Understanding Retailing Channels: How to Implement an Omnichannel Retail Strategy

Going omnichannel is something that pretty much every retailer knows they should do, but many merchants still struggle with providing a seamless shopping experience across physical and digital channels. 

Depending on your business, having a presence on multiple retailing channels can be a complex endeavor, but the effort is more than worth it. 

In this post, we’ll explore the reasons to sell on multiple channels and the best practices for doing it. We’ll also share some examples of retailers that are doing a good job with their omnichannel initiatives. 

Let’s get started.

Why sell on multiple retailing channels?

Why go through all the trouble of going omnichannel? Consider the following key benefits.

Maximize your reach. Having a presence on multiple channels allows shoppers to encounter your brand in more places, thus widening your reach and enabling you to get in front of more people. 

Retain more customers. These days, having an omnichannel retail presence is a critical part of the modern customer experience. Customers will thank you for being on multiple retailing channels. 

Industry data shows that companies with omnichannel initiatives retain an average of 89% of their customers, while those with poor omnichannel efforts had a customer retention rate of 33%

Establish more credibility. Consumers tend to put more trust in brands that have both an online and offline presence. A survey by Google found 61% of respondents would prefer to shop from retailers with a brick and mortar location than with those who only operate online. 

In a world where it’s so easy to set up an ecommerce site, having a physical shop in addition to your online store will go a long way in boosting customer trust.

Tips to successfully do business on multiple retailing channels

Let’s now look at some action steps you could take to successfully go omnichannel.

Map out your customer journey

The first step is to get clear on your customer journeys. Iron out your shoppers’ path(s) to purchase to get an understanding of how they find your store and the ways that they want to buy from you. 

There are several ways to get insights about your customers’ retailing journey. 

Get info directly from your customers

One reliable way to get to know your customers is to get input directly from them. Talk to your customers or send a survey asking question like:

  • How did they find you?
  • How did they find the products they purchased from you?
  • Why did your customers decide to buy from you specifically?
  • What’s their preferred way to get their hands on their orders?

The answers to these questions will help you figure out which channels are most important for your business. For example, if the majority of shoppers found you on Google, then you’ll know that search is an important channel for you. 

On the fulfillment side, if shoppers tell you that they prefer to pick up their items in-store, then this indicates that you’ll need to beef up your buy online pick up in store (BOPIS) initiatives. 

Tap into retail analytics

You could also infer customer insights by listening to what your retail data is telling you. Go through your retail analytics — i.e., sales and customer reports — and figure out where sales are coming from and who your top customers are. 

If you have an ecommerce site, pay attention to your traffic sources. Use a tool like Google Analytics to figure out how customers are finding your website. If the majority of your traffic is coming from organic search, then this indicates that you have a strong Google presence, and you must strive to maintain it. 

If you’re getting referral traffic from review websites or social media, it may make sense to launch partnerships and campaigns to increase your presence on those platforms. 

Identify the right channels 

Taking the above-steps will give you a clear idea of which platforms, websites, and channels should be prioritized and optimized. It’s likely that your customers go through different journeys in finding your brand and ultimately buying from you.

For example, some customers may find you on Google, buy from your ecommerce site, and decide to pick up their purchase at one of your neighborhood stores. On other hand, you may also have a chunk of customers who come across your brand on social media, and complete their purchase online. 

The key is to figure out the most common journeys as well as the top channels that come up in your shoppers’ path to purchase. This will help you identify the best channels to optimize.

Iron out your retail tech

Technology is the key component that powers a retailer’s omnichannel/multichannel strategy. The right solution can help you connect your retailing channels and enable a smooth shopping experience for your customers. 

From a retail tech side of things, the best way to implement omnichannel practices is to opt for an open ecosystem of apps and solutions. 

This means choosing retail systems that easily integrate with one another. There are plenty of companies that try to lock you into a specific platform. For instance, some POS software providers want you to use their own payment platform instead of letting you choose the best payment processor for your business. 

This type of setup won’t work well in today’s retail environment. Our current landscape requires retailers to be flexible and adaptable at all times, and you can’t do that if you’re tied down to a specific platform or vendor. 

On your quest to go omnichannel, a good place to start is with your primary retail management system. What’s the main platform on which your business is running? What’s the central hub of your operations?

For many retailers, the answer lies in their point of sale (POS) solution. This is why it’s essential to use a POS that can easily integrate with other platforms. When choosing a system to run your business, look into the various integrations that it offers. Does it connect with your preferred ecommerce platform? Are you free to choose your own payment processor? The more open and flexible your POS is, the easier it will be to go omnichannel.

Omnichannel in action: 3 retailers doing it right

Now that we’ve covered the best ways to implement multiple retailing channels, here are some examples of retailers doing omnichannel right.

Art Plus

Art Plus is connecting and engaging with customers on two key channels: Google Search and brick and mortar. The company does this by having a strong profile on Google that’s integrated with its POS system. Art Plus is using Pointy from Google, a solution that gets retailer’s products online so customers can see what’s available before heading to the store. 

With Pointy from Google, Art Plus is able to showcase its in-store catalog on its Google Business Profile, enabling shoppers to see Art Plus’ real time inventory before they make the trip. 

Vend Tip

Getting started with Pointy is easy and free if you’re a Vend customer. Just connect your Vend account, follow the prompts, and you’re good to go.

Learn More

Smack Bang 

Smack Bang, a NZ-based retailer that sells pet accessories and treats, offers an excellent example of a loyalty program that transcends retailing channels. Smack Bang’s loyalty program (powered by Marsello) works seamlessly across its ecommerce and brick and mortar stores, so loyal customers can earn points and redeem rewards regardless of where or how they’re shopping. 

“Marsello’s seamless Vend and Shopify loyalty integrations are a key part of our customer retention plan for both our physical and online stores and has proven to keep customers coming back to earn points and redeem rewards,” says Amelia Lingonis, Director at Smack Bang. Being able to customise the widget online to reflect our branding is really important to us, allowing us to create an online shopping experience as close to the physical store as possible.”

Vend Tip

Grow your business with the complete retention marketing toolbox. Marsello combines data driven automation, email, SMS, and loyalty programs to deliver smart, targeted marketing, designed to increase customer retention and sales. Marsello retailers see an average of 44X ROI.

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Spoilt is a gift and homeware store based in Australia. The company has an ecommerce site, along with several brick and mortar locations. In addition, Spoilt also uses Instagram’s shopping features to showcase its products and sell on the app. And because Spoilt’s retailing channels are all integrated, the company can sell on different platforms while keeping inventory and sales data in sync. 

“The main add-on we use is Shopify. That is where we are running our online store. That was the main reason for us to move to Vend. We did like our old system as it had some great reporting features but it was not moving with the times when it came to being an omni-channel platform,” explains Laura Semple, Marketing & Business Development Coordinator at Spoilt.

“We wanted the ability to have our products featured on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Google Shop, and more to make it easier for customers to buy from us no matter what platform they were on. Shopify has really allowed us to do this quite well and while there are always some hurdles it has definitely given us more control to do it in-house with both Vend and Shopify.”

Vend Tip

Open your store to the world by combining Vend’s easy-to-use POS and Inventory management with the best ecommerce platforms on the planet. Manage your online and in-store operations from one place while launching your brand into new markets.

Learn More

Are you doing business on multiple retailing channels?

Going omnichannel is table stakes in retail today. If you haven’t done so yet, take action to establish a presence on the retailing channels relevant to your audience. From there, start integrating various platforms and ensure that customers have a smooth brand experience no matter where they are or what device they are using. 

Open your store to the world by combining Vend’s easy-to-use POS and Inventory management with the best ecommerce platforms on the planet. Manage your online and in-store operations from one place while launching your brand into new markets. Try Vend for free.

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.