ‘shopping local’ has also become much more than a convenient, cheaper shopping option for consumers. It’s all the rage. In fact, 37% of US and UK shoppers said they shop locally even if it’s more expensive or less convenient. The environmental and economic impacts of shopping habits are a growing concern for consumers, so for those small brands that are digitally native or those big retailers with a large carbon footprint, using multichannel or omnichannel inventory management creates more opportunity to utilize local resources.
5. Everyone else is doing it, so …
Sometimes peer pressure is a good thing. Like when you really don’t feel like leaving your couch, but you’re talked into going out and having a good time. This is exactly what’s happening on commerce couches all over the globe right now.
While you might think your customers are loyal enough to keep coming back for more, the truth is they’re easily distracted by offerings on the thousands of other channels. Ecommerce has made finding the highest quality product for the best price with the fastest shipping a bit of a game for consumers. There’s no guarantee that a single positive brand experience will be enough to build a long-term customer relationship.
If you don’t appear in the social feeds your buyers are scrolling or new marketplace ads that pop up, believe me, one of your industry-peers probably already has. In a crowded commerce market, you can’t afford to risk becoming irrelevant just because your peers are executing better multi-channel inventory management strategies.
How do you manage an omnichannel strategy?
Great, you’re convinced omnichannel is the only way. But how do you keep up with product listings spread out across thousands of marketing and selling channels?
There is a reason companies aren’t all executing perfect omnichannel strategies – their current tech stacks make it extremely difficult. Most companies rely on siloed systems for feed management, product content syndication, digital asset management, and other processes.
This approach is incredibly taxing for the teams responsible for onboarding, updating, and exporting the data in these systems. Even worse, a tangled web of systems leads to inaccurate, inconsistent, and out-of-date information being shared on the various channels products are listed. So all of that work put into making yourself present across a myriad of marketplaces, online stores, and social platforms? Pointless. You’ve now frustrated shoppers who are experiencing negative interactions with your brand.
Luckily, there are strategies on hand to master omnichannel commerce. With an optimal product-to-consumer strategy, you can streamline the process of setting up and managing products across multiple channels. P2C management ensures your product data meets all channel requirements and enables you to make updates in one consolidated system.
Those updates are then reflected in real-time across every channel where you’re present to ensure shoppers coming across your sneaker listings on Amazon see the same information when they scroll past your ad on Instagram. It’s that easy.