Everything You Need to Know to Adapt to Omnichannel Commerce (A Guide For Business Owners)
Back in the days when ecommerce business owners sold a handful of products through their own websites, or when people had a single brick-and-mortar store to tend to, trading was easy.
Okay, maybe not easy, but more straightforward.
Between YouTube reviews, review sites in specific verticals (think Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.), Instagram shopping, Amazon, and third-party sellers, the user journey has become more fragmented than ever.
Shoppers now have more power than ever to get into the nitty-gritty of the brand they shop with, and the journey they take from awareness to action is now about as non-linear as it gets.
From store, to Amazon, to Facebook, to mobile, to purchase, creating a consistent, joined-up and seamless shopping experience, whatever the channel, is now crucial to success.
What does that mean for your content marketing?
Content marketing, as a concept, can be a slippery fish to get a hold of, at the best of times. But content marketing as it relates to omnichannel selling, or omnichannel commerce, is pretty straightforward to understand.
We should start, though, by talking about what omnichannel commerce really is. Because it’s a term not many merchants have come across, even if they’re already engaged in it.
Take a look at this graphic:
In this instance, let’s say that the piece of content you’ve created is a blog post. Back in the day, you might put that blog post on your own website, with a link to your own shop, also located on your own website. And that would be that.
That can still happen today. It just isn’t common. For instance, that picture on the left might work if you are the only place that sells your product and there’s not a lot of other resources out there available to folks about the item or industry.
But, for most people, that picture on the left just doesn’t work anymore.
Today, a visitor's going to read your blog post, and five minutes later, they’re going to be browsing Facebook or Instagram. You might have competition on Facebook and Instagram.
After that, they’re going to head over to Yelp or Reevoo to check out what others are saying about your product, then it’s back to the blog, back to Facebook, and in the afternoon, your visitor is going to chat with a friend.
“Hey, have you tried that new ice cream place? What’s it like?”
There are so many opportunities now for people to both fall out of your sales funnel entirely, but also to convert to paying customers.
The key to making sure they don’t fall out, and that they do become paying customers, is to be there on every channel, with a consistent and relevant message.
How to define omnichannel commerce
If that all seems a little overwhelming, or if you’re still feeling like you’re in the dark, think of it like this…
Omnichannel selling, or omnichannel commerce, means being in the right place at the right time, with content and offers that can help potential customers achieve what they need to achieve.
Ultimately, of course, what you want them to do is to convert - that could mean they purchase something, sign up for a newsletter, or join your next webinar.
But nobody likes to feel as though they’re being pushed into a sale. Which is why it’s so important to make sure what’s going out across all of your channels and platforms is valuable.
That’s basic, right? If it adds value - free guides, videos, explainers, etc. are all great ways to add value - it builds trust, and trust leads to conversions.
And hey, because we all need a reminder sometimes of where we should be focusing our efforts, here’s a quick rundown of each platform and what it’s best for:
Your own website and blog - Even if you know that your blog isn’t where most of your traffic heads first, it is super important to have all of your content on there. It’s great if you have a big following on somewhere like Medium, but if those people are staying on Medium and not coming to your site to check it out and convert, then you’re missing a trick.
Facebook and Instagram - Visual content in the form of images, infographics and video are magnets for engagement. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat are great for putting out the kind of content your followers can really enjoy.
Creating original content for social media, or repurposing the content you’ve got elsewhere to fit that platform, should be a major part of your omnichannel strategy and ongoing tactics.
YouTube - YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google. That means people are going to YouTube to search for answers about problems, queries, and reviews of the products they’re interested in. Creating explainer videos and how-tos is one omnichannel tactic that can both add a ton of value for searchers, and help boost your SERP rankings.
Third-party blog sites - If you’ve got content on your own blog and want to extend its reach, then getting it onto other platforms such as Medium or Tumblr is both easy and a great idea.
Review sites - Sites like Reevoo allow companies to interact with real customers, to answer queries they have about products and services. Review sites aren’t just a way to see what people are saying about you, they’re also an opportunity to share your expert knowledge with people already interested in what you have to say.
Paid advertising - It might be flippant to say that you should include AdWords as part of your omnichannel selling strategy, because it’s such a complex subject, but it’s true. You should.
Knowing what’s working for you in terms of social media and your blog, as well as competitor analysis and your own keyword research, can help to inform what sort of ads you run.
Of course, to put all of this in context, it helps to know how people are shopping online, and what new trends are emerging:
- Based on research from this year by BigCommerce, 96% of Americans who have internet access have at some point made a purchase online. This means that it’s almost guaranteed that if you’re using the internet regularly, you’re going to make a purchase at some point. As a seller, it’s up to you to make sure you’re the one people are buying from.
- In addition, mobile sales now account for over 30% of all sales, making social media, video and having a responsive website even more important. It also means that you ought to be thinking of your omnichannel strategy as omni-device, as well.
- Based on that same research, we also know that fear and mistrust - or at least fretfulness - can play a big role in whether somebody decides to click and buy. Free shipping, a solid returns policy, and things like live chat support can help to mitigate some of those worries.
But when it comes to omnichannel commerce, your content is your biggest weapon for tackling mistrust - or should we say, for building trust.
When potential buyers see a consistent and helpful message across all of your channels, it helps to solidify with them the idea that you’re somebody who can be trusted.
Another important statistic to consider when talking about omnichannel commerce, is that shoppers still spend more money in-store than they do online (64% to 36%). That could be because we’re willing to spend more on something that we can touch, that’s going to give us that instant satisfaction. It could also be that it’s super easy for salespeople in-store to upsell related products and make more money.
Upselling isn’t new. Amazon does it all the time with its “People also bought” feature.
Your email marketing campaigns are great place to upsell related products - and if somebody has bought something from you already, then serving up relevant, related products on social media could make a big positive impact.
So how do you make sure you’re being consistent across all channels?
Let’s look at an example: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams on Thanksgiving and Pint Redesign
With 117,000 followers on Facebook and 116,000 followers on Instagram, Jeni’s has lots of pairs of eyes watching them. They’re up against giants such as Ben & Jerry’s, but they have the advantage of being independent and considerably more nimble.
Their range of flavors is seasonal, and when they talk about Thanksgiving on their website and shop, they make sure it trickles through their email marketing and social media platforms.
Jeni’s sells their Thanksgiving collection through their website.
And blogs about their pint tubs getting a design makeover.
Those redesigned pint tubs feature in video content they share on Facebook.
And because Instagram posts with beautiful photography perform the best, they use the platform to their full advantage to show off their new designs.
Then, if they didn’t catch you on the website, blog, or social media, and you’re signed up for their newsletter, everything is consolidated in one, attractive package.
This is a fantastic example of omnichannel done well - it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about Thanksgiving, or announcing a product redesign. What matters is that you’re consistent, and that you’re there on every platform, ready to go with the kind of content your followers love to see.
Conclusion: Get out there
You can’t expect to thrive as an eCommerce business owner if you stick doggedly to a single channel.
Your customers are everywhere, and so is your competition.
If you want to delight, persuade and sell, then getting out there and getting your content onto every channel possible, is the new and best way to go.
Follow Shane Barker on Twitter