By UMESH AGARWAL- The Retail Pro
Lately, we have been hearing the term “OMNI-CHANNEL”. It’s frequently used almost in the retail industry. If your connection with the industry is limited to only shopping for your needs, then it might be an alien term for you. This is precisely the reason that in this article I am putting together all the relevant info to better understand it.
“OMNI-CHANNEL” refers to – “A method of selling, using all or every touchpoints”. The Omni-channel is a modern way of retailing that focuses on designing a seamless consumer experience at every channel/touchpoint. The purpose here is to keep the customers engaged and letting them move around the entire ecosystem, with each channel working in perfect harmony while ensuring engagement and conversion. This differs from the single or multi- channel retailing where individual channels were optimized without necessarily taking the whole experience into mind.
How is the experience?
Let’s think of a male customer who visits a physical store and checks a product and comes out of the store without buying it. He then browses through the seller’s website, also makes comparisons for the pricing and researches on the similar products from other brands using a digital device (smartphone/tablet/wearable/laptop/desktop). He holds the purchase for some time but during that time, he receives personalized recommendations for the same product on his social media accounts along with testimonials and reviews from other customers who bought it earlier. After a few days, he speaks to a sales representative using webchat/chatbot and eventually buys the product at a later date ordering through a smartphone/tablet (via an app) but rather than asking for delivery at his location, asks for delivery to some other location and picks it up himself on the same or next day.
As we can see that – in the whole process the customer moved between various online and offline channels while keeping his eye on the product, was also able to communicate with the sales representative and eventually made a purchase including freedom to decide whether to pick or get it delivered from/to a desired location. This single transaction was supported by multiple communication channels. The flawless, back-end integration of these channels allowed the customer – flexibility, seamless experience and option to switch between channels. This is what an Omni-channel experience is.
Which are these channels?
Currently the entire spectrum of the Omni-Channel experience can consist of online and offline channels including but not limited to a Physical store (also referred as Brick and Mortar Retail), Company owned web portal, Online market place, Social media (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Snapchat etc.) and Smartphone (SMS, calls, mobile apps etc.).
Omni Channel has become a business model which brings all the above channels together and shares information (data) between each other enabling the customer to conduct transaction whenever, wherever, whatever – without losing the sight on the product.
How does it help a retailer?
The Omni-Channel strategy helps the retailers in multiple ways such as – It provides better customer experience, helps in bringing more footfall, sales conversions are relatively better, customers loyalty is ensured and it allows customer insight through better data collection to create content and offers that encourages the customers to engage themselves in shopping more – not only online but also at the physical stores.
How to create it?
To create a perfect Omni-channel experience/strategy, the retailers need to know their customers’ interests, behavior and needs. They should find out where the customers are and what they’re doing or buying. The have to ensure that each channel is utilized adequately and separately for purposes like promotion, selling etc. They also need to ensure that all channels are connected perfectly using the right technology so to avoid a customer leaving in between the channels and retailer thus losing the conversion.
The Omni-channel Retail strategy is the way forward for better shopping experience. It’s important to provide a seamless experience to the customers on different and newer platforms while ensuring a timely delivery of the correct product, at the location of their choice, within the desired timelines. This is the only known and proven strategy to maximize revenue leveraging the latest technology and product offerings.