At its core, omnichannel experiences focus on improving the buyer’s journey and brand experience. It represents the desire and need to ensure customers get what they want, when they want it. However, the pandemic shifted the world of retail, accelerating and solidifying omnichannel as no longer a nice-to-have but an essential for survival. So much so that 45% of retailers admitted to adding new channels to their retail strategies.
However, before companies rush to roll out a new omnichannel plan, a business needs to understand the capabilities and constraints of their business set up and the tools they use. Ideally you want to ensure your inventory levels are optimized to fulfil orders and your customers get the personal experience they expect.
What is an Omnichannel Strategy?
The phrase “omnichannel” was first coined in 2010, it refers to a strategy that focuses on the entirety of a customer’s experience. Having an omnichannel strategy gives you the ability to seamlessly link all touchpoints together. However, this wasn’t always the case; read on to find out the difference between single channel, multichannel and omnichannel.
A single channel is exactly that, either a company operating exclusively through a bricks-and-mortar store or an e-commerce site. An immediate benefit is the ability to minimize and control costs. But the disadvantages are huge – especially in a time where consumer behaviour has shifted so much. Customers expect a richer offering, which impacts the brands and retailers they choose to shop with.
Multichannel offers customers more way to purchase products – that could be in a store, online or through an app. This offers customers convenience and helps to boost sales. However, the downside is that these channels work independently from each other which makes effective order fulfilment and speedy delivery harder to manage.
Omnichannel takes multichannel one step further by connecting all channels together, enabling a seamless experience across every platform. Giving customers this kind of experience increases customer loyalty, brand reputation and sales.
For a retailer or brand to implement an effective omnichannel strategy, the technology they rely on must be built for the omnichannel era. Many planning tools are not, leading to data that makes inaccurate forecasts and an allocation and replenishment strategy that is complex to manage.
Why is an Omnichannel Retail Strategy Important?
Today, customers expect to find the product they’re looking for in the right size and color in the places they expect to find them. Retailer and brands must keep up, so customers are not compelled to shop elsewhere. They must also offer customers a continuous uninterrupted experience no matter what the touchpoint they interact with.
Today, the ease of which you can click a button on your mobile phone and in a matter of days have a new pair of shoes sitting at your front door has upped the retail game. So much so, customers’ expectations are outpacing a businesses’ ability to meet these needs.
Having an omnichannel retail strategy is now a requirement for survival. Customer expectations for personalized experiences, across channels, is a must too. Whether that’s a social advertisement connected to the item you just looked at online, or an email notification with a discount code to buy that item. All the way through to being able to effortlessly buy something online and return it in-store with no questions asked. Customers wants vary with expectations now including:
- At-home and community hub deliveries via websites or apps with order tracking
- In-store pick-ups for same-day online orders
- Try-before-buying experiences and product demos
- Availability of products through brand partnerships and concession stores
- Returning, exchanging or replacing products via delivery, drop off, tracked returns or head directly into stores
Giving customers the option on how to buy and return items that best suit their needs, and the ability to engage with that brand in a way that feels most comfortable to them creates a positive brand association.
Retailers who are able to track their customers over different channels can better serve them with a more personalized experience.
Planning teams, for instance, are developing at least 3 plans at one time: pre-season, in-season and next season. Huge amounts of data that come from having an omnichannel strategy empowers planners to have a true snapshot over their customers, where and how they like to shop and what they’re buying. Understanding under-performing and best-performing products and in what locations / channels ensures that the right products can be found in the right place.
What are the Benefits of a Robust Omnichannel Retail Strategy?
Being able to serve up and offer an enticing product range is the bare minimum of what a brand or retailer needs to offer to stay relevant and competitive in a fast-changing, ever-evolving industry. Omnichannel retail strategy allows brands and retailers to do just that and more.
- Better experience means higher customer loyalty and increased sales
In order to take customer experience to the next level, a business must invest in personalization. Clicks-to-bricks is a retail strategy that blends online and in-store shopping to form a complete omnipresent customer experience. Companies that drive engagement through a personalized approach, leads to happy customers who repeatedly engage with the brand.With a snapshot overview over what customers are buying at any store, city or country enables a better understanding over which items sell quicker online or in-store. Predictive modelling better predicts next season’s best sellers to have the right stock in the right places. That means a higher chance of selling more products at full price boosting sales and profit margin.
- Improved Operational Efficiency
For a business to stay flexible and keep up with a modern omnichannel retail strategy it’s crucial that omnichannel fulfilment and distribution can be managed effectively. Real-time inventory levels need to always be optimized, and a company must be capable of fulfilling orders, no matter where they come from.A robust planning solution like Centric Planning™ optimizes inventory data aggregation in order to package, track and deliver all orders, deliveries and returns no matter which channel, with time and cost-efficiency at the forefront. Once a business knows what’s needed, it’s time to invest in the right tools. Businesses need to synchronize all data in one place, enabling retailers to coordinate and execute complex order and fulfilment strategies with stringent data organization, real-time supply chain updates and transparent cross-team communication.
How a Planning Solution Can Help Your Omnichannel Strategy
Without a digitally transformative tool, adapting your omnichannel strategy to adhere to fluctuating consumer trends is no easy task.
With a high-performing retail planning solution planners, merchandisers and stock allocators are empowered to reduce markdowns and increase stock availability through advanced analytics and accurate AI-driven forecasting.
Centric Planning offers a data-driven solution that is easy to integrate, manage and customize. Transform the entire end-to-end solution right from building robust merchandise financial plans, to optimizing range and assortments to the allocation and replenishment strategy.