What is an “omnichannel experience”?

9 May 2023

The words ‘omnichannel’ or ‘omnichannelity’ are one of those buzzwords that have become an integral part of the wider business discourse. In the POS and retail sector – but also in the hospitality and food service industries – we hear them everywhere; we see them in the media and on the web, we hear them at conferences, on the stands of our major trade shows such as Paris Retail Week and EuroShop; the expression is on everyone’s lips in our POS and KIOSK sectors.

It would seem that the only “valid” business strategy these days is an omnichannel one. If you want your customers to be truly satisfied, you have to offer them a so-called omnichannel experience.

But what exactly do these terms mean? How do you “practice” omnichannel when you are a retailer, no matter how big or small? And what are the advantages, the obligations… and what about the return on investment and profitability?

  •  “Omnichannel” does not mean “multichannel”…nor “cross-channel”!

Omnichannel is a concept that developed with the internet. It expresses the idea that since online commerce has existed, retailers, brands and chains no longer have a single sales “channel” as it was the case in the past (i.e. the point of sale and the physical shop).

Over time, the number of so-called digital channels has grown steadily, from e-commerce sites, to marketplaces, mobile applications, social networks (social selling) etc…

Both consumers and retailers now have all sorts of ways to buy and sell. But from a commercial strategy point of view, the simple multiplication of distribution channels is not enough to build a true omnichannel concept.

A good omnichannel strategy consists in defining and implementing a plan of coherent and complementary actions, with the necessary synergies affecting all sales channels, within integrated projects from A to Z.

This strategy will generate a ‘unified’ business approach, avoiding for example duplication or repetition of projects or types of actions, including data collection and management (development of relevant and appropriate databases); the omnichannel approach will then benefit from sharing all the data and information collected, even when it comes from various and/or disparate business units.

The most compelling arguments for a truly omnichannel approach are those that put the customer experience and customer journey at the heart of the process.

As digital marketers explain, “the omnichannel experience is about offering, marketing and serving customers across all sales channels (simultaneously or not) to create a unified integrated and consistent customer experience, regardless of how and where the customer is: the experience should therefore be the same for everyone, regardless of the internet platform or location (shop) and methods they choose to use.”

From the consumer’s point of view, a successful omnichannel experience is therefore about consistency (of the offer), convenience and accessibility. It is about ensuring, for example, that when a customer looks up the price of a product online, it is the same as the price in shop; while ensuring that the customer can then benefit from the same offers as those available online. It may happen that prices displayed on the internet are different from those in shop, but this must be the result of a real (omnichannel) strategy, with a promotion period, for example, only online and not at the point of sale; but these practices must never be left to chance.

  • “Phygital” approach: how to enhance the omnichannel experience in shops

It has become quite common for retailers to manage all their operations (stock and supply management, marketing and sales operations, sales and promotions, etc.) from a single IT system, in order to ensure that positioning, pricing, special offers and product availability are consistent across all available distribution channels.

We all know that the boundaries of omnichannel integration continue to be stretched, thanks to the evolution of POS and retail technologies. Indeed, it is widely accepted that traditional “brick & mortar” retail has a lot to learn from eCommerce and its practices; or at least that it should be able to take inspiration from it to evolve and optimise the in-store customer journey and experience.

For example, it has been established that retailers (and not only those in the food service sector) are installing more and more self-service kiosks, not only to reduce queues at checkouts and make the customer journey more fluid, but also to give the latter the possibility of obtaining information on products or brands – and of shopping without having to ask for any help, in complete autonomy, as more and more consumers seem to appreciate with the practice of online shopping.

Moreover, thanks to more and more sophisticated customer identification and loyalty programmes, retailers are increasingly able to intelligently exploit data from so-called digital channels (analysis of consumers’ browsing habits, purchase history, etc.) in order to optimise in-store service, for example by personalising it, with a view to delivering quasi-tailor-made and turnkey services.

In the same way that online algorithms are used to make personalised recommendations or offer targeted promotions to Internet users, the same data can be accessed by point-of-sale staff and sales assistants from point-of-sale terminals (POS)  and other checkout systems (POS and KIOSK systems) ; this will guide and help them to anticipate and better know and understand the behaviour and wishes of their customers in advance.

Whether online or offline (in-store), via an AI bot or a face-to-face sales advisor, sales departments that rely on AI and knowledge-based IT tools will be able to more effectively generate sales conversions and trigger upsells and add-ons, which will ultimately lead to higher revenues.

More generally, these tools will guarantee that the advice and services offered to customers correspond to what they are looking for and expecting. Ultimately, this will result in increased customer satisfaction and loyalty in the medium and long term.

Customer satisfaction and loyalty are by nature the essence of the objectives of an “omnichannel experience”; it is not (or no longer) just about ensuring consistency between the multiple touch points offered to customers to make their purchases, but also about capitalising on the rich variety of data about them and the information that the integration of all these distribution channels will provide, over time.

With the ETK (Easy to Konnect) Middleware offer, which now complements its Hardware catalogue (POS systems and interactive Kiosks), AURES Technologies is now a fully-fledged global player in the implementation of digital and omnichannel Solutions and services.

The Group now develops its own Processor Modules (exclusive motherboards with ultra-compact design), which it mutualises and thus shares with its ranges of equipment, thereby ensuring consistency and flexibility in the POS and KIOSK IT systems deployed, in line with the digitalisation process of the customer journey. Integrating INTEL technologies, these modules allow a choice of several latest-generation processors that are both powerful and reliable over time, enabling AURES hardware solutions to be perfectly tailored to the rollout of today’s and tomorrow’s omnichannel strategies.