Omnichannel is a fancy term for a simple concept.

To understand it, consider how many ways you can interact with a business each day. You may check your email on your laptop and see an ad for a new product from one of your favorite stores.As it's time to head to work, you pull out your phone and browse through their other new items on your way to the car or while sitting on public transportation. After taking some time to think it over, you call the store on your lunch break and have them hold the item aside for you. On your way home from work, you swing by the store and then head home with your new purchase.

If the business you interacted with took an omnichannel approach, then each interaction you had – the marketing email you read on your laptop, browsing the store website on your phone, calling the business and your in-store experience – would all feel as similar as possible. Reading an email is obviously different from talking on the phone, but a proper omnichannel strategy makes the two feel like they are part of the same brand. Getting omnichannel right means making your business available across every channel your customer expects and ensuring that the experience is the same on each of them.

A unified experience
Omnichannel marketing isn't just for businesses with both online stores and brick-and-mortar locations. Companies of any size that interact with customers need to make sure their experience is consistent across all channels. To accomplish this goal, AlleyWatch advised taking a holistic approach to all of your business processes. This includes your advertising, marketing, sales, fulfillment and return policies.

Taking such a viewpoint will likely require you to take the focus off each individual channel. For example, instead of observing how much revenue your business brings from its social media channels, see how these profiles work in line with your overall business strategy. Are they directing users to your website? Do the images and tone of your social media convey the same feelings as the rest of your brand? Working to answer these questions positively makes the customer experience consistent across all channels.  

Removing obstacles
According to Marketing Interactive, one notable aspect of omnichannel is providing a frictionless experience for your customers. Your shoppers shouldn't have to struggle to contact your business or to make purchases. Everything should be smooth and self-explanatory, from ordering an item to contacting support to interacting on social media.

This idea includes making your business available across as many channels as is efficient, and matching consumer expectations of where and how they can find you. It's obvious that Internet retailers need a website in order to collect online payments, but is this the first place customers will go to interact with your store? They may prefer to find your business on social media first. Still, it's also important to consider your staff and marketing budget and not spread your business too thin. When small and mid-size businesses put themselves on every social media platform, it's inevitable that certain ones – usually those that aren't yet very popular – receive less attention than others. It's better to provide an excellent experience on a select few social media profiles than it is to act inconsistently on all of them. To figure out which websites your company needs to be on, define your target market and see which sites are popular among them.

Consider devices
Even if you manage to make your website, order process, social media and email marketing consistent, you have to consider how each of these elements appear on different devices. This goes back to the idea of removing obstacles. If your website is hard to view on a smartphone or tablet, you'll miss out on substantial number of consumers. According to Internet Retailer, mobile shopping accounts for 30 percent of e-commerce in the U.S., up 5 percent from 2014. The number of mobile shoppers is expected to increase quickly over the next few years, so businesses should make sure their websites are easily viewed on smartphones and tablets.

Businesses today must do more than sell a product. Not only do they need to find a way to stand out against a larger number of competitors than ever before, but they also have to make sure every aspect of their business feels like part of a single entity.