Sales channels have multiplied. Adapting to each one of them takes time for most businesses. It is no longer just about selling in stores, or by catalog. The same online sales have diversified: smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, laptops, desktops. Each device requires a different approach. 

Integrating each channel to offer the same shopping experience is not easy, and even the great retailers have stumbled along the way. 

The difference between multichannel and omnichannel lies in the way in which each of the sales channels is integrated.  Moving from a multichannel to an omnichannel strategy has one goal: customer satisfaction.

Multichannel chaos 

In his first years of online operations, Gandhi received several complaints about the online shopping experience. Alberto Achar, marketing manager of Gandhi, managed the page for a while: 

“You saw 100 complaints a month telling you: you’re a damn!” 

Complaints accounted for about 1% of the 8,000 orders per month, Achar said. But one of a hundred who knows how to tweet can make enough fuss to scare potential customers. 

—When we were Amazon allies, we asked them if they had the same problems with complaints. They replied that they received complaints from 4% of sales. 

Books for sale on the Internet were in bookstores. When the online purchase was made, it took time to notify the bookstore. If at that time, someone bought the last copy in the store, the online buyer was left without his order.

Gandhi responded to negative ratings with a social media participation campaign to share the experience of receiving your order at home. 

The problems of storage and distribution were resolved with a warehouse in Azcapotzalco, to make deliveries more efficient, in October last year. 

Alberto Achar comments that these same problems in deliveries and storage are usually found in most e-tailers in Mexico, especially in high seasons. 

Getting ready for a triathlon 

An expert can recognize this chaotic situation in several online stores. A good example is to compare the integration of sales channels with a triathlon. You must first learn each of the disciplines: running, swimming, cycling. Then you integrate them all.

Retailers, accustomed to local sales, have a hard time adapting to new channels. Soon they discover the obvious: running is not the same as swimming. 

Multichannel vs. Omnichannel 

Most retailers choose to put each of their sales channels to compete. Stacy Schwartz, a digital marketing expert at the Rutgers Business School, describes this tactic, known as multichannel, as follows: each area is in a different lane, and each has its own goals to meet. 

However, the customer will want to have a similar shopping experience both on the Internet and in established stores. If the sales channels compete with each other or are not integrated, there will be a time when the customer will be dissatisfied, and the exclamations will come. 

An omnichannel company “puts the customer at the center of the strategy and not the different silos of the company,” emphasizes Schwartz. 

Run, swim and pedal towards the same goal 

An omnichannel strategy recognizes that the customer can change the channels to purchase at any time: he can pay online and pick up the merchandise on the premises, he can be on the premises while reading the product reviews from his smartphone. Instead of competing between each channel, they cooperate to reach the same goal: achieve customer satisfaction and make a sale. 

Darr Gerscovich, director of marketing at Ensighten, believes that to reach this point, companies must end the silos to integrate each of their areas. To do this, they must follow the following steps: 

  1. Collect data both online and in situ to identify areas of opportunity. 
  2. End the silos that prevent the integration of data. 
  3. Establish behavior patterns with small pieces of data. 
  4. Identify the message you want to offer as a brand, at the right time, with the right medium. 

Omer Minarka points out that companies with well-defined programs to offer the customer an omnichannel experience, achieve an annual increase of 91% in customer retention, compared to companies without omnichannel programs. 

For best results, Omer Minarka recommends in its Omni-Channel Customer Care report (2013): 

Ensure that your employees have the knowledge, skills, and technological tools necessary to manage customer interaction and direct it to the appropriate channels according to their needs. 

Integrate data from different repositories about the client so that employees can offer correct and consistent information, and thus give similar attention to each channel. 

Regularly measure the impact of each activity on the customer experience to identify the cost and benefit of the business. 

Mastering each sales channel and knowing how to integrate it to offer the best shopping experience to the customer is not easy, nor is it to compete for a triathlon. But once the goal is reached, the effort is savored.

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