What is omnichannel?
22 Dec 2017 What is omnichannel?
A lot of people talk about blockchain but very few understand what it means. The same holds for omnichannel.
The reason for this is the fact that, for most, omnichannel is a high-flung concept and concepts do not translate very easily into reality. Retail businesses are used to being traditional brick and mortar players. With eCommerce picking up the way it has, they have somewhat hesitantly introduced themselves to another channel. Even then, both businesses (physical and eCommerce) operate in two completely different silos of their own. The processes and systems are often vastly different.
Unfortunately, the customer doesn’t think the same and neither does she approve of it. She will use her smartphone to compare prices while she is inside your store and buy from the channel where she gets the best deal. She won’t wait for you to get that blue dress back in stock online even though it is lying unsold in your store – she’ll probably go ahead and buy something similar somewhere else. She is here, there, everywhere – stores, online, social media, so on and so forth. And she expects a consistent experience from your brand.
Brands must keep this in mind and move towards that single goal of offering a seamless shopping experience to their customer. If she orders online, give her the option of picking up her product from her nearest store. Ensure that your store staff are aware of this and they should treat her the same way they would treat someone buying directly from the store.
To do the same, you need to integrate your systems and process across all your channels – and, by all channels, I don’t just mean sales channels. Anything and everything that is a customer touchpoint becomes a channel – be it your store, your website, your customer support team or your Facebook page.
The second thing you need to do is to invest in omnichannel technology. This is the part where most brands shy away. Legacy system upgrades and customizations are expensive and time-consuming as well. The more time it takes, the more money it burns. And traditional metrics cannot measure omnichannel return on investment in the way it should be done. This is because omnichannel ROI often focusses on reducing lost sales and preventing damage to the brand reputation – you won’t see both these metrics figuring too high in a marketing or sales presentation. And this happens because often no one is aware of the same.
Which brings us to the first thing you absolutely need to do – get a buy-in from all parties involved. When a brand starts its eCommerce business, the biggest sceptics often are their own store employees. They fear a significant drop in revenue and hence in sales bonuses. And to ensure this doesn’t happen, they will stop at nothing to dissuade their customers from buying online.
Fortunately, this can be fixed quite easily. Brands should set omni-targets for their stores which must factor in both physical sales as well as potential eCommerce revenue which can be generated from the catchment. Store employees should be trained on how omnichannel can drive greater loyalty and hence higher repeat purchases from their customers. Technology should be perceived as an enabler and not a destroyer.
The process is slow, but it has begun – customers (or should we say users) have started to shift towards brands who strive towards giving them a uniform experience across all their entities. The investment (financially or otherwise) in these business practices can often be profound but no one wants to be a Kodak in the age of smartphone cameras. The ones who not only understand what omnichannel is but have embraced it with arms wide open are the ones making all the right moves for their users. It remains to see how long it takes for everyone else to catch up.
Planning to set up your omni-channel business? We can help.