Omnichannel Selling: What is it and Should You be Doing it?
In many of my blog posts I hop on my pedestal and proselytize about some niche of ecommerce to my wonderful readers; which is pretty much the entire purpose of a blog. This week, however, I’m discussing something I’m not quite so sold on, and that is omnichannel selling. Which means this week I will go over what omnichannel selling actually is and how it compares with single channel and multi channel selling and leave things up to you for how to approach the topic. It’s a difficult approach for me, because I’m used to arguing my points, but we’ll dive right in and see where we land.
Single-channel selling is the traditional form of selling things where the customer comes to you; whether that is in a brick and mortar store or on their website. The product exists where it exists and you go to where it is in order to buy it. Obviously this method works just fine, it’s how commerce has worked since forever. You can just allow your product to speak for itself and allow your customers to come to you, there is nothing wrong with this approach. Not seeking out the customer is not to be confused with not advertising, however, these are very different things. The single-channel is simply referring to where you actually make the purchase. An example would be something like Thursday Boots, they advertise heavily on social media, but you can only purchase directly from their website because of their direct to consumer sales model.
Multi-channel selling is more of the approach that you think of when you think of the internet age. You can buy a product in multiple places, such as directly on a company site, in their brick and mortar storefront, and from online marketplaces like Amazon. This is the most common approach for larger, more established companies like a Reebok or any other such company. You are right in line with what everyone is doing with this approach and there is a good reason that this approach has become the standard for the internet age. With multi-channel selling you are giving the consumer a much more convenient method of finding your products, but you’re not being overbearing. Your products are in all the places a consumer would expect them to be and they don’t have to work very hard to find them.
Omnichannel selling is where you actively seek out your customers. You put your product in front of them at every chance you get. You are available in all channels that your customers may be seeking to purchase products. The idea behind omnichannel selling is to cover all of the touch points for your customers. The belief is that in doing so you will increase customer loyalty and likely convert more sales. The numbers are there to support this idea, but not overwhelmingly. You also run a significant risk of just annoying potential customers by being absolutely everywhere. I’m sure we can all think of products that we just could not escape at times in our lives. Everywhere we went we were bombarded with this specific product and developed an aversion to it. There is a fine line to walk if you choose to pursue omnichannel sales, and there is a lot of risk for not a huge amount of gain.
Another significant issue with omnichannel sales is the amount of data on your customer that is required. Gathering data is expensive and difficult for you, and off putting for the more tech savvy customers. Which means you need to consider your target market heavily before you even consider approaching omnichannel sales.
It may seem like I lied and went hard against omnichannel sales, but that’s mostly because everything you read about the prospect makes it seem like the new hotness and I wanted to play devil’s advocate a bit against all of the buzz. There certainly can be value in a well constructed omnichannel approach that targets the right audience for the approach, but it is my belief that the risk is incredibly high. If you bungle the omnichannel approach it can sour your brand in the minds of consumers instead of just allowing you to fade away and retool if you make a mistake with the less aggressive approaches available. It is true that a single-channel approach is antiquated, but I just don’t know that we have grown out of the multi-channel approach and need to push for omnichannel.