How to Succeed With Omnichannel Retail: Strategy Guide + Consumer Shopping Trends 

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Imagine: A customer browses sunglasses on your online store, but leaves without making a purchase. 

Later, while they’re browsing through their Instagram feed, they notice an ad your brand is running which displays the same previously viewed product and a 20% discount off their first purchase. They click on the ad, and this time they end up purchasing.  

This is one of many examples of omnichannel retail in action. 

Omnichannel retail is the future of ecommerce, with 73% of brands already selling on 2 or more channels and just under half selling on 3 or more channels in 2024. A powerful omnichannel retail strategy allows your customers to move through multiple channels, boosts the frequency of customer engagement, and gives shoppers even more opportunities to make a purchase.  

In this article, you will learn how omnichannel retail works, why it’s important, and how you can create an omnichannel retail strategy to grow your ecommerce business. 

What is omnichannel retail? 

Omnichannel retail refers to creating a consistent customer experience across multiple different channels, starting at brand awareness and continuing all the way through fulfilling and delivering customer orders.  

An omnichannel approach to retail allows consumers to enjoy a unified, seamless shopping experience, whether they’re shopping online, on their mobile device, browsing through social media, or visiting a brick-and-mortar location. 

What is single-channel retail? 

Single-channel retail refers to when a brand reaches customers through and sells its products on only one sales channel. Popular sales channels include: 

  • A brand’s own ecommerce site 
  • Brick-and-mortar stores 
  • Online marketplaces (such as Amazon or Walmart Marketplace) 
  • Retail partners (such as Target, Ulta, Macy’s, etc.), either through retail stores or the retailer’s online platform 
  • Social media channels (including TikTok and Instagram) 

Most brands start off single-channel retailing, as adding sales channels can be complex and expensive. However, single-channel brands may find it challenging to grow, as it may become harder and harder to reach and convert new customers through a single avenue.  

Omnichannel vs. multichannel retail 

Multichannel retail refers to when a brand sells on more than one sales channel. This can means a brand is selling on any combination of the sales channels listed above.  

Omnichannel retail is an improvement on multichannel retailing. Omnichannel retail further streamlines the use of different sales channels to create a seamless, unique, and personalised customer journey. The fulfilment process is more consistent in omnichannel retail, so that, no matter the point of sale, customers receive the same shopping, purchasing, and delivery experience. 

Top marketplaces for omnichannel ecommerce

Beyond their website and social media, direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands can strengthen their omnichannel retail strategy by selling on leading marketplaces. 

Here is overview of the leading marketplaces and a quick comparison of pricing. 

Platforms Overview Pricing Structure 
Amazon One of the biggest online marketplaces with 300+ million active users and 200 million Prime subscribers Professional plans start at $39.99/mo. + referral fee (8-45%) 
Facebook  The best marketplace to reach Facebook users, with over a billion shoppers visiting Facebook Marketplace monthly No set listing fees + selling fee of $0.40 on sales of $8 or less, or 5% of sales over $8 
Walmart Marketplace Another major marketplace with 130 million unique visitors every month Free listings + referral fee (in %) based on product category 
Ebay A leading global marketplace with 129 million active buyers worldwide Insertion fee to create listings + final value fees (in $) once the item sells 
Ali Express Leading marketplace for sellers in the Asia Pacific region and Europe, with 60 million buyers worldwide $1,500 (fixed) store fee + commission fee (5-8%) 
Etsy Best marketplace for small-scale businesses, with access to over 95 million buyers Listing fee ($0.20 per item) + transaction fee (6.5%) 

73% of consumers now use multiple channels in their purchase journey – so it’s no wonder that more and more brands are adopting an omnichannel strategy.  

With more brands going omnichannel, there’s also been more innovation. Businesses are not only discovering new sales channels and customer touchpoints, but they are also testing alternative delivery options, trying different customer communications techniques, and leveraging new brand awareness campaigns.  

Here are some of the most popular omnichannel trends that your brand can incorporate into its selling strategy. 

Video content (like TikTok Shop

Social media has never been more popular, and omnichannel brands are using it to their advantage.  

Both Instagram and TikTok currently have over a billion monthly users, and are therefore incredibly effective tools for reaching and engaging customers. Posting visual content – particularly short video clips showcase products or product reviews – is a great way to capture a scroller’s attention, raise brand awareness, and build customer relationships. 

These apps are also making it easier to convert customers with live shopping and in-app purchasing options. For example, TikTok Shop now enables consumers to purchase products from TikTok merchants without leaving the app, which lowers the barriers to buying considerably. Not only that, fulfilment solutions like Fulfilled by TikTok to further streamline their logistics and deliver a consistent post-checkout experience for customers.  

Curbside pickup & contactless delivery 

In today’s convenience economy, it’s important to make the entire purchasing experience as seamless as possible. That’s why many brands are now offering customers the option to skip lengthy shipping times and instead pick up in-store at a location near them. Offering curbside pickup makes the process even easier for customers, as they don’t even have to exit their vehicle.  

Contactless delivery options are also gaining traction, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic. These options give customers more freedom to create a delivery experience that suits them, which can drive higher customer loyalty and satisfaction.  

Re-emergence of physical stores 

While the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily shut down a lot of brick-and-mortar commerce, physical stores have made a comeback.  

According to a recent report, 55% of consumers who start their purchasing journey online actually make their purchase in-store, demonstrating a new “phygital” approach to commerce that uses both online and in-person channels.  

What are the omnichannel retail advantages for ecommerce? 

A strong omnichannel retail strategy can enhance supply chain efficiency, which leads to faster business growth. 

Here’s a look at the top advantages of an omnichannel retail strategy. 

Be present on the platforms your customers love 

One of the most obvious advantages is that you get to meet your customers wherever they are. Omnichannel retail allows you to be available on the channels that your customers engage with the most.  

Whether it’s the ease of browsing and purchasing products without ever leaving Instagram, or returning an online order through a physical store, consumers want seamless and unified experiences no matter where they are. Omnichannel commerce allows you to deliver on these expectations. 

Reach new audiences 

Being present on multiple channels allows you to expand your customer reach. 

While some audiences prefer online shopping, others may only shop through offline channels. An omnichannel strategy is ideal when you’re diversifying your product line and starting to cater to multiple demographics and consumers. 

Offer unique customer experiences where your customers expect them 

Omnichannel retail allows you to offer unique experiences on different platforms based on what your customers want or expect.  

Examples of unique customer experiences include: 

  • Intelligent chatbots that can quickly answer customer questions on social media. 
  • Augmented reality to view how a product will look in real life (e.g., using your smartphone camera to virtually view how a couch would look and fit in a room, or trying eyeglasses on your face via a selfie).  
  • Purchasing several products to be delivered together, so the customer can test them and only purchase what they want to keep. 

How to create your own omnichannel retail strategy with ShipBob 

Now let’s take a look at some of the key steps to creating an omnichannel retail strategy. 

Keep in mind that every omnichannel strategy is unique to the business using it. It all depends on the type of products you sell, your marketing and sales strategy, and the type of customers you want to reach.   

Match customers to channels 

Some customers might have different values and backgrounds that influence their buying behaviour and shopping preferences. 

To ensure your omnichannel retail strategy includes the right channels, you’ll need to map out your segmented customers according to the channels they engage with the most.  

For example, DIY decorators may go to Pinterest for décor inspirations, while other customers that are into fashion may be more likely to browse their Instagram feed. If you sell essential items, many shoppers turn to marketplaces like Amazon that are sure to have what they need.  

To choose the right channels for different customers, it’s always best to refer to historical order data, customer insights, and market research to optimise sales channels. You will also want to consider questions like: 

  • Which channels drives more customers? 
  • Which channels are the most profitable? 
  • Which channels lead to a higher average order value

Another great strategy is to collect feedback from both one-time shoppers and loyal customers by conducting surveys or creating social media polls.   

Map your customer’s journey 

The next step is to map out your customer’s journey. 

Consider the different phases that lead to a sale, including: 

  • Awareness 
  • Consideration 
  • Purchasing 

Establish a detailed outline on how your potential customers will stumble upon your brand and how they prefer to make a purchase. 

For instance, if you sell beauty products, you could publish makeup tutorial videos on YouTube and add links to purchase products related to the video. If they click on a product link, it can either drive a sale right away or a trigger a retargeting ad if they don’t buy then.  

Taking the time to map out an ideal customer journey helps you better understand customer behaviour so you can optimise the brand experience and increase sales.   

Customise your marketing based on the channel 

As you expand into new channels, it’s important to customise your marketing (including messaging, interactive content, and imagery) based on the channel and how people interact with different platforms.  

Even if you have one demographic that you’re marketing to, tailoring your content based on how people interact on different platforms is a surefire way to optimise your omnichannel strategy. 

For instance, what appeals to the Gen Z audience on TikTok may not necessarily have the same impact on a Millennial audience that prefer Facebook or Instagram. Short and entertaining videos are more common on TikTok, while more educational, long-form content is viewed on YouTube. 

Set up the right customer support channels 

Omnichannel retail doesn’t just stop at selling on multiple channels; it also impacts your ecommerce customer service strategy. 

Consumers usually want brands to offer multiple customer service channels, including a combination of email, phone, text, or chat. Oftentimes, the type they want depends on the sales cycle of a purchase.  

For instance, chat can make it easier to get questions answered while still browsing and comparing different products, whereas phone is used best for high-investment purchases where a sales rep is highly involved in the purchasing process.  

Whether sending an email directly to your customer service team, posting questions on Instagram, or sending a DM via Facebook, make sure your customers can reach you based on their preferred point of contact (or can quickly understand what the proper channels to go to are).  

Distribute inventory across platforms and warehouses 

Being present on multiple channels isn’t enough if you can’t follow up with fast and efficient last-mile delivery. That’s why your retail fulfilment process is a key component of your omnichannel retail strategy.  

To retain customers, the post-purchase experience is just as important – and that involves quickly processing orders, so items can be picked, packed, and shipped quickly from the nearest retail warehouse

To streamline all your sales channels to funnel through one fulfilment network, many brands choose to partner with a professional fulfilment provider that offers omnichannel fulfilment solutions

Many online multichannel brands choose to outsource fulfilment to a partner like ShipBob that operates multiple fulfilment centre locations while centralising inventory management across channels, rather than rely on one warehouse or fulfil orders in-house. 

By outsourcing fulfilment to experts, you can store inventory in and fulfil orders from fulfilment centres that are closer to your customers, which enables 2-day shipping shipping at an affordable price, or even faster shipping across the globe.  

ShipBob’s Inventory Placement Program, for instance, helps brands determine how to allocate their inventory strategically across ShipBob’s dozens of fulfilment centres. ShipBob takes care of distributing, receiving, and storing inventory for you, enabling you to save money on distribution while simultaneously achieving faster and most cost-effective shipping.  

“My favorite thing about the Inventory Placement Program is that it takes the burden off of our team and it’s based on real-time calculations, giving us the right distribution by SKU at each fulfilment centre. It’s comforting to know that we have a good balance between fulfilment centres on a day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month basis, so our customers receive packages via the lowest shipping zone possible among the four ShipBob fulfilment centres we’re in across the US. That ultimately helps us get products to our customers faster, giving them a great ZBiotics experience from start to finish.”

Michael Mullaney, VP of Supply Chain at ZBiotics 

Implement an inventory management system 

Unless all channels are synced with the same inventory management software, you run the risk that one or multiple sales channels will accidentally sell more products than you have in stock, which can result in backorders — and ultimately lower customer satisfaction. 

Managing inventory is one of the most challenging parts of running an ecommerce business. Add omnichannel retail into the mix, and the challenge intensifies since you now have to manage inventory across multiple channels. 

Setting up a proper inventory management system can help you track inventory in real time across multiple platforms from one dashboard. ShipBob’s dashboard, for example, connects to all your channels to synchronize inventory and display inventory levels across channels in real-time.  

“Through ShipBob, we get real-time insight into how much inventory to allocate to a specific warehouse, our current on-hand inventory levels, and how long each SKU is going to last by location. ShipBob provides a lot of distribution metrics, and everything presented is useful.”

Mithu Kina, Co-Founder and CEO of Baby Doppler  

Forecast future demand 

As you expand into more sales channels and broaden your audience, the harder it is to optimise inventory levels and continuously meet demand. 

Having the right tools in place to forecast demand is so important, as it helps to prevent stockouts and avoid accumulating deadstock (which increases carrying costs)

When you have a clear idea of future sales volume, you can optimise inventory in every fulfilment location while keeping storage costs low, which frees up your cash flow for other business needs. 

Make sure to have a system in place to record real-time inventory and order data, so you can make informed decisions on when to replenish inventory, and how to optimise inventory allocation across sales channels and distribution locations.  

ShipBob’s dashboard, for instance, offers merchants real-time insight into inventory levels, records order and inventory data over time, and even allows you to set automatic reorder notifications to help you time replenishment correctly. 

Merchants can also leverage our Ideal Inventory Distribution tool to strategically allocate inventory across ShipBob’s network of fulfilment centres to better meet customer demand cost-effectively.  

Set up omnichannel automations 

Efficiency is key to creating a strong omnichannel retail strategy. This means you can’t afford to allocate labour hours on repetitive, time-consuming tasks. 

With the right systems in place, you don’t need to manually process every order or conduct frequent inventory audits by hand.  

Ecommerce automation, including omnichannel solutions, is becoming more accessible to brands of all sizes. By investing in automation, you and your team can focus on marketing and sales and product development, rather than spending too much time on logistics operations

Here are a few ideas on how you can easily integrate omnichannel automation: 

  • Use chatbots to automate conversations and answer basic product questions. 
  • Set automatic reorder point notifications when stock is running low, so you know when it’s time to replenish. 
  • Implement an automated order processing system to automatically process orders as they come in across multiple channels.  
  • Partner with an expert fulfilment solution to streamline fulfilment and automate shipping

Choose an expert fulfilment partner 

As your business grows, it becomes harder to be involved in the day-to-day operations. Additionally, investing in the right technology and logistics infrastructure to run a well-managed omnichannel retail strategy can be time-consuming and costly.  

A professional ecommerce enablement platform like ShipBob makes it easy to grow your business and expand your customer reach. 

As a leading fulfilment provider, ShipBob’s technology integrates with major ecommerce channels, including marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart Marketplace, social channels like TikTok Shop, and retailers like Target, Ulta, Saks, and more. That way, orders from multiple channels can be automatically sent to the nearest fulfilment location to be picked, packed, and shipped.  

From ShipBob’s merchant dashboard, you can view and track both inventory and order status across channels in real time. If you cater to a B2B audience, ShipBob also makes it easy to track both DTC and B2B ecommerce orders all in one place. 

“Outsourcing both retail and DTC order fulfilment to ShipBob really just gave us the flexibility that we needed to effectively grow our business — not just the DTC segment, but the retail segment also. Honestly, it changed the game for us. So we were just thrilled that ShipBob has come to lead the way in providing fulfilment solutions for small to medium sized businesses like ours.” 

Nathan Garrison, Co-Founder and CEO of Sharkbanz 

Master omnichannel retail shopping with ShipBob 

From processing orders placed on multiple channels to fulfilling orders from the closest fulfilment centre, ShipBob gives you access to the logistics infrastructure, technology, and support you need to enable business growth.  

ShipBob can not only fulfil your website orders, but also has a B2B Fulfilment Suite and EDI capabilities, enabling merchants to sell throughout the entire B2B ecosystem, powering retail dropshipping (fulfilling orders placed on big box retailers’ websites) and wholesale shipping (including brick-and-mortar stores), which can connect with all the major retailers. 

ShipBob simplifies your omnichannel retail strategy by making it easy to integrate multiple channels with our proprietary technology. That way, you automatically send all orders to ShipBob and split inventory across multiple distribution locations. 

Our built-in multichannel inventory management tools also make it easy to track inventory in real time, forecast demand, filter all orders by status, and manage SKUs

To learn more about how ShipBob can streamline your multichannel distribution strategy, click the button below. 

Omnichannel retail FAQs

Here are the top questions about omnichannel retail.

Why is omnichannel retail important?

Omnichannel retail lets you expand your reach to new audiences, resulting in more sales and an increase in brand awareness. Moreover, meeting your customers where they are and offering a unified, seamless experience across your customers’ preferred channels enhances their experience and builds brand loyalty. 

What is an omnichannel retail strategy?

An omnichannel retail strategy involves providing an integrated and cohesive experience across multiple channels. This experience is delivered through all available touch points, from marketing and sales to customer service.

Can you outsource omnichannel retailing?

Yes, you can outsource your omnichannel retail fulfilment needs to a tech-enabled 3PL like ShipBob that offers pick, pack, and shippinng solutions to automate and streamline an omnichannel fulfilment process. ShipBob also partners with leading omnchannel solutions to enhance an omnichannel retail strategy with technology, deeper analytics, and more. 

How can you handle inventory across an omnichannel?

An omnichannel inventory management system streamlines your inventory across multiple platforms. This gives you better visibility on real-time inventory levels and provides accurate data to forecast demand and prevent stockouts.  

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Written By:

Rachel is a Content Marketing Specialist at ShipBob, where she writes blog articles, eGuides, and other resources to help small business owners master their logistics.

Read all posts written by Rachel Hand