What is omnichannel? The complete guide
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What is omnichannel? The complete guide

Omnichannel vs multichannel

Like many business terms, ‘omnichannel’ sounds complicated, but is actually pretty simple – put simply, an omnichannel business is one that has multiple sales channels that are connected and ‘talk’ to each other.

That includes your brick-and-mortar shop, your webshop and any other digital sales channels you might have, like online marketplaces or even social platforms. That’s what it means for you as a business owner. But an omnichannel experience is just as important for your customers, too. How? Read on to find out. 

Omnichannel vs multi-channel 

You might have heard these two terms used and wondered what the difference was. A multi-channel business is a business that sells in – you guessed it – multiple channels, but they operate separately, with no integration between them.

This is the way many small businesses operate (especially those that have added new sales channels hastily thanks to something like a pandemic). If this sounds like your system, you’ll know it can be incredibly time consuming and laborious to keep these channels running smoothly.

‘Omni’ comes from latin and means ‘all’ (as in, all seeing). So omnichannel is just a multi-channel business where all the channels are connected, synced together to act as one system instead of several. It’s a fully-integrated approach to commerce. 

Is an omnichannel solution right for you?  

An omnichannel approach makes sense for any business, but especially a small business – and our research has shown that when all your channels are working together, you’re likely to have higher profits too. We carried out a study of our users to find out more.

What we discovered: 

  • The average omnichannel merchant completes 32% more transactions per month than the average non-omnichannel merchant* 
  • Omnichannel merchants are less reliant on repeat customers. Over the past 6 months 70% of their customers are new, compared to 49% new customers in non-omnichannel merchants**
  • The sales of an average omnichannel merchant are almost twice the sales of the average non-omnichannel merchant* 

*For TPV / Transactions stat: Zettle by PayPal, study commissioned by Zettle by PayPal, 01/09/21 – 30/09/21, using data from 176,998 Zettle merchants in SE, FR, FI, DK, NL, US, MX, NO, SE, IT, GB, ES, BR.
**For Repeat Customer stat: Zettle by PayPal, study commissioned by Zettle by PayPal, 01/04/21 – 30/09/21, using data from 508,884 Zettle merchants in SE, FR, FI, DK, NL, US, MX, NO, SE, IT, GB, ES, B

The bottom line? Going omnichannel can help you rise above the common obstacles small businesses often face like lack of time, lack of resources and lack of reach. With all your channels integrated, you could save hours of work on manual admin: stock updates across multiple channels that would’ve taken a few days a month can be done in half an hour. 

With more oversight of your business, it’s harder to make mistakes that cause customer service problems or stock management issues. And with all your channels synced in one place, you have one clear view of your entire business. So instead of having to compare and combine data from multiple sources, you can make impactful business decisions based on concrete insights. 

Curious about Zettle’s omnichannel solutions?

It goes without saying that the more channels your business operates in, the more customers you will reach. 44% of B2C buyers say they always or often research a product online before going to a shop (that’s according to the State of Commerce Experience, 2021). They conduct as much research as possible before buying, even checking websites while standing in a shop. If your product or store can be found online, that’s an extra chance for them to spend their money with your business.

Turning that multi-channel experience into an omnichannel one means you can offer your customers the same reliability and experience they know and love from your in-store service, in the places that they already spend time online. When they next need to make a purchase (or feel like some online window shopping) that’s going to leave your business top of mind.

Find your customers where they already are and they won’t have to find you – your products are only a click, an email, or a direct message away (for more on that read our article on omnichannel marketing.

Bringing the in-store experience online (and vice versa) 

Customer service is the jewel of every independent business. But as shoppers move to online channels, offering that one-of-a-kind, in-store service consistently across all your online channels is going to be crucial.

“Our long-term vision is to put a little bit of the in-store experience into online, and to bring a bit of the online experience into the store,” said Lizzie Darby, owner of London shoe retailer Made the Edit. “Embracing both worlds and bringing them together. I think that’s how retail will survive.” 

An omnichannel approach can help you save you time and money 

When it comes to multi-channel inventory management integration is key. According to our data, the average inventory user completes more than 90 inventory actions per week***.

With Zettle, you can sync your inventories so that any change made on one platform is automatically updated throughout your channels – so five actions become one. Once you’ve mastered stock management, you’ll make a significant time saving on that task alone.

And all the other boring jobs you wish you could forget about? We can help you do that toot – in fact, going omnichannel has countless benefits. It can help you: 

  • Increase profits: increase reach, reduce friction between your channels and boost sales. When the customer is ready, your product is right there, in front of their eyes and as easy to buy as walking into your store.  
  • Save time: managing multiple inventories and keeping track of stock is a pain, and it can take days a month, as many business owners know only too well. By connecting your channels through your POS you create one shared inventory that can be updated in one place and synced automatically across your integrated channels. And saving time means saving money, too. 
  • Reduce mistakes: no more reconciliation – with all your channels connected you don’t have to compare and combine data from different systems, so you can be confident in your stock decisions and help cut out human error.
    Feel in control: with a holistic view of your entire business, you know exactly how it is performing in every area. With a complete overview of your business, you can make more informed decisions. 
  • Offer better customer service: no more selling items you don’t have – with one accurate inventory that’s updated in real time, your customers only see what’s available, so there are less customer complaints. And with a seamless experience across all your channels, and more ways to shop with you, you can make sure their favourite offline shop is their favourite online shop, too. 
  • Become more productive: integration will streamline your processes, make reporting easier to manage (great when VAT rolls around) and free up resources to spend on the areas that matter most, like growing the business or family time. You could even plan a holiday! 

Omnichannel in the real world: June Woods 

Grimsby fashion retailer June Woods decided to go completely digital, switching to Zettle POS and BigCommerce. “We add the products to Zettle first, and then it quickly goes onto BigCommerce,” she told us. “We don’t have to do things twice; we don’t have to make sure items are taken off once they’re sold. It’s done automatically.”

With the new website live, June Woods has grown in reach even during lockdown, making sales as far as Scotland. “We’ve sold about 50 products in the last month-and-a-half, while the shop has been closed,” Sarah shared

Zettle e-commerce integrations

Zettle POS integrates with a wide range of different e-commerce platforms, helping you to modernise and simplify your business. 


[*] Zettle by PayPal, study commissioned by Zettle by PayPal, 01/09/21 – 30/09/21, using data from 176,998 Zettle merchants in SE, FR, FI, DK, NL, US, MX, NO, SE, IT, GB, ES, BR. 

[**] Zettle by PayPal, study commissioned by Zettle by PayPal, 01/04/21 – 30/09/21, using data from 508,884 Zettle merchants in SE, FR, FI, DK, NL, US, MX, NO, SE, IT, GB, ES, BR.

[***]Zettle by PayPal, study commissioned by Zettle by PayPal, 01/07/21 – 30/09/21, using data from 34,923 Zettle merchants in SE, FR, FI, DK, NL, US, MX, NO, SE, IT, GB, ES, BR