Why omnichannel is a misunderstood buzzword

Today the buzzword du jour, ‘omnichannel,’ has supplanted multichannel as the go-to strategy for retailers.

But its popularity and ubiquity has grown so much that its meaning has become muddled among a multitude of channel conversations and variety industry headlines. The truth of the matter is omnichannel never rightfully got its moment in the sun because vendors have used (and may still be using) omnichannel when they really mean multichannel.


By definition, omnichannel is all about creating a holistic, consistent and personalized shopping experience. It’s about abandoning the flat, single-channel customer profile and instead bridging the gaps between online, in-store, social media and in-app experience to stimulate sales. The true meaning of omnichannel is allowing customers to pay where and how they want to pay in a truly frictionless experience. In practice, where retailers miss the mark is in understanding the technology’s real complexity and benefits – how it can and should come together to seamlessly work across both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce.

Here are three ways retailers can and should be thinking about omnichannel:

Friction-free transactions: With an omnichannel experience, customers have the ability to pay however they choose – whether through traditional credit and debit cards or through mobile payments (Apple Pay, Android Pay or other solutions) – as well as the freedom to do things such as make an online purchase but then return the same item in-store. Breaking this down a bit further, where omnichannel brings great value is in this unified view of all payment activity, regardless of where the transaction originated. This unique ability gives business owners greater reporting functionality as well as power to gain insights into customer preferences in order to better engage with them. Take for example interconnecting online purchases with in-store to returns. The omnichannel models ensures that refunded goods to original price, benefitting business owners as the in-store price could be listed for less than what the customer purchased the item for online.

Customers come first: Omnichannel serves as an invaluable tool when looking to improve customer service. When guaranteed shipping times have not been met, customers may receive a cold call asking for their credit card number so they can receive the shipping refund – and many people today, rightly so, may be hesitant to do so amidst a seemingly endless sea of scams and fraud. An omnichannel solution can provide insight into the particular credit card used for the online transaction, enabling businesses to proactively apply the credit using cross channel tokenization and notify the customer without the unnecessary interruption.

‘Big picture’ financial reporting: Another key strength of the omnichannel is its ability to consolidate financial reporting, and establish a single, unified system of record. Omnichannel provides a big picture view of commerce across all channels, which is an important tool for retailers. This real-time visibility across all operations can help streamline business decision-making – for example: a regional franchise owner saw a dip in volume at his physical locations (normally a cause for concern), however with this holistic view he quickly noticed that his ecommerce orders spiked in a good way. This big picture data allowed the owner to attribute his customers’ shifting behavior to bad weather (rain and high winds), which caused them to shop online instead.

Source: Mobile Payment Today

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