Omnichannel has been a buzzword for so long that you'd be forgiven for being sick of it. But retailers' attempts at better integrating online and in-store are seeing results.
According to the US Department of Commerce, US ecommerce sales totaled $453.5 billion in 2017, a 16.0% increase year over year, making up 8.9% of total retail sales. This proportion grew from 8.0% in 2016.
Similarly, eMarketer estimates US retail ecommerce sales reached $454.9 billion last year, up 16.3% from 2016.
By comparison, eMarketer estimates total US retail sales climbed 4.4% in 2017. Online sales growth has outpaced total retail sales growth for some time, but the continued increase isn’t attributed solely to swelling online buyer penetration rates in the US or pure play online retailers selling more. Retailer investment in omnichannel initiatives is also responsible for ecommerce sales growth.
Multichannel retailers are capturing more online sales through flexible delivery options like buy online, pick up in-store; the addition of lower-priced goods to reach a minimum shipping threshold; automatic replenishment; and expanding categories sold online as traditional supermarkets have done with groceries.
US omnichannel customers—those buying in-store and online—make up only 7% of all customers, according to Criteo data from November 2017. Yet this small segment is responsible for 27% of all retail sales. By comparison, 49% are offline-only buyers and generate 49% of sales, while 44% are online-only buyers and contribute to the smallest share of sales (24%).
Capturing digital and in-store data is key to understanding these potentially profitable customers. "Omnichannel shoppers represent a significant opportunity for brands, as they are the customers that tend to spend more compared to offline-only or online-only customers," said Jaysen Gillespie, vice president of analytics, insights and data science at Criteo. "Retailers that are successful in combining offline and online data are able to apply more than four times as much sales data to improve marketing efforts, contributing to the higher lifetime value of the omnichannel customer."
According to a November 2017 survey of US internet users by scheduling platform BookingBug, gifts (60%) and clothing (44%) are the two categories with the highest percentage of omnichannel shoppers. Roughly one-third of those who buy home improvement products, household goods and health and beauty items shop in-store and online. Furniture retailers have the furthest to go to capture this valuable customer: Nearly three-fourths of respondents who are in the market for items like sofas, dining tables or dressers shop only or mainly in a physical store.
Retailers should consider the reasons why shoppers choose which channel. BookingBug also found that online was preferred for customer reviews (70%) and saving time (69%) whereas getting the product quickly (79%) and getting questions answered (51%) were considered in-store strengths. Online rules for convenience and stores excel at tactile experiences and the need for immediacy.
Preferences on both ends of the spectrum allude to a desire for more information, whether seeing if a purchase met the needs of shoppers like themselves or receiving advice from a sales associate.