A study conducted by PwC across 28 countries found that the rate of digitization had increased by 27%. This accelerated digitization has definitely given a great push for online retail, but brick and mortar stores are taking the hit with retail chains like JCPenney and Walmart closing stores since 2016. The stores have also doubled up on eCommerce investments to cope up with the digitization and changing customer habits. Their strategy could be summarized on one word – Omnichannel.
Broadly, an omnichannel selling infrastructure is made up of:
Omnichannel selling works by making all these channels work in tandem. Unlike the traditional channel where everything is siloed, in omnichannel selling, it is synchronized, unified or made to work like a single unit. Since there is coordinated efforts going on throughout the organization, there is little chance of misdirected communication, lost leads, poor customer service and related mishaps.
The benefits are not restricted to big players alone. Here are some of the benefits even small and medium businesses will realize:
Omnichannel does a great task of bringing disparate systems together. Inventory management is one such system and function that omnichannel unifies in a brilliant way. Integrating their online and offline sales channels, and monitoring the available inventory closely, leads to proactive planning and management of inventory.
A centralized inventory management also helps to reduce shipping and handling costs. It enables shipping and delivery of goods straight to customer locations from warehouses or pickup destinations. Indirectly, this also pumps up the order fulfillment rate.
Nike, the global sportswear brand has perhaps the most sophisticated sales distribution and supply chain system. In fact, they also have a crisp omnichannel map that helps them maximize revenue without being plagued by inventory problems.
This is how Nike's omnichannel map looks like:
A centralized inventory management system helps Nike stay ahead of competition and sell to the world at large.
Imagine a customer walking into your store to buy shoes. Once they have figured out which model they want, they start looking for the right size. As bad luck would have it, the size may not be available in the store. The chances are that they may walk away.
With omnichannel you can retain that customer by enabling them to buy the same model with the right size from the online store and have it shipped to their desired location. This ensures that the customer is retained while creating a positive customer experience.
Oasis, the U.K. fashion retailer, is a classic example of this omnichannel selling. They have blurred the differences between their online store, mobile app and offline stores with a converged shopping experience that is called seek and send service. When a customer is unable to find a product, sales associates create an online order through their iPad and have it shipped to the customer location.
Buying coffee might seem like stretching the idea of omnichannel selling too far. But, Starbucks turned to a mobile app — the Starbucks rewards app - to deliver a truly unique omnichannel experience for its loyal coffee fans.
The app gives users a free rewards card when they sign up for the app. Secondly, the loyalty program can be controlled by the customers through phone, website, in-store, or on the app. Any loading or redemption of points is reflected on the customer profile across all channels.
Customers find it enchanting to load their balance and redeem at the counter even while standing in queue for buying coffee. That is omnichannel delivering unique customer experience at its best.
Omnichannel retail has caught on fast. Google Research has found that, “90% of multiple device users switch between screens to complete tasks in the same day.” During holiday season, more screens mean more shopping. In fact, the ability to shop on multiple screens translated into more shopping and shopping across more categories. Invespcro’s infrographic mentions that companies with an omnichannel customer engagement strategy retain 89% of their customers.
Omni-channel delivers a seamless user experience. It allows users to carry forward their shopping experience from any device that they were browsing on. Also, it spares customers from repeating their needs and queries multiple times before a purchase decision can be made. Successful companies have been able to strike the fine balance that ensures smooth product discovery, hassle-free purchase and frictionless checkout to deliver great omnichannel experience for their customers.
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