Omnichannel is the new frontispiece in the retail industry. There was once a time when customers used to visit a store, physically pick their choice amongst limited stock, validate the quality, bargain to the utmost point, and finally pay in cash. Cut to the current time, millennials prefer surfing through different platforms, checking thousands of options, sorting and filtering to pick their favourite, add to cart, add coupon code (sometimes,) pay online, place order and expect order to be fulfilled at the earliest possible time frame. Instant gratification is the order of the day.
Is it possible that this change of consumer buying behaviour happened overnight? No, it did not. It started five to six years ago but has accelerated over the last couple of years. Covid 19 has furthered the momentum so to speak. So, how does a Consumer Brand selling goods to these new age customers adapt to the new normal? There is no magic wand here. Moving digital comes with transformation of a lot of backend processes, continuous innovation, and support. Most importantly, it is a mindset change. In the present time, where the Retail world is accepting & adapting omnichannel, it has become imperative for both online and offline world to get integrated in an intelligent way to facilitate a smooth and delightful customer journey. Yes, enterprises will continue to serve through both physical and online stores, and it is essential to have a synchronising and all-encompassing platform for them to cater to changing customer behaviour and expectations.
What is Omnichannel Retailing?
Omnichannel retailing is no longer a buzzword. It is an absolute reality for Consumer Brands of all sizes. In today’s world, there are several perceptions built around this term based on its functionality, requirements etc. In simple words, we can define omnichannel retailing as “Ability to serve customers through any channel they choose to engage whilst keeping the experience the same across channels.”
What are the challenges and opportunities of Omnichannel retailing?
Truth be told, omnichannel retailing is not a plug and play strategy. comes with several challenges. It all starts with Mindset, People, Processes and culture - Not necessarily in that order. Once these are set, one can look at the operational challenges. Here are a few of them.:
- Unified View of Inventory to reduce wastage.
Retailers find an immense supply-demand gap because of lack of a coherent view of their inventory across supply points and also because of inconsistency between different channels. Double handling or putting more resources to streamline this will take the key task out of purview which is to focus on the customer and build engagement.
The solution lies in choosing the right platforms and solutions for your success. So, how does one determine what is the right platform?, The proof is in the pudding. Making that choice involves distinguishing from me-too platforms to the one that is right suited to handle challenges. . In order to ensure no conflict across channels and reduce the supply-demand gap, bring in an all-encompassing platform which unifies your physical & digital worlds, channels, inventory, communications all under one roof. This will help address the challenges holistically.
- Offline and Online synchronisation
While some customers prefer complete online shopping, some would still want to visit a physical store, try out the product but pay online. In an omnichannel platform, there might be chances that the products might be present online but not available at the nearest physical store. This might cause a disinterest in the customer and might not decide on purchasing the product.
As explained in the above case, while supply-demand gap can be one of the reasons for this inconsistency, another might be the lack of communication behind stock maintenance. Hence, having a real-time integration technology to synchronize your offline and online stores will help customers understand if a product is available at the nearest store or not. In case of stock unavailability, this can be notified to the customer via the online platform and a request can be sent to the physical store to get the stocks. Hence, a clear communication will help keep both the stores in sync and customers happy.
- Understanding customer requirements and expectations better
Most retailers commonly fail to understand their customer needs and expectations in the changing times. Customers have CHOICE now - like it or not. Each customer will have distinct preferences, likes and dislikes. Without getting an overall view of such customer requirements & expectations, an omnichannel retail strategy might not be effective..
First things first, if you are embarking on an omnichannel platform & strategy, start leveraging data more effectively. Make your raw data turn better insights using meaningful data analytics, which helps you get a holistic view of your customer preferences. Use Machine Learning and data intelligence tools and techniques to understand customer behaviour and take actions to improve stickiness..
- Targeted Campaigns for outreach
In a Omni-channel platform, each channel needs targeted marketing and campaigns are decided accordingly to determine what channel mix is ideal for building customer engagement and growth. Post migrating to an omnichannel platform, there are high chances that retailers might miss out on customer target points and may result in poor or inconsistent customer engagement. Segment Analysis, demographic analysis as well as behavioural analysis will help determine how to fine tune your strategy towards building omnichannel engagement and success.
Your stores can turn into virtual fulfilment hubs to cater to fulfilments in the most optimal and quickest point of time.
- Build Digital Infrastructure to Scale
Choosing an omnichannel platform and solution should be based on ability to scale with high performance and agility. The advent of Microservices based architecture as well as Cloud technologies make it possible for Retailers to approach this in a phase wise manner and also keeping the costs optimal.
Hence, while choosing the right platform, check for the most suited technology stack components that give you power to scale and grow. Omnichannel Strategy needs an infrastructure that can not only help with its sustenance but also welcome future enhancements.
Adapting to an Omnichannel World needs you to take a holistic approach. As said above, it is a mindset change and your processes need to align to a new thinking to cater to the new normal. Choose your Partner and Solutions wisely. You are in it for the long haul and you need the right partners and solutions who will be there with you in your journey and help you adapt in a smooth, friction less manner.