When discussing omnichannel retail for manufacturers, yes you’ve heard it before: “brick and mortar retail is dead.” While it’s true that eCommerce has changed the retail game, that doesn’t mean that in-store shopping is going anywhere anytime soon.

Customers continue to shop in stores, but they also shop online in a variety of ways: through mobile, social, third-party sales channels like Amazon Marketplace, and more. 

What is “dead” are the days of a linear path to purchasing. Customers frequently start, stop, and pick back up the purchasing process through various channels.

A customer might start browsing on their desktop at work, continue on their phone during a meeting, then get distracted and forget about it. They’ll get redirected by a targeted ad they see on their Facebook page later, and eventually wind up visiting a store. 

Others start out in a store, browse items in person, and then go home to compare additional options via an online product catalog. 

This is where an omnichannel retail strategy comes into play.

What is Omnichannel Retail?

Omnichannel retail is when a retailer provides customers with a fully-integrated shopping experience. Customers can switch seamlessly between brick and mortar shopping to online browsing and more. All aspects of retail - sales, marketing, customer service, etc. - are integrated. 

Omnichannel is different than multichannel, though the two terms sometimes get confused. However, there is an important distinction between the two: while omnichannel provides the same experience across all commerce platforms, multichannel allows customers to purchase products in many ways, without integration.

Omnichannel vs Multichannel graphic

A true omnichannel strategy would look like:

  • Browsing in-store, scanning a product, comparing it to other products you may not offer in-store, and then being able to order the preferred version.
  • Scroll Facebook, spot a pair of shoes, hit “like” and get a Direct Message with a discount code, which can be used online or in-store.
  • Link in-store purchasing to a customer account, and then invite that customer to exclusive in-store events. 

The Value of Omnichannel

Going omnichannel can seem overwhelming, but the fact is - it works.

The Harvard Business Review found that 73% of customers already shop omnichannel. If your brand can’t support this, you’ll get left behind.

But beyond that, studies consistently show that shoppers who engage on multiple channels make purchases more frequently, with some studies indicating that omnichannel more than doubles customer purchases. 

Businesses also managed to retain 89% of their customers when engaging them via an omnichannel strategy, proving just how much it strengthens brand loyalty.

Omnichannel in Practice

So how can a business implement omnichannel? It might not be quite as daunting as you think.

Connect Online and Offline

If you have a brick-and-mortar store, not just an eCommerce platform, then look at how you can integrate the two experiences. 

From “pick up in-store” options to “locate & purchase today” features on websites, to apps that connect special offers, gift cards, and allow in-store customers to locate out-of-stock items online, focus on a fluid experience.

The goal isn’t to produce sales on one specific platform, rather it’s to make sales channels as accessible as possible.

Every Channel Should Be Shoppable

Think about all the platforms on which your business has a presence: social, website, email, in-store, app, mobile, smart devices, third-party marketplaces, etc.

Now, how can you make each place shoppable? From Facebook’s store integrations to Instagram’s shoppable product tags, begin to carry the same shopping experience throughout all channels.

Know Your Customers

It can never be said too frequently - you have to know your customers. It’s not worth making Pinterest part of your omnichannel strategy if none of your customers use it. 

But if everyone’s on eBay, then determine how to integrate that channel to your overall customer experience.

Plot out your customer journey, including non-linear paths, and determine how to enhance it. Where are your customers spending the most time? Where do you lose them? 

While the answers vary by business and industry, the principles still apply. 

Omnichannel for Manufacturers

While an omnichannel strategy is beneficial for all retailers, manufacturing companies must approach going omnichannel a bit differently. 

Unlike a clothing retailer, who is directly selling to customers, manufacturers generally have B2B sales channels to manage, not necessarily B2C. 

This means that buyers include retailers, distribution centers, warehouses, and more. Those people are then serving customers, whether through delivery, in-store experiences, or other points of interaction. 

Consequently, it’s critical for manufacturers to have collaborative relationships with their warehouses and distributors, whose front-end and real-time customer insights directly affect increased revenue and sales.

Manufacturers should take care to consider both direct and indirect channels in their omnichannel strategy, beginning with supplier/distributor/retailer alignment. 

Next Steps

Not sure where to begin in assessing your current channels and integrating them for a seamless customer experience? Reach out to the team of experts at Object Edge.

About the Author

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Sarah Falcon

VP, Marketing Global

Sarah is a nimble and creative marketing leader with 15 years of experience in a mix of agencies, B2B, and B2C enterprises. She brings a background in building and driving impactful marketing practices and processes for growing businesses. Sarah has expertise in brand, content marketing, lead generation, and marketing operations. She’s a co-author of the 2019 book on B2B eCommerce Digital Branch Secrets: eCommerce Playbook for Distributors.

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