A Guide To Omnichannel Solutions
“Omnichannel” is a difficult concept to unravel, mostly because it’s so new. The term “omnichannel” or “omni-channel” hasn’t yet settled on a single definition, or even a single spelling.
Every now and then a writer will take a stab at explaining the omnichannel concept, hoping to pin it definitively to an eCommerce strategy or marketing technique. And, confusingly, eCommerce platforms have also grabbed onto the term, though they seem to use it differently than the eCommerce experts.
In your research, you may have run into platforms which offer omnichannel, omnicommerce, or multi-channel solutions. And you may be a bit unsure of what exactly they are marketing. I’m here to clear things up a bit.
In this article, we’ll discuss what an omnichannel solution is, and we’ll go over a few of the benefits and drawbacks that come with omnichannel solutions.
So then, let’s dive in. We’ve got a term to define.
Table of Contents
What exactly is an omnichannel solution?
Omnichannel solutions are all-inclusive selling systems for online and brick-and-mortar stores. They’re like 2-in-1 shampoo bottles. Everything you need comes in one package.
Omnichannel solutions provide for all aspect of selling and usually include modules for eCommerce shopping carts, point of sale systems (POS), order management systems (OMS), customer relation management systems (CRM), call center capabilities, inventory management systems, and warehouse/fulfillment center management systems.
Typically, omnichannel solutions are priced per module (or bundles of modules). You select the features you need and only pay for those.
Now, here’s the tricky part of identifying omnichannel solutions: most non-omnichannnel eCommerce solutions come with those modules too. The difference lies in the extent of the available features.
Most everyday eCommerce platforms have a few features that speak to POS, CRM, and other categories. You can, for example, usually draft and send some basic emails using HTML in the CRM section of the admin. These features, however, are far from comprehensive. Often, merchants need to integrate their favorite third-party software in order to make things work.
With omnichannel solutions, integrations shouldn’t be necessary. Each tool comes with robust functionality that matches that of any third party services.
Don’t confuse multi-channel with omnichannel. Regular eCommerce platforms often market their “multichannel capabilities.” Usually, this means that they offer integrations with a few POS systems as well as online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy. Don’t get me wrong–integrations of that sort are great! They just aren’t enough to make an eCommerce platform into an omnichannel solution (by our definition).
Who can benefit from omnichannel?
Omnichannel solutions are typically geared toward larger companies and B2B enterprises. This isn’t to say that omnichannel is necessarily wrong for SMBs, only that the pricing may not be compatible with a smaller company’s overhead.
Omnichannel solutions are typically priced (at the very least) at around a few hundred dollars a month. While this can be a great alternative for companies that were already spending as much across their variety of services, for a merchant starting out, this price might be a little overwhelming.
Why should you choose an omnichannel solution?
As more brick-and-mortar stores begin to sell online, and as more customers take a mobile approach to shopping, omnichannel selling (selling across multiple channels) becomes more and more relevant.
Today’s customers often research products on multiple channels before making a purchase, and these types of customers are more valuable than ever. Your sales platforms should echo customers’ research habits. And it should do it well.
You need to be able to manage your marketplace inventory, online inventory, and in-store inventory all in one place. You need to be able to view your sales across platforms, and you need to do all of it without investing too much time and money.
Omnichannel solutions can provide the tools to run a multichannel business smoothly.
Here are a few of the specific benefits of omnichannel solutions:
No More Syncing
Online merchants using regular eCommerce platforms often find themselves juggling multiple software programs to make their systems work. It isn’t uncommon for a merchant to use over five different add-ons, and those add-ons don’t always work together perfectly. It can be difficult to get different systems to “talk” to each other, and merchants often have to deal with at least some manual data transfer. That’s time, money, and energy lost.
However, with an omnichannel solution, you won’t have to worry about that. All of your systems collaborate natively. You won’t have to hire a developer to stitch your systems together, and you won’t have to spend any time syncing inventory or sales reports.
A synced platform means synced data. You’ll be able to view reports from all of your sales channels in one place. This sort of comprehensive data can help you know what inventory you should stock and what you should drop. You can find out what sells best online and what sells best in store.
More Dependable Customer Service
When I say “dependable,” what I really mean is “liable.” Software providers like to pass the buck when you inevitably experience technical difficulties. And often, they’ll blame your third-party integrations for a lot of your issues. The typical eCommerce platform’s response can be summed up as: “Sorry, it’s out of our hands.”
When you purchase an omnichannel solution, everything is in their hands. They can’t blame any third-party extensions for a faulty information transfer. Nor can they tell you that their customer service is no longer available to you because you aren’t using original code.
Your provider will be responsible for resolving your technical issues, and that’s comforting.
Omnichannel sounds great, so what’s the catch?
It all sounds swell, right? And it is, for the most part. Omnichannel is an excellent selling approach for many merchants, but like everything, it isn’t perfect.
The negatives of omnichannel fall into two categories. We’ll address them one at a time.
Omnichannel Can Be Expensive
Omnichannel solutions are priced significantly higher than regular eCommerce platforms. In order to access four modules, a merchant may have to pay around $400/month. That’s compared to pricing on a regular eCommerce platform, which averages at $50/month. Even with add-ons, most merchants will only pay around $100/month for all their software.
This high monthly expense limits omnichannel solutions to larger merchants. Smaller businesses will have a hard time justifying the cost for automation.
Because omnichannel solutions include services you would typically add on as integrations, your resulting site won’t be quite as custom as it would be if you were handpicking each individual module.
Of course, a lot of omnichannel solutions also provide integrations to major services, so if you absolutely must use MailChimp or Quickbooks, you can. But, you’ll be losing a lot of the benefits of omnichannel.
Can I get some examples of omnichannel platforms?
You bet you can!
Take a look at the features and modules available in each one, and contact representatives from the companies that interest you. Before you buy, make sure that you request a demo so you can get a good idea of the platform before you commit a cent.
On the other hand, if you’ve decided that omnichannel isn’t for you, you might take a look at a few of our top rated eCommerce platforms: Magento and WooCommerce for the tech savvy and Shopify and Zoey Commerce for the less technologically inclined. We love these platforms, and if you don’t need all of the automation that omnichannel provides, they are excellent alternatives.
Happy hunting, and good luck!