Nowadays, the online and in-store businesses of companies are often divided as if they were two separate worlds, with different strategies and customers. And yet consumers no longer focus on a single communication channel (e.g., bricks-and-mortar store); rather, they use multiple touchpoints (e.g., bricks-and-mortar store, app and website) and multiple devices, like smartphones, smart watches and desktop computers.
This continuous zig-zagging between multiple channels and devices has increased the complexity of the customer journey taken by consumers before making a purchasing decision. This is why it is necessary to transition from a multichannel to an omnichannel marketing strategy.
What are the differences between multichannel and omnichannel?
Multichannel: the company has multiple communication channels, which are not integrated with each other and function like silos, with different strategies and objectives.
Omnichannel: the company has multiple communication channels, which are integrated with each other and create an uninterrupted customer journey.
Although both strategies call for communications or sales across multiple physical and digital channels, the big difference lies in the customer experience across the various channels.
The multichannel strategy is focused on individual sales channels (e.g., bricks-and-mortar store, Ecommerce, TV, social media, newsletters, instant messaging, etc.). Each channel is seen as an activity in and of itself which, in the majority of cases, does not share strategies and information with the other channels.
One example is a consumer who is used to ordering online, but decides to go to the brand’s bricks-and-mortar store. In this case, rarely are the employees at that point of sale able to access consumer purchasing history or be aware of the products they searched for online, and this could make it impossible to offer them a personalised experience based on their preferences. In addition, it cannot be ruled out that the two channels may look different in the eyes of consumers, from the messages conveyed in the different channels to the perceived experience while they transition from one channel to another.
The lack of integration between the various channels can therefore create confusion in the consumer, giving rise to a bad user experience. Every brand channel will be perceived as separate and there will be no continuity between them. However, nowadays, consumers do not see the various brands as independent silos; rather, they navigate through multiple physical and digital channels before completing a purchase, perhaps using multiple devices and accessing online reviews and information.
The omnichannel strategy places the consumer at the centre and aims for continuous interaction between the brand and consumers, irrespective of the channel through which they are interacting with the brand. The purchasing experience will be integrated and uninterrupted across all channels, and the consumer will perceive a single journey without the silo effect of the multichannel strategy.
Indeed, in 2018, retailers increasingly needed to improve integration between in-store and online activities by exploiting more omnichannel models. According to the Digital Innovation in Retail Observatory, promoted by the School of Management at the Polytechnic University of Milan, companies that also sell online have implemented two omnichannel services on average.
As regards medium-small retailers, in 2018 98% had implemented at least one omnichannel model to integrate the traditional store with other points of contact. Although implementing some models does not mean adopting a real omnichannel strategy, it is certainly a great step forward from the multichannel approach.
Therefore, the omnichannel approach creates an interconnected environment that offers the business a broader view of the customer journey with greater cross and upselling opportunities and, at the same time, increases the loyalty of customers who enjoy a more personalised purchasing experience.
Increasing numbers of companies are adopting technological solutions, often distinguished by a strong digital component: interactive totems, tablets that can be used to browse through the catalogue and geolocation services in brand apps that suggest discounts and promotions are just a few examples. Also, alongside these tools, solutions are also entering the market which enable the customer to finalise the purchase with the payment and the merchant to increase sales, without having to necessarily send them always and only to the checkout.
As privileged observers of the retail world, thanks to the feedback that we gather every day from our merchant customers, we have taken advantage of these opportunities by integrating solutions into our offer that combine the advantages of Ecommerce payments, such as tracking purchase orders and the ability to accept roughly 200 alternative payment methods, with those of payments typical of the bricks-and-mortar world, like contactless payment and the integration of payment schemes that are still very oriented towards the physical world, like Pagobancomat.
Software integration is basically unlimited, thanks to the possibility to enable the payment gateway to communicate through APIs, soap or rest, depending on the company’s requirements and thanks to plugins for the main CMSs.
We have not just extended the potential of our software: today our POS offer includes advanced devices, such as the very recently introduced POS A920 and PAX’s A60, which work on the Android platform and on which our customers install, for example, proprietary apps to manage fidelity programmes, catalogues or order collection.
We also know that, particularly in Italy, cash still plays an important role in retail payments. Thus we have adopted solutions like smart safes which, once installed in the store, can be used to store cash and receive it automatically in the current account of any bank. In essence, an instrument which enables our customers to digitalise cash and, at the same time, not worry about its material management.
Therefore, even the collection aspect can today be completely integrated within an immersive customer journey with no friction for the consumer, and for brands can become a differentiating element that is particularly incisive for their business objectives. We are more than ready to accompany you on this journey. All you need to do is decide when.
¹ Source: https://www.osservatori.net/it_it/osservatori/comunicati-stampa/innovazione-retail-italia-trend-2019
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