Will the Real Omnichannel Please Stand Up?
The arrival of omnichannel has the retail industry drawing new battle lines in the sand. Pundits predicted e-commerce would eventually crush brick-and-mortar, with Amazon.com as the big gun and other popular pure-plays falling in line behind. Omnichannel commerce is retail's direct answer to the Amazon era. If traditional retailers can leverage their core strength — their brick-and-mortar stores — and master the integrated online and offline experience, they may indeed have the upper hand.
Wal-Mart is the current poster child for the omnichannel movement, and its recent sales reports offer a glimpse into its potential to outpace Amazon. The mega retailer recently announced that its global e-commerce sales were up approximately 27 percent in the company's fiscal first quarter. Compare that to Amazon, which only saw a 23 percent increase for the same period.
There's little dispute that omnichannel is the evolution of commerce and the brightest path to continued growth, but not every omnichannel retailer will enjoy the same level of success. Some have shot ahead of the pack and are quickly executing against their master plan, while others are making the wrong moves or moving much too slow.
Disrupt or Be Disrupted
To really understand where the industry stands and needs to go, we must first assess the current situation. There's a theory in biology called punctuated equilibrium that, in general terms, says the evolution of a species proceeds with long periods of relative stability that are punctuated with rapid bursts of change. It's not a jump to draw parallels to what's taking place with omnichannel. Retailers that are responding to this fundamental shift and connecting every piece of their business will be the survivors in the new omnichannel world, while those that are complacent in their actions or old school in their thinking will inevitably fail.