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Omnichannel: the change we are all hoping for

Written by Michael Badwi
Created: 20 February 2018

what is omnichannel in supply chainOmnichannel retail is not just the way of the future, it’s happening in the here and now, and smart businesses need to get up to speed on this trend and how to use it to deliver a customer experience that fulfills the complex needs of today’s shopper.

With the flick of a finger or tap of a button, potential customers can have a world of retail opportunities at their fingertips. However, this doesn’t make brick and mortar stores obsolete, it just opens up a whole new world of possibilities when it comes to creating an experience for shoppers: one that focuses on omnichannel interactions between retailers and customers.

What is Omnichannel retail?

Omnichannel retail isn’t just about having different options for customers in terms of where and how they can browse and purchase items. Having an online store as well as physical locations is more of a multichannel approach, and is a widely-used strategy by many businesses currently. Omnichannel refers to the process of creating a seamless, integrated customer experience that blurs the boundaries between the various online and offline channels, making it effortless for the buyer to use any channel to browse and research products, buy and return items and interact with the brand’s marketing and social media messaging.

 

Consumers want the flexibility to consider purchases online, and then buy in store, perhaps driven by a sale or specific call to action, or conversely, might be inspired by a day spent browsing the shops but want the convenience of ordering online. If there are differences in your inventory, pricing, availability and overall customer experience between these channels, it frustrates customers and may drive them to seek the experience they want elsewhere.

Creating an integrated, highly-functional omnichannel retail experience for buyers is a daunting task, but there are a number of opportunities too. As Google Trends states, a study found that customers who are given the option to switch between the online and physical shopping environments are 30% more likely to remain lifetime customers. It is a powerful opportunity to build brand loyalty. An integrated data management approach will also help to more accurately track buyer behaviour across the various channels, including interactions on social media such as queries and complaints, allowing for better insights into buyer behaviour and the ability to strategically market to various customer segments in a more targeted manner. The following article provides some inspiration on how international brands took an omnichannel approach, with great success.

That’s the what and the why of omnichannel retail, but the how is probably the biggest issue facing retailers who are serious about creating a premium customer experience. This could be why a recent study picked up that 78% of retailers feel that their consumer brand experience isn't unified, but acknowledge that a “a well defined cross or multi-channel strategy” was a top strategy to drive business growth. So the challenge is to identify the core technologies that allow businesses to create an intelligent, omnichannel experience.

The secret may lie in the cornerstone of Omni Channel: Enterprise Inventory Visibility

Key components for successful Omni Channel Execution include:

  • Available to Commerce - Planning and Managing how you make your entire network inventory available for sale 
  • Clienteling - Personalising the shopping experience for each and every customer
  • Distributed Order Management - Orchestrate the flow of orders from any point in your supply chain
  • Customer Service - A single solution that empowers your service representatives with all of the information they require to delight your customers regardless of how, when or where they purchased from you
  • POS - a single solution that enables your associates to manage all transactions regardless of which channel they wish to interact with
  • Store Fulfilment - the ability to receive, pick, ship and manage inventory within your stores so that you can service your customer orders from available store inventory if required

These are all are vital aspects that need to be integrated and optimised in order to give businesses the control that they need to deliver an omnichannel experience. If any of these core aspects aren’t in place, the business will struggle to deliver on their promise of a unified online/offline brand experience. There are products that can integrate these and other components of the supply chain via powerful software, for sleek and optimised demand forecasting and inventory control, warehouse management to ensure that supply always meets demand.

The benefit of using this type of technology extends into controlling the entire supply chain  in a simpler, speedier, smarter and data-driven way. It provides a level of control that could make all the difference when trying to compete in the complex world of omnichannel retail. For more information, subscribe to our blog for further insights.

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