How to Become an Omnichannel Organization

By Michelle Focarazzo - February 19, 2019

Omnichannel is not a new concept. We’re many years into the journey of attempting to provide an omnichannel customer experience, but it has been less than seamless for both the customer and the associate.

In recent years, the focus has been on applying bandaid solutions that are clunky and require multiple systems to simulate an “omni” experience. Today, there’s a new buzz around omnichannel. The emphasis is on making it part of the entire enterprise, rather than patching it together. A true seamless experience.

If this need is real for you, here are some steps that will help you become an omnichannel organization.

1. Define what omnichannel means for your brand.

The definition of omnichannel varies from retailer to retailer. For some, it is a matter of swapping out a traditional cash register for a mobile POS. For others, it’s about battling Amazon with modern fulfillment options, like buy online pickup in-store, buy online return in-store, ship from store, and so on.

This is where it’s important to have a deep understanding of your customers – their behaviors, preferences, and motivations. Do they care about the convenience of cashless payments, or is the speed of delivery their greatest demand?

It may be one, the other or both, but cobbling together various solutions is expensive and often not effective. Siloed systems aren’t connected and can’t communicate, which is a huge hurdle to success. That’s why, when it comes to defining omnichannel as an organizational initiative, there are three areas to consider: customer, transaction and inventory. These are the core building blocks to omnichannel retailing.

  • Customer: Identify your omnichannel customer and appreciate that their path to purchase is no longer linear. By 2022, smartphones will play a role in 90 percent of all digitally-influenced sales. It’s increasingly important to view your customers with a mobile lens and seamlessly service them across channels and across stores.
  • Transaction: Make it simple and easy for your customer to purchase and return anywhere. A lot of this can be accomplished with mobile checkout, a focused and streamlined workflow that moves customers from shopper to buyer.
  • Inventory: Enable a complete and accurate view of inventory so a customer never walks away empty handed. With real-time inventory visibility across all enterprise locations, your store teams can satisfy customer demand every time, whether in-store or online.

2. Establish a cross-functional team from the start.

To implement omnichannel you need a cohesive strategy and the right people in the room. A common mistake during omnichannel change management is not rallying all business teams around the project. There are touchpoints for omnichannel at every turn in your organization – from IT, retail/store operations and ecommerce, to digital, finance and marketing. Omnichannel can drive value for every group.

If you attempt to run your omnichannel project in silos, there will likely be implications for the supply chain and on costs. Given the scope and scale of omnichannel implementation, it’s important to establish a clear plan that all stakeholders can buy into. Change is hard, but with the following model in place, you can transform your organization’s willingness to accept it.

  • Purpose: Establish the ‘why’ for your brand. There will be a strong link to the customer and their desires here. Stakeholders from all areas of the business will be able to contribute to the vision and recognize how it drives impact for their function.
  • Objective: Understand what has been done so far, and what needs to change. At the end of the day, you want omnichannel to enhance your customers’ experiences in unique and innovative ways. Keep this in mind when thinking about capabilities, especially when it comes to the end-to-end journey.
  • Outcome: Determine the ways in which becoming an omnichannel organization will help with both quick-wins and long-term goals. Even more, make sure the vision reflects your brand mission, no matter how big or small. 

3. Build a network of partners to execute your strategy.

Omnichannel is not one-size-fits-all. Your circumstances are likely unique to you and your current systems landscape, and you may need to build a network of partners that will best help you achieve your core KPIs. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Based on your definition of omnichannel, what do you want to accomplish first and by when?
  • Domestic only or do you need a global partner?
  • What partners do your potential partners work with? (They will have already done the vetting for you!)
  • What is the structure of their project teams? Will the project team be your team for the whole engagement?
  • Is there an opportunity to speak to current clients? (There are very few companies offering true omnichannel. It’s the idea of showing, not telling – even if the vision is believable, you need to know what’s real upfront.)

Omnichannel excellence won’t happen overnight. Like any new strategy, it requires a new organizational mindset – from the top down. If omnichannel is an urgent priority for your brand in 2019, become an omnichannel organization…don’t just have an omnichannel strategy. This will put you in lockstep with the future of retail, and propel you ahead of your competition.  

We can help – reach out today to talk with one of our omnichannel retail experts.


Michelle Focarazzo is VP of Retail Excellence at NewStore. Most recently she was Director, Clienteling and Technology-Based Selling at Hudson’s Bay Company. Prior to that, she held positions in customer experience and HR/training and development at Saks Fifth Avenue, Elie Tahari and Barneys New York.