The omnichannel can be defined as a multichannel approach to retail sales – when using an omnichannel strategy, retailers provide their customers with seamless shopping experiences from desktops to mobile devices to brick-and-mortar stores.

The need for an omnichannel strategy is inspired by a shift in consumer habits and preferences. In 2014, channels have begun to bleed together as consumers are used to being engaged in several activities at once. For example, they often play with their smartphone while watching TV.

To accommodate this shift, retailers are integrating state-of-the-art software and hardware to create seamless experience between their house, their device and the physical store. Retailers are allowing customers to order online, receive shipments at home and return them in the store – knowing full well that if they can’t provide this seamless experience, customers will seek a store that can.

Here are the two key elements of an omnichannel strategy:

Build your customer database

The days of only being able to collect emails and zip codes is over. While those pieces of information can be useful for creating customer databases segmented by location, they cannot provide the advanced level of personalization and multichannel convenience that consumers want.

Through integration with ecommerce software, retailers can generate reports to glean the desires, preferences and purchasing histories of their customers. Online ordering platforms also allow customers to input their own information – a method much more effective than asking for an email and zip code at the point of sale. Retailers can collect names, interests and purchasing histories to practice personalized, tailored and targeted communication.

In-store kiosks, online ordering platforms, ecommerce software, social media pages and mobile apps can all act as a means to collect information more effectively.

Integrate ecommerce, mobile apps and social media

The main goal of an omnichannel strategy is to allow customers to make purchases anytime and anywhere, with inventory visibility and availability online and in-store. And it’s a win-win situation: customers can shop easily and conveniently and retailers can take advantage of many more sales opportunities.

This is possible through the following technologies:

Ecommerce – Allow customers to make purchases online, check inventory availability, browse additional sizes and colors, be notified when an item is back in stock, pick up online orders in-store or have items delivered directly to their house. The ability to order whatever they want whenever they want is likely to make customers more pleased with your store’s selection.

Mobile apps – As technology advances, retail mobile apps are gaining more and more capabilities. Some can even track a customer’s trip around the store and suggest purchases. In general, apps can be used to allow customers to log into their loyalty accounts to view their point balances and available discounts or create wish lists. They can also have a portable version of your ecommerce site that makes it easy for them to view your selection and make purchases on the go.

Social media – A great marketing tool, social media can be accessed on both your customer’s mobile devices and home computers – or even in your physical store. Social media can be used to promote products and encourage likes, comments, shares, reviews and recommendations to spread the word about your store. It can also act as a platform for customer service queries and responses.

With an omnichannel strategy that blurs the boundaries between online and brick-and-mortar retail, your brand can be everywhere it wants to be at the same time – making it top of mind to consumers. They can make convenient purchases in their preferred channel, as well as take advantage of a wider selection and increased opportunities.