Omnichannel is not a new concept – our Senior Director of Omnichannel has had the word in his professional title since 2014. Despite it being around for many years now, most people still don’t understand what it really means. Let’s get back to basics and define the fundamentals of omnichannel.
If you look at the industry’s most common definitions of omnichannel, you’ll find the following words most often: “multichannel,” “integrated,” and “seamless,” all in reference to the customer experience. As our VP of Retail Excellence, Michelle Focarazzo said in her post on How to Become an Omnichannel Organization, the definition of omnichannel does differ from retailer to retailer. However, it shares the same core characteristics and they are what’s worth remembering.
Omnichannel really is just, well, retail…but here’s our basic definition that allows for a greater understanding of the topic: “Modern retailing that provides a truly seamless shopping experience across in-store, online and mobile.”
- Create a seamless shopping experience across all platforms
- Adapt to the new consumer mindset
- Simplify the point-of-sale process
- Prioritize individual consumer needs
- Enhance employee confidence
- Bring the joy back to the retail experience
The Connected Consumer
Today’s consumer is no longer willing to wait in long checkout lines, pay for shipping, or deal with the chaos of shopping in a mall on a busy day. The new retail consumer wants to be mobile – traveling from a brand’s social media platforms to their website and into their store without any friction. In fact, the Harvard Business Review found that 73% of consumers use multiple channels to shop. Retailers that acknowledge this change in consumer mindset have become exponentially more successful in recent years.
At its core, omnichannel means always connected – consumers to brands, consumers to associates, associates to consumers, associates to information. It then becomes about ensuring both consumers and associates benefit from and find value in new retail features and solutions.
Benefits to the Consumer
- Availability: Access to all merchandise regardless of where a product is located
- Efficiency: Real-time view of inventory (no more wasted trips to the store)
- Engagement: Clienteling by well-informed sales associates
- Convenience: Retailing the consumer’s way, such as BOPIS or BORIS
As an omnichannel organization, the following transaction would be incredibly easy for an associate to complete:
A customer shops online and adds some items to her cart. She then visits a store nearby and asks an employee to pull up her cart and identify the items so she can try them on. At the point of sale, she asks the associate to have the order shipped to her house rather than taking it with her that day. She needs it delivered in time for her party tomorrow, so she chooses the fastest shipping option.
Sounds like a complex process, but in the end, the customer receives the item on time and is impressed with the shopping experience.
The Connected Retailer
The way to make the above business case reality is to combine an order management system (OMS) and a point of sale (POS) system into a single platform. Gone are the days when associates have to call other stores to locate an item a customer is looking for on the basis of inaccurate inventory. When retailers have a central nervous system for all their data – which they can view and act on in real-time – they can truly be omnichannel versus simulating it. Adding mobile technology on the front-end puts customer, order, and inventory data into the hands of associates. This makes it possible to deliver a seamless, personalized shopping experience…every time.
With omnichannel functionality at the core, associate confidence and efficiency will go up, resulting in an increase in consumer loyalty and ultimately, spending.
Benefits to the Retailer
- 360° Insights: Access to real-time inventory data across all enterprise locations
- Intuitive Fulfillment: Ability to implement features like smart routing to increase supply chain efficiency
- Mobility: Both associates and customers can move from platform to platform without difficulty
- Productivity: Associates feel empowered with product knowledge and clienteling capabilities
The first step to becoming an omnichannel organization is to understand what it is and the benefits to the customer, associate, and brand. Think of all the magic moments you can create as an omnichannel organization. Being omni fundamentally changes the experience AND generates revenue. It’s a win-win.
Victoria Capone and Siobhan Carey are Marketing Interns at NewStore. They are both studying Fashion and Retail Merchandising at Lasell College in Newton, MA.