Omnichannel is the buzzword du jour in retailing. From large chains to midsize independents, brands across the retail industry are eager to leverage new digital opportunities as drivers of increased revenues and market expansion.
But while many retailers are talking about omnichannel opportunities, a much smaller number understand what omnichannel really means. And fewer still are preparing their commerce technology to deliver a true omnichannel retail experience to consumers.
Omnichannel is about giving consumers the ability to enjoy the same high quality brand experience across every possible connection channel. Whether the consumer interacts with the brand on his or her mobile device or in a store aisle, the experience is consistent.
In many cases, omnichannel cuts across several different channels to create new shopping and fulfillment options for consumers. For example, many brands are beginning to offer online order/in-store pickup options that allow customers to enjoy the convenience of online shopping while still satisfying the immediate gratification of in-store availability.
To leverage omnichannel opportunities, retailers need to invest in the creation of consistent and exceptional brand experiences. Superficial site enhancements and other tactics won't cut it with today's consumers, especially when they see the omnichannel features and capabilities leading retailers are preparing to roll out in the coming months.
Elements of True Omnichannel Retail
True omnichannel retail requires technology capable of delivering functionality across an increasingly wide range of channels. Key features of robust omnichannel commerce platforms include the following:
- Single view of inventory: Omnichannel commerce platforms offer a single view of inventory across the entire estate. In addition to ensuring consistency in the availability of merchandise, this allows retailers to support fulfillment processes across all channels, reducing operational costs and improving customer convenience.
- In-store/digital crossover: The distinction between digital and brick-and-mortar is rapidly deteriorating. Omnichannel commerce technology enables seamless, cross-channel shopping experiences and makes it possible for customers to participate using QR codes, digital product information and other resources during in-store excursions.
- Flexibility: Different retail organizations require different business tools. In omnichannel commerce, it's important for retailers to retain the ability to customize specific organizational roles within the platform and evolve those roles on a continuous basis.
- Mobile Commerce: Mobile commerce is a mandatory component of true omnichannel commerce and can mean offering both a mobile-optimized website and a custom-built mobile app which offer users experiences unique to the traditional web. Consequently, commerce platforms need to allow retailers to quickly design and publish mobile-optimized sites and apps using feature-rich mobile storefront templates and other tools.
- Social media: Social channel engagement is a high priority for any omnichannel retail initiative. Many commerce technology providers offer retailers social media plug-ins that enable them to engage consumers on Facebook, Twitter and other popular social sites.
- Platform integration: It's important for retailers to make sure that their commerce platforms integrate with existing systems. Although it's possible that the platform may replace some stand-alone solutions within the organization, the platform must also integrate flawlessly with the organization's remaining solutions.
The race to provide exceptional and consistent customer experiences across every possible channel is creating a new urgency for retailers to improve their commerce technologies and implement omnichannel systems to innovate ahead of the market. Although the transition to a true omnichannel experience doesn't happen overnight, today's best commerce technologies dramatically lower time requirements and make it possible for brands to implement an omnichannel commerce platform in less than six months.
Steven Kramer is responsible for running hybris’ business in the Americas. Previously, he was president and co-founder of iCongo, a leading provider of cross-channel retail e-commerce and business-to-business e-commerce systems.