The Four Pillars of Omnichannel Commerce: Explained [Video]

Allison Lee

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May 25, 2021

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While the post-COVID landscape is still taking shape, there's no doubt that consumer habits have drastically changed. The retailers that will thrive in this future reality will be the ones who can successfully recalibrate to the needs and expectations of the market. In 2021, that means laying down the foundation of an omnichannel strategy that puts you wherever your customers are.

Of course, running an omnichannel business is incredibly complex. Unifying your operations and marketing efforts across many diverse channels is no easy feat. That's where having the right partnerships and strategy in place makes a big difference. 

In a recent webinar with BigCommerce and Walmart, we dive deep into the four pillars of omnichannel commerce success. Check out the full webinar below or read on for a comprehensive summary. Learn practical ways for getting started and leveraging resources like Walmart and Zentail to get ahead. 

Why Omnichannel?

One of the main reasons for pursuing an omnichannel strategy is that it attracts the most ideal customers. Omni shoppers log 23% more repeat shopping visits and have a 30% higher lifetime value than single-channel shoppers. 

Diversifying your sales channels is also essential for protecting your revenue from unforeseen events like the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider how in 2020, thousands of Amazon FBA merchants were left without their main source of income when FBA decided to temporarily ban non-essential products. 

"An omnichannel sales approach is a risk mitigation strategy at its core,” says Sharon Gee, managing director of omnichannel at BigCommerce. “You’ll want to identify what channels your shoppers are on and then be there. If one of the channels start to do worse than the other ones—such as what happened for in-person retail in a situation like COVID—you can very quickly pivot and focus on the channels that are driving value for your brand."

It's clear that COVID-19 significantly accelerated the growth of ecommerce. But there's more to the story in terms of the important trends that merchants should understand. For example, consumers are now engaging with many more retail touchpoints than ever before. They've become used to buying online for curbside pickup, searching for products on all their favorite marketplaces and making purchases directly off social media

The line between ad platforms and marketplaces is additionally blurring. Major marketplaces like Walmart are building up their own advertising ecosystems, while advertising platforms like Google are expanding their commerce capabilities. An omnichannel strategy puts you in a position to take advantage of all these opportunities and helps you remain flexible amid a shifting landscape.

The Four Pillars of Omnichannel Commerce Success

The advantages of an omnichannel commerce approach are clear, but each new storefront, channel and plan of attack can come with a lot of added complexity. This is where the four pillars of omnichannel success come into play. 

The four pillars demonstrate how your omnichannel blueprint needs to be circular, not linear. All of your systems across advertising, catalog management, inventory syndication and fulfillment must be fully integrated in order to provide a consistent brand experience across all your channels.

1. Sales Channels: "Where are my shoppers? Where should I sell next?"

  • For retailers who only sell on their own ecommerce site, adding on a marketplace can increase revenue by 38%.
  • The right mix of sales channels can significantly expand your customer reach, improve brand recognition and increase revenue. Naturally, the correct recipe will depend on your audience, e.g., a luxury fashion retailer will have a different channel mix and strategy than an auto parts manufacturer.
  • BigCommerce’s Channel Manager lets you connect your shop to third-party channels like Facebook and Pinterest and streamline listing and selling. 
  • BigCommerce is an “open integration partner” with relationships with platforms like Zentail that offer advanced management tools for a variety of other channels, such as Walmart Marketplace, Amazon and eBay.

2. Marketing: "How can I scale traffic and sales on those channels? Who are the right partners to help optimize my marketing?"

  • No matter what products you offer or which channels you sell on, you'll need a robust marketing strategy that reaches customers where they are. For example, 20% of consumers say they’ve visited a website in response to a marketing email.
  • In addition to driving traffic to your ecommerce site, you should also invest strategically into “sponsored products” options available on marketplaces like Walmart and Amazon. 
  • Advertising on marketplace channels is expected to grow 38.8% YoY, according to BigCommerce, but the more sales channels you add, the more complex it will be to manage your spend. 
  • BigCommerce has relationships with a variety of skilled partners that can simplify and optimize your digital advertising, email campaigns and SMS marketing.

3. Operations: "How do I manage my products and inventory to ensure full visibility and a seamless experience for my customers?"

  • Inventory visibility is at the core of omnichannel inventory management. You need to be able to automatically update your inventory counts across all the different channels based on data from your warehouses—whether you use a 3PL, a dropshipper or a different system.  
  • Zentail and BigCommerce offer a variety of solutions for managing orders, inventory, shipment and reporting. They will centralize all of your data in one place and sync that information across all of your channels in real time.
  • Every piece in your tech stack has to be integrated so that customers know when an item is in stock and when they can expect it delivered.  

4. Fulfillment: "Delivery is one of the most important customer touchpoints. How can I make sure my fulfillment strategy meets their expectations?"

  • Shipping expectations are the most demanding on marketplaces. Shoppers expect to clearly see what’s in stock, when it’ll be delivered and at what price.
  • Having a 2-day badge on a marketplace like Walmart can increase your conversions by 20%. "The Amazon Prime experience has really set everyone's expectations of when we want to receive our products, and how fast,” Gee explains.
  • Using 3PL services like Deliverr and ShipBob, you can store inventory close to your customers and offer faster delivery.

The Latest Omnichannel Opportunity on the Horizon: Walmart Marketplace

Walmart's latest Marketplace venture is one of the most meaningful and important growth opportunities available to merchants this year. Walmart can accurately be called "where America shops,” with 90% of the U.S. population living within 10 miles of a Walmart store. Furthermore, Walmart.com has almost 120 million unique visitors each month, with many frequent shoppers that count on Walmart for a wide variety of their needs. 

Along with providing access to a massive pool of loyal consumers, Walmart Marketplace offers retailers a variety of tools and resources that align with the four pillars of omnichannel success. 

"We are looking for trusted sellers to come on board with us,” says Sidharth Sahoo, senior manager of strategic partnerships at Walmart. “We are working with you in order to grow your business and working with partners like BigCommerce and Zentail [to further grow] those opportunities."

Already, the marketplace supports in-store returns for marketplace items, making the process more convenient for your customers. Walmart also only charges referral fees (read: no setup or monthly fees) and reserves its marketplace for professional sellers (read: no first-timers or potential counterfeiters).  

Here are other advantages that Walmart Marketplace offers: 

  • Seamless integration with both BigCommerce and Zentail
  • Walmart Fulfillment Services, an FBA-like program that helps sellers meet the delivery expectations of their customers
  • Pro Seller Badges, which are awarded to retailers who meet certain metrics for product quality and on-time shipping
  • Listing Quality Dashboard, which provides recommendations for how to beef up your listings and raise your organic rankings
  • Sponsored Products, aka paid placements that help you instantly boost the discoverability of your product
  • Competitive referral fees that range between 6% and 15%, depending on your category

Why Brands Struggle to Expand 

When it comes to diversifying your sales channels, getting started is rarely as simple as it seems. Each channel has its own taxonomy, algorithms and requirements for sellers. Understanding and handling these differences manually can quickly get out of hand.

Not only is there a lot of upfront work involved, but marketplaces are constantly evolving, requiring sellers to have a strong change management system in place to protect them from sudden disruptions to their sales.

Fortunately, platforms like Zentail exist to alleviate the stress of multichannel operations. You can utilize high-end tech like Zentail’s SMART Types to automatically translate your product data to each channel, avoid duplicate work and prevent listing errors. You can centrally manage inventory, orders and fulfillment methods as well to prevent other costly issues like overselling.  

Multichannel, the Zentail Way

  • With Zentail, save 100+ hours of work each month, facilitate 3x faster revenue growth and list products 10x faster across all of the major marketplaces.
  • Zentail's listing automation tools translate to higher-quality listings, better rankings, increased discoverability and more sales, according to Director of Marketing and Partnerships Pauline Shiu. ("Every good user experience starts with a high-quality listing.”)
  • Harness the power of the only change management solution on the market.
  • Seamlessly sync your catalog data, inventory and orders across each of your channels.  

For the above reasons, Zentail is considered the preferred listing automation platform for brands that want to pursue an omnichannel approach. Case in point: McCombs Supply began as a home appliances and repair parts supplier that sold mainly to their own community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Within months, Zentail facilitated the company's expansion into seven online channels, including Amazon and Walmart, which today accumulates millions of dollars in annual sales for the company. McCombs Supply is recognized as a national brand, with ecommerce driving 90% of the company's total revenue.

 “What we find is that once a brand expands to other marketplaces, it becomes an effective new customer acquisition strategy,” says Shiu. " Sure, there's advertising—and that's like the easy and quick way to acquire customers. But if you want something that's sustainable and scalable, reaching those customers on other marketplaces is really key. It takes some work and some strategizing, but the longtail value is really worth it."

In Summary

The four pillars of omnichannel commerce success work together to help you diversify your audience while delivering a positive experience for your customers, whether they're shopping on your website, a marketplace or at a physical store.

Make sure you’re well-versed in each aspect and know how to optimize them. If you have any questions, reach out to us at hello@zentail.com or take Zentail for a spin by scheduling a free demo

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