The Omni-channel era

omni-channel retailing

omni-channel retailing

It’s all over the news and online authorities speak about nothing else, “Omni-channel retailing”. What is it? How does it work? And how can you achieve it? 



What is it?

Driven by the success of pure online players and changing customer behaviour, many retailers have taken the step to online to sell their products, either with or without n physical store. The business models in which this takes place are;

 

Multi-channel retailing – the retailer has an online and offline store. These two channels exist side by side and there is no connection between them in the perception of the consumer.

 

Cross-channel retailing - is comparable to the above with the exception that both stores (can) target the same audience with a unified brand concept and pricing strategy.

 

Omni-channel retailing - is the successor of Cross-channel retailing in which the online store(s) is fully integrated with the bricks-and-mortar store, the head office, back office, Social Media, Mobile and traditional marketing and communication messages. Translated to the consumer perspective; the customer journey is seamless.

 

How does it work?

And a seamless customer journey is what counts in Omni-channel retailing. All infinite touch points have to convey the same feeling and offer the same brand experience, in each stage of the process. An added benefit for you as a retailer is that you will have the opportunity to collect valuable data about your customer in every step of their journey and across all devices to customize the experience and tailor the offer to meet their always changing needs.

 

omni channel

 

Today, consumers make use of more channels and devices and use them to shop around more. The average customer journey starts often online and then continues on the smartphone or tablet when the consumer has some time to spare. A visit to the bricks-and-mortar store also comes into the equation when consumers want to experience the brand. A high number of customers leave the store without the product only to buy it online.

 

omni channel

 

How do you become an Omni-channel retailer?

Online sales currently sits in the growth stage. We, therefore, advise you to take the step to online now, while there still is growth. In the near future, when online sales hits the “maturity” stage and only best of class suppliers survived, business models are fully developed and the number of competitors is high, there is no room to “try” Omni-channel things. The consumer will demand the perfect customer journey and each player that is not capable of delivering on their promise will soon be out of business.

 

But how do you ignite the transition from the traditional retail channel to Mobile or online? How do you ensure that your webshop always display’s accurate information while keeping it manageable? And how do you prevent cannibalisation between the online and offline stores?

 

Bricks-and-mortar = Experience

No matter how successful your online business, nothing beats a real life experience offered by the offline store. Customers will always want to go shopping to see, taste, smell and touch the product. With the offline store as experience centre you can offer this. An innovative In-store environment with information kiosks that allow customers in the store to visit the webshop, smart mirrors and a mobile Point-of Sales (POS) are the basics that help to build a unique experience.

 

Integration, integration, integration

Integration is what counts in Omni-channel retailing. Connecting all processes from A to Z and from the head office to the back and front offices is crucial. Island automation was still acceptable in the Multi-channel era but it is certainly not possible in the Omni-channel story. Each process and system has to be able to communicate with other systems and processes and should be connected to one central database that collects and stores all information.

 

Data from the Supply Chain has to be able to find its way through the webshop to the consumer so that they know whether their size is still available. Customer information and purchase behaviour should be available in the store to allow the sales person to realise Up & Cross sell opportunities.

 

By integrating all channels and processes it becomes easier to see what needs to be done differently and what should go faster. For example: it will allow you to work with Social Media to find out the preferred jeans colour of your customers and automatically transfer this information to the production location in China. By connecting smart applications such as Business Intelligence you will be able to see which products do well in which media and at what time, what the balance is between lost and new customers and how your cash flow is developing; important aspects to every Omni-channel retailer.

 

Cooperation

Last but certainly not least is cooperation with suppliers. No fierce battle between foes but integration of business processes with the main target; Supply Chain optimization. Trust is important and the intention to share information is essential. Think about giving your supplier access to your order system to collect the orders, adjust them and to communicate delivery dates. This will result in shorter order and delivery cycles, decrease costs and minimize errors. A win-win situation.