Will the Real Omnichannel Please Stand Up?
True vs. Wannabe Omni
True and "wannabe" omnis are already carving out their place in retail's future, and it's a given that only one camp will win. Although definitions vary, I characterize true omnichannel retailers as those offering these five fulfillment types: ship to store, buy online and pick up in-store, ship from store, buy online and return in-store, and buy in-store and ship to home. They may not have every single one of these mechanisms in place today, but they at least have three of the five and plans to execute on the others.
Wannabe omnis, on the other hand, have an e-commerce presence and may have implemented one of the next-generation fulfillment methods, but are widely missing the mark in using the store as an asset to grow their performance online and offline. Many are being pulled kicking and screaming into the new omnichannel era, and their trepidation is causing them to fall behind as their more progressive cousins grow stronger. For every Staples that succeeds, there will be an OfficeMax that succumbs.
Comparing and Contrasting
Fulfillment is one of the largest pieces of the omnichannel equation, but it doesn't stand alone in differentiating the true players and the wannabes. Retailers must also excel in delivering a consistent and exceptional consumer experience where every channel is connected, customer service is informed and delightful, and their brand is cohesively presented.
Let's drill down a little further into the operational and strategic attributes that define these two camps.
Fulfillment: The physical collection of goods is one of the most vital parts of the omnichannel retail experience. Shoppers want to order and receive merchandise through the channel(s) of their choice, which requires specialized supply chain operations that connect all of the inventory data and make it visible to customers and sales associates alike. The logistical challenges are immense.