If you’ve been spending your breaks browsing the internet when you really should be working, you may have come across a new buzzword: omnichannels. See, distraction can pay off! Anyhow, what exactly does the term “omnichannels” mean, and is it something that you should be working into your marketing strategy?

Well, let’s find out!

What are Omnichannels?

Omnichannel is a multichannel approach to sales that uses the customer shopping experience as the focus. The goal is to create a seamless and consistent shopping experience whether the customer is shopping from a desktop computer, mobile device, telephone or brick-and-mortar store.

Hmmm. Haven’t we always wanted to provide this type of integrated shopping experience for our customers? Why all of a sudden do we need a fancy name for it?

According to the author of this article, it’s all Wal-Mart’s fault. Sounds about right. Apparently, Wal-Mart asked its suppliers to develop an omnichannel strategy. Other companies heard about this brilliant idea and felt they needed to do the same.

They have a point. Wal-Mart does know a thing or two about marketing.

If you want some concrete evidence that omnichannels are a new trend, you’ll find this study interesting. According to Retail Systems Research, 47% of retailers surveyed indicated that multichannel customers are more profitable than single-channel ones. It makes sense. When digital connections are strengthened, it can lead to customers putting more trust in that brand, buying more in a single transaction and returning for subsequent purchases.

Knowing that omnichannels do make sense, let’s take a look at 10 things you should know about them. When your next meeting rolls around, you’ll be an omnichannel expert!

1. Omnichannels require a new way of thinking.

The traditional sales funnel has retired. Rather than thinking of customers in terms of numbers, you need to treat them as real people and provide them with personalized interactions and experiences. The good news is that thinking this way is good for any marketing strategy, not just a multichannel one.

2. Holistic buyer profiles are essential.

One of the most important factors of omnichannel marketing is acquiring a single view of your customers. Unlike the old days when a customer would learn about your business from an ad or TV commercial, today’s customers are interacting with your brand from all different channels. This means that you need to put together a holistic profile of your average customer. Using this information, you can then provide them with a complete customer experience.

How do you acquire this data? Start by defining your user persona, define which data you want to collect and then apply it to you interactions.

3. Interactions take place on all channels.

Many of your customers are going back and forth from one channel to the next before making a purchase. They may learn about you on social media, receive a promotion in their email and then make a purchase on your website from their smartphone. It’s important to keep all channels open for interaction so that customers receive the same consistent experience.

4. A proper data strategy is crucial for success.

Data is crucial. It’s the only way to truly understand your audience and how to best interact with them. Before setting up an omnichannel approach, take the time to create a proper data strategy. Your strategy should include how you plan to collect data and gain insight from it. The information will be pouring in from all channels, so organization is key.

5. New resources will become available. Use them.

Many companies admit that they haven’t been successful with an omnichannel approach because they lack the proper resources. New marketing strategies require new resources, and these resources require a new perspective and set of skills. Yes, it’s a lot. But building engaging experiences across channels is very, very important. You can’t just focus on one channel anymore. You need to be prepared to take advantage of enhanced design, product management, social networks and more.

6. It is possible to overdo things.

You want to be on every channel. That’s the goal. But you want to do it in a way where you’re consistent, integrated and subtle. It is possible to be annoying. You don’t want to be everywhere your customer turns. This will only strain the relationship you have with them, and it can make you look desperate. Your strategy should focus on being ubiquitous.

7. Merging the physical and digital will require a learning curve.

If you have a brick-and-mortar store and an online store, merging the two is going to take some work. It will require your internal teams to work together collaboratively, which will create some challenges since both sides have complex consumer interactions.

Our best advice: Don’t rush things. But do start working toward a more cohesive shopping experience between your physical and digital stores.

8. New fulfillment models will be needed.

As you blend together your physical and digital goods, another thing will need to change: your fulfillment process. Today, fulfillment is carefully organized between manufacturing, procurement, marketing and distribution. With a new way of doing business however, the fulfillment model will need to be changed. The digital buying cycle is far more rapid and complex compared to the physical one.

9. Your physical store will still have a place in the consumer world.

With so many stores rising to the challenge and serving their customers digitally, how can they protect their brick-and-mortar stores? Will there even be a need for stores anymore? We think there will be. It’s going to take a lot more than a new marketing approach to drive out the hands-on experience that shoppers appreciate. Not to mention, stores provide shoppers with one thing that online stores cannot: immediate gratification. Sure, there is same-day delivery. But it’s not the same, and most companies don’t offer it at this point in time.

10. There’s no need to change everything.

Marketing is constantly changing. Once you get your feet wet, something new comes along. At this point, be aware that omnichannel marketing exists. Acknowledge that connecting with consumers across channels is a key part of successful customer interactions and experiences. But don’t readjust everything to fit this mold and then miss out on the real motivations for buying, which is customer loyalty. The bond between you and your customers is still first and foremost.

So what do you think about omnichannels? Have you started taking this approach? Do you plan to?