omni channel marketing
omni channel marketing

Although online sales comprised just 16% of total retail sales based on recent estimates from both the U.S. Commerce Department and Digital Commerce 360, online is vital to retailers. The reason? Forrester Research says consumers are going online to browse, compare prices and check inventory before purchasing and concluded that as much as 36% of sales directly result from these digital excursions.

The conclusion is that on-site retail and eCommerce are now inseparable. Retailers who haven’t yet recognized the connection and who haven’t invested in omnichannel would be wise to do so sooner than later. Omnichannel also connects both by directing shoppers on their mobile apps to the store shelf for they’re seeking on-site or arranging in-store pick-up.

How many consumers will continue to shop online after the pandemic is over has yet to be determined. However, all research conducted to date has reported that many embraced it and will continue doing so. Omnichannel has the advantage of offering customers different options of how they wish to obtain their purchases. For retailers, it can affect change more rapidly by rerouting products to an open store or another distribution center using real-time data.

According to a Digital Commerce 360 survey just before the pandemic, 78% of online shoppers had already used some omnichannel form within the past six months. That number has grown even more since then. The encouraging news for merchants is that 21% also said they made an additional purchase when picking up their order at the store. 18% added that they planned to do this more often over the next six months. This likely didn’t occur because of the pandemic but may be predictive of consumer behavior in the new normal.

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One of the many things the pandemic affected was supply chains, and omnichannel proved quite vital in that area. More than half the retailers (50.7%) polled said they allowed consumers to look up store inventories online. And at the time, only 5.6% of brands were selling only online, and 17.6% of catalog call centers had implemented this.

Other services like returns would appear to be a good fit for omnichannel, but only 63.3% of large retailers allow online customers to return purchases to their stores. Many retailers were still struggling with the logistics of online merchandise being returned, although 59% of consumers said they expect it. How this will affect future customer loyalty has not yet been determined.

There are several things that online shoppers have high expectations of. The first is that prices online and in-store are consistent with one another. 74% of consumers rated the highest of all categories. The next is an important asset of omnichannel. 59% said access to inventory at other locations was important.

The third and fourth priorities focused on store associates being able to place an online item in the store for subsequent pick-up and accessing a customer’s online order history in the store. What followed were other omnichannel benefits, like customer orders being consolidated and accessible via website, apps, and stores, store associates’ ability to use technology to enhance the shopping experience, and their ability to complete the transaction on a mobile device.

The role of omnichannel is clear. It’s here to stay, and time for merchants not yet on the bandwagon to log on.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.