Omni-channel commerce is aimed to make shopping a seamless experience, which is contextualised and location-specific to the identity and buying history of each shopper.
In the past few decades, the retail world went through some significant changes in order to become accustomed to the growing and ever-changing needs and expectations of the consumers in this digital era. The key challenges, however, remain in providing the most relevant content to the consumers to build a more personal relationship with them.
The expansion of retail from brick and mortar stores to online shopping carts was a big leap, but not the ultimate. We saw the revolution brought by eCommerce in its early days and now online retailing is moving past the browser. The fine line between retailing and e-tailing is getting blurred as all want to give an immersive shopping experience to their customers across Web, social media channels and mobiles.
Why Brands are Investing on Omni-Channel
In 2014, eCommerce sales reached $5.30 billion in India and this year, the retail eCommerce sales is predicted to grow over 45 per cent to $7.69 billion, but that accounts for only a tiny share (0.9 per cent) of the country’s total retail sales. ‘Web-impacted’ or cross-channel retail is gaining popularity in the retail landscape of the country with the emergence of mobile apps and growing impact of social media, making it a significant point in favour of Omni-channel retail.
Omni-channel retail is all about consumer behaviour. A number of big-box retailers in India such as Amazon, Flipkart, Pantaloons, and Easyday etc. are defining their own shopping experience and that too in real time. Besides, many international retailers like Wal-Mart (as Wal-Mart Stores Inc.), IKEA and Hennes and Mauritz AB are penetrating the market.
Reasons why forward-thinking retailers are making Omni-channel a reality
· More Profitable Shoppers. People shopping across various channels tend to spend more. According to a recent Deloitte report, Omni-channel shoppers spend a whopping 76 per cent more than those shopping in brick and mortar stores during holiday seasons;
· More Informed Shoppers. Omni-channel shoppers are also more informed as they access around 10.4 sources of information on an average before making a purchase decision;
· More Engaged Shoppers. Additionally, these buyers are more engaged. They remain connected all the time via mobile devices and smart wearables that take consumer engagement to the next level by establishing a deeper relationship between the retailers and consumers.
Omni-Channel from Consumers’ Perspective
Today’s consumers are increasingly expecting to see more options, be it for products, payment or shipping - consumers want more options, period.
In addition, buyers now want to search, discover, buy, pick-up, and return products seamlessly from various digital and physical access points. Omni-channel, however, calls for a fundamental and dramatic shift in retailers’ mentality. They need to become more and more customer-centric.
Initiatives which retailers need to take
· Providing seamless experience across various channels and access points;
· More access points in terms of mobile, physical stores, pick-up and drop-off points, lockers, parcel shops, and drives;
· Shorter lead times such as same-day delivery and pick-up within 2 hours or less etc;
· More options for delivery including time slots, after-hours, and week-end delivery;
· More options for in-store and/or ‘drive’ services. For example, Gap and Macy’s allow consumers to reserve online with options like pick-up in drive, self-collect and endless aisles etc;
· Flexible delivery points such as at work place or at subways or other prominent places for commuters.
Omni-channel is not just about having your presence across all channels. That’s the technology part of it; it is a much more humane in nature, it’s about being “present.” While it may sound a no brainer strategy, providing Omni-channel experiences is all about your ability to satisfy and engage your customers in the best possible way. And how you do it is hardly significant.
Let’s take the example of Wal-Mart, which played catchup with nemesis Amazon.com by rebuilding its website last year to provide a more personalised online shopping experience to each customer. It’s not just Wal-Mart, there are scores of other international retailing brands such as Best Buy, Sears, and B&N attempting to transform for the same purpose.
Today, almost every retailer including the bigger players is struggling to execute Omni-channel initiatives to meet the needs and expectations of consumers to drive maximum revenue. According to Antonio Regalado, senior editor, biomedicine for MIT Technology Review, Omni-channel is a buzzword describing a survival strategy.
Mary Kay’s strategy of being globally present
One surviving strategy is therefore to become armed for global success. When I said, Omni-channel is about “being present” I also meant being ‘globally present’. Mary Kay has implemented an Omni-channel strategy successfully to improve its bottom line.
This global cosmetics brand follows a highly complex business operation that supports more than 3 million consultants across 35 global markets to sell Mary Kay products. The company is operating via a complex B2B2C model and takes orders on websites in 20 different countries and in over 19 languages globally.
By executing an Omni-channel strategy, Mary Kay achieved a number of goals, including:
· 5x faster website to manage online product offering;
· Deployed a new market in 4 weeks;
· 20 million traffic per month.
Indian brands expanding to Omni-channel
Many Indian brands are also expanding to Omni-channel. For example, Future Group is investing over $15 million (i.e. Rs. 100 crore) to provide a “'single view” of its various brands across both physical and digital channels. Once the Omni-channel platform becomes operational, the company is expecting an increase of 30 per cent in its revenue.
Infiniti Retail, a multi-brand electronics stores operating under the brand name Croma is now providing same day delivery on online orders in 16 Indian cities and it also has options for store pick up. The daily clicks on Cromaretail.com are 2,10,000.
Planning is the Key
Remember IKEA's augmented reality catalogue? You probably don’t need to go to that extreme, but the idea is to provide a solution addressing your customers’ pain points. For example, brick and mortar stores can start taking online orders with pick-up or delivery options in nearby locations.
No one can deny the fact that the old uni-channel retail model is now dying; although eCommerce is still driving a retail growth, it is not enough. Consumers want more – more simple, relevant and consistent experiences across all channels and touchpoints. It’s no more about what brands “say” to their customers but what they “do” in real life. And Omni-channel, if done right, answers them all.
Author: Pratik Dholakiya is the Founder of The 20 Media, a content marketing agency specializing in content & data-driven SEO and advisor at MoveoApps, a mobile apps development company. He regularly speaks at various conferences about SEO, Content Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Digital PR. Pratik has spoken at 80th Annual Conference of Florida Public Relations Association, Accounting & Finance Show, Singapore, NextBigWhat’s UnPluggd, IIT-Bombay, SMX Israel, SEMrush Meetup, MICA, IIT-Roorkee and other major events.