Omnichannel commerce trends

2024 Omnichannel Commerce Trends

Scrolling through TikTok on your phone, you spot an interesting product. You Google it, read some reviews, compare prices from different sellers, and watch a how-to video. After pulling up directions to a store location with the item in stock, you head over to try it out and buy it, receiving an email receipt with a thank-you offer. Sweet!

You’ve just experienced omnichannel commerce at its seamless best – and it requires fierce orchestration behind the scenes to execute. With consumers now expecting consistent and cohesive interactions with brands wherever they shop, you need omnichannel commerce solutions, strategies, and tools that can keep up.

What is Omnichannel Commerce?

Omnichannel commerce is an approach to selling that enables consumers to interact with brands wherever they prefer to shop, online or offline. In addition to managing their own websites, omnichannel sellers might establish and maintain commerce-enabled outposts on social networks and send promotional email updates in addition to offering products in physical stores.  

Sellers with a successful omnichannel commerce strategy connect these experiences to create a seamless whole. Shoppers using multiple brand touchpoints to inform their selections and make purchases can pick up where they left off as they move along the path to purchase, accessing relevant resources and timely promotions wherever they choose to interact with the brand. 

Omnichannel Commerce Example

While every brand with a store location and a website can claim to be “omnichannel,” it’s the ability to connect the dots among touchpoints that sets retailers apart. Target is an omnichannel champion precisely because of this capability to orchestrate interactions.

In 2019, Target invested heavily in its physical locations – a seemingly counterintuitive move in a year when analysts predicted “the death of the store” and the rise of voice shopping via gadgets like Amazon Alexa. But the decision to focus on services such as curbside pickup was based on hard numbers: fulfilling online orders via stores was 90% less expensive than home delivery from warehouses, according to a Target report from early March of 2020.

The genius of Target’s strategy paid off in the months that followed, as consumers flocked online in droves during the pandemic. As other stores scrambled to retrofit their fulfillment operations, Target was ready to provide socially-distanced service at scale. In 2020, Target reported that shoppers using a combination of store and web services spent 4x more than customers exclusively relying on stores, and 10x more than online-only customers. 

Target continues to invest in stores, with the addition of 300 locations and upgrades for existing properties slated for 2024. Shoppers can browse items and order online for free pickup in an hour or two, with notifications and easy-to-follow how-to steps guiding them through the process. 

The retailer is simultaneously prioritizing digital loyalty features via its Circle app, which will now include a paid tier for those who want access to free same- or next-day shipping. In addition, Target has integrated AI into its core eCommerce site to generate relevant browsing experiences in real time and at scale. . 

Omnichannel Commerce Vs Unified Commerce

While most brands don’t have access to Target’s resources and store network, they still seek ways to boost omnichannel strategy by creating seamless experiences for shoppers across touchpoints. 

The question is how to do it – and weighing unified commerce vs omnichannel is part of the process. The terms describe different degrees of integration when it comes to the back-end systems that deliver service across channels. 

  • Omnichannel commerce describes any approach that integrates and connects channel offerings to create a smooth experience for shoppers. Often, merchants rely on stand-alone technologies to deliver specialized features such as product recommendations or text messaging notifications, using integrations to knit together experiences and share data. Brands can customize the assortment of technologies they rely on based on their audience’s priorities.
  • Unified commerce is a subset of omnichannel commerce and refers to use of a single back-end platform to manage online experiences end-to-end. This approach eliminates the need for potentially-tricky integrations, but because the entire platform needs to be revamped before new offerings can be added, it can also be limiting to retailers who want to customize their feature set and rapidly deploy new offerings.

In one way, omnichannel and unified commerce are alike: they rely on creating comprehensive customer profiles that assemble data from interactions across multiple channels. Whether the profile is housed in a single unified platform or shared among distributed systems, it’s a vital component of delivering consistent omnichannel experiences.

Benefits of Omnichannel Commerce

The chief benefit of omnichannel commerce is that it reflects the reality of how shoppers discover and buy products today. Consider these proof points:

Adapting to serve customers wherever they shop has business benefits, too. Like Target, brands can realize cost savings when they leverage store locations for online order pickup and delivery. The revenue side of the ledger benefits from omnichannel as well. 

Challenges of Omnichannel Commerce

While going omnichannel may be a smart business decision, it’s not easy. Challenges include:

  • Connecting experiences across digital and physical realms to create a smooth continuum is a complex process, and one that requires robust testing and continuous refinement. 
  • Not only must website experiences be glitch-free, but you need to capture and unify customer data as they hop from channel to channel so you have a complete picture of behavior and preferences. Digiday research found that 45% of marketers struggle with  accurate measurement across channels.
  • Additionally, follow-through across touchpoints must be swift and accurate. Customer service advice needs to be consistent and personalized wherever it’s offered, and when it comes to fulfillment, a high degree of coordination is necessary to make good on promises for speedy delivery or store pickup. 

Current Omnichannel Commerce Trends

By and large, brands are betting that the benefits of omnichannel outweigh the logistical and technical challenges. Retailers now sell their goods on an average of four different channels, with 80% looking to expand, according to research from Square. These omnichannel commerce trends are shaping the future of retail:

1. The Omnichannel Journey is Personal

Consumers are bombarded with commercial offers and messaging everywhere they go. A successful omnichannel experience shouldn’t simply multiply promotional efforts; instead, it should cut through the clutter, making it easy to discover, order, and receive relevant products, using whatever channels and methods suit the individual situation. Seven in 10 consumers now expect companies to streamline the digital experience with personalized interactions, according to McKinsey.

To achieve omnichannel personalization, your efforts should be tailored on multiple levels. For starts, match your omnichannel offerings to the habits of your target audience. If they don’t use TikTok, you’re not obligated to maintain a presence there, despite all the hype.

Once your channel selection is set, tailor digital experience across channels by leveraging the data at your command. Encourage shoppers to provide information about themselves through interactive quizzes and style profile builders, and cull signals from browser data such as time of day, location and device type to create a rich profile. Automated personalization tools can tailor product and content recommendations on the fly to create smooth and seamless experiences.

2. Mobile is the Primary Omnichannel Portal

Mobile phones are the dominant device of choice for shopping, with half of consumers of all ages saying they use them most often when looking for products online, according to HubSpot. But even when consumers aren’t explicitly shopping, mobiles are critical to the omnichannel experience. The majority of social media activity, video views, and direct messaging all take place on mobile devices, so activating your brand in any of those channels requires a mobile-first approach. 

Not only should you build your brand’s eCommerce site with mobile in mind using such techniques as responsive design, but you should leverage built-in phone features to make the most of the medium. Consider augmented reality tools that display virtual products in real-life environments using input from cell-phone cameras. Add video chat capabilities to the array of customer service options you offer. And mobile location data can help localize and personalize the digital experiences you offer.

3. Stores are Here to Stay

Four years after the pandemic, enthusiasm for stores is as strong as ever. In-store shopping still accounts for more than 80% of U.S. retail revenues, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. Savvy sellers make the most of these opportunities to connect with shoppers, offering immersive “store within a store” environments focusing on particular products or themes, live events, and personal shopping services. Stores can also play vital roles in omnichannel last-mile fulfillment via store pickup and same-day delivery services. 

If you don’t have permanent physical stores, consider pop-up locations. These temporary installations can be themed for a specific season or event. A curated assortment of products and on-site attractions such as designer or author appearances can attract your target audience and create a meaningful connection you can leverage in the future online. 

4. Omnichannel is a Loyalty-Builder

Omnichannel commerce can introduce your brand to new customers in new channels, but it’s possibly even more powerful as a way to build strong connections with existing buyers. By providing follow-up services adapted to the fulfillment and communication methods customers chose when they first ordered, you’re offering a streamlined shortcut to re-engagement that promises more convenience and savings over time.

Additionally, you can use omnichannel features and tools to build meaningful brand experiences that go beyond points and discounts. Two-thirds of retailers with loyalty programs are engaging in “experiential rewards,” according to CMSWire, offering such perks as invitation-only events in-person or online, personal style consultations or lessons, or free access to time-saving services such as gift wrapping during the holidays. In the same vein, a broad omnichannel approach to loyalty can reward customers for activities beyond transactions, such as writing reviews or boosting social content.

How can an Omnichannel Commerce Platform Help Improve Your Business?

Omnichannel is the new normal, and consumers expect smooth, streamlined experiences wherever they choose to shop. To engage attention, your brand needs to showcase relevant products, offers, and content across online and offline environments, all while providing convenient options for service and fulfillment. 

That’s a tall order, but an omnichannel commerce platform such as Monetate can help. Here’s how:

  • You can link interactions, integrate back-end functions, and infuse personalization throughout to create a cohesive brand experience. 
  • Built-in testing tools are essential to ensure offerings are engaging and effective across multiple devices and formats. 
  • Continuous learning and data insights create new opportunities for omnichannel growth.

With an organization-wide commitment to omnichannel excellence and the right tools to integrate systems and deliver cohesive experiences, your brand can serve new customers and build lasting relationships that power long-term growth.