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Omni channel strategy: What is it & how does it work?

Written by
Saad Merchant
Published on
September 28, 2023

The customer of today and tomorrow is long past engaging with brands and businesses in any one way, or on any one channel or device. They look to interact with brands that they find in physical stores, on their phones, and on their desktops as well, and vice versa. They rely on these brands that they find available across multiple channels like web shops, mobile apps, social media, and online marketplaces. As a result, businesses looking to be future-proof are building integrated shopping, marketing, and customer service experiences across multiple channels. This integrated approach is called an omni channel strategy

What is an omni channel strategy?

An omni channel strategy is a customer-centric approach that involves integrating offline and online sales, marketing, and customer marketing channels to provide a unified and consistent brand experience. Instead of asking customers to prefer either brick-and-mortar shopping experiences or digital shopping experiences, omni channel strategies involve enriching both experiences by integrating them. As a result, most shoppers around the world now prefer combined digital and physical shopping experiences. Shopping styles like BOPIS (Buy Online Pay In Store) are trending and inversely, shoppers that now find products they like in-store look for alternatives online that provide better offers and reviews.

Breaking down silos between various touchpoints, omni channel strategies allow customers to enjoy a seamlessly interconnected shopping experience. It involves building e-commerce integrations and connecting customer experiences across sales channels like web shops, mobile apps, social media, SMS, and online marketplaces like Amazon, as well as devices such as desktops, mobile, physical stores, and IoT devices like voice assistants and smartwatches. As a result, an omni channel experience offers customers the convenience of browsing products on one channel, experiencing the product on another outlet, purchasing the products on another touchpoint, and tracking delivery on a third device, with their interactions and preferences synching across all integrated channels in real-time.

Benefits of Implementing an Omni channel Strategy

This consistency and convenience in the customer journey that omni channel strategy enables entails several business benefits and enhanced customer experiences, such as:

  • Increased customer loyalty: When customers experience a seamless and personalized journey, they are more likely to engage with and rely on the brand more.
  • Higher conversion rates: Cross-channel communication and personalization can lead to higher conversion rates and increased sales.
  • Better customer insights: Data integration provides valuable insights into customer behavior, enabling businesses to improve personalization and accuracy in targeted marketing efforts.
  • Streamlined inventory management: By enabling businesses to have a holistic overview across all their channels, an omni channel strategy helps manage inventory levels and visibility across each touchpoint.
  • Enhanced customer experience: Consistency and flexibility enable customers to ease into the brand’s ecosystem seamlessly and to become regular return customers, increasing purchase frequency.
  • Improved personalization: Omni channel strategies help build a unified customer profile, combining customer data, purchase history, and preferences from across channels, enabling brands to provide personalized recommendations and offers to customers.
  • Competitive advantage: Businesses that embrace omni channel marketing gain a competitive edge in the market, since it equips them with the capability to integrate future trends and technologies.

Read more about how omni channel commerce benefits customers and businesses on different levels →

What is the difference between multi channel and omni channel strategy?

Before delving into how businesses can enable omni channel strategies, it is important to first clear a common misconception and understand how it differs from a multi channel strategy.

Most businesses today that sell their products on multiple channels like their webs shop, social media, online marketplaces like Amazon, and mobile apps are mistakenly considered omni channel experiences. However, merely being present on multiple channels is actually a multi channel strategy, whereas an omni channel strategy involves integrating and building an interconnected customer experience across these channels. In other words, within an omni channel strategy, each brand channel that the customer interacts with relays their shopping history and preferences across other integrated channels in real-time. Multi channel strategies often operate in isolation, offering independent and disconnected customer experiences on each channel.

According to the Aberdeen Group, “Companies with strong omni channel customer engagement retain 89% of customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omni channel customer engagement”

However, it is important to note that a multi channel strategy could also be a first step towards building an omni channel strategy. At the same time, businesses can simultaneously run both multi channel and omni channel strategies, wherein crucial sales channels are integrated, while the brand maintains a presence on other independent channels to increase product visibility. Since the level of integration is a crucial differentiating factor in omni channel strategies, the key to successfully implementing and maintaining a future-proof omni channel is the “integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS)”.  

Read more about the benefits of omni channel strategies vs multi channel strategies →

Why is an integration platform crucial for an omni channel strategy?

Omni channel strategies rely on building seamless integrations between channels and devices, while enabling real-time data synchronization between integrated systems. This involves API-driven integrations, for which the iPaaS (integration Platform as a Service) has been specifically designed to help implement.

The iPaaS (integration Platform as a Service) is a next-gen, cloud-based middleware solution that helps connect multiple SaaS, apps, data sources, and channels, across on-premises and cloud environments. Available as either low-code or no-code solutions, the iPaaS helps create, monitor, and manage all these integrations on one user-friendly, web interface, without custom code. And, as an API-driven solution, it enables real-time data exchange between all connected systems. Advanced iPaaS solutions like Alumio, enable flexible data transformation and workflow automation.

How does an integration platform enable a scalable omni channel strategy?

Apart from enabling seamless application integration, synchronization, and workflow automation that is crucial for any omni channel strategy, the iPaaS provides scalable cloud-based infrastructure for an omni channel strategy. This means businesses implementing omni channel strategies can seamlessly add new channels and applications to their integrated ecosystems as they grow.

As an API-driven solution, the iPaaS also allows businesses the flexibility to interchange channels or applications within an omni channel ecosystem, without loss of data integrity. Additionally, an integration platform empowers businesses to harness the full potential of their data. By aggregating data from various channels and systems, it provides a holistic view of customer behavior and preferences. Moreover, if a business is looking to transition from a multi channel strategy to an omni channel, the iPaaS can help them integrate their disparate channels swiftly.

Read more about how businesses can create seamless omni channel experiences with an iPaaS →

Case study: Verfwinkel.nl implements an omni channel strategy with the Alumio iPaaS

As a leading Dutch paint supplier, Verfwinkel.nl wanted to build a scalable and integrated commerce ecosystem, which streamlined all their product information. By implementing the Alumio integration platform (iPaaS), they seamlessly integrated their ERP (Exact), their e-commerce platform (Adobe Commerce), their PIM system (Akeneo), and their WMS (Warehouse Management System) system, to enable real-time exchange and process automation between all these systems. Using the Alumio iPaaS, they also integrated the marketplaces their products are listed on such as bol, Amazon.nl, and Google Shopping. This enables orders that come in from their marketplace(s) to reflect in their e-commerce and ERP, while being processed to complete order fulfillment via their WMS, bringing their omni channel strategy full circle.

Read the full case study on how Verfinkel.nl enabled their omni channel strategy with an iPaaS →

Omni channel strategy isn’t just for retail: debunking the myth

While omni channel strategy is often associated with retail due to the visible convergence of online and offline shopping experiences, the principles of omni channel strategy can be applied across various industries. In fact, it's becoming increasingly important in the following sectors:

Omni channel banking: Enables customers to access their accounts through mobile apps, websites, ATMs, and physical branches seamlessly.  

Omni channel telecommunication: Enables telecom companies to provide unified customer support across call centers, online chat, and social media.

Omni channel healthcare: Enables patients to schedule appointments, access medical records, and receive telehealth services through a combination of in-person

Omni channel B2B: Enables B2B businesses to streamline procurement processes, enhanced customer service, and even enable integrated D2C commerce strategies.

Concluding the need for omni channel strategies

In a world where customer expectations are constantly evolving, the omni channel strategy emerges as a powerful solution to engage and retain customers. By breaking down channel silos, offering personalized experiences, and prioritizing consistency, businesses can meet and exceed customer demands. Most importantly, implementing an omni channel strategy enables businesses to remain agile in their approach, apart from helping provide seamless and integrated customer experience. In other words, it helps businesses remain future-proof by preparing them to integrate with any future technology or trend.

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