Omnichannel is a neologism describing a business strategy. According to Frost & Sullivan, omnichannel is defined as “Seamless and effortless, high-quality customer experiences that occur within and between contact channels”.
Omnichannel means having a uniform customer experience. A simple example is that the design of the website should remain consistent with the mobile app and should also match branded physical environments. Consumers can shop the same way through in-store, website, and mobile. Regardless of the customers’ location and time. The order can either be delivered to the address directly, collected at the store, or collect from a retail partner. In India, retailers and brands are commonly selling online and offline. Online channels include branded webstores, marketplaces like: Amazon, eBay, Jet.com, flipkart.com and social channels like: Facebook, Google Shopping and Google Express. To ensure omnichannel and multichannel retail strategies are controlled and implemented efficiently, brands and retailers use software to centrally manage product information, listings, inventory and orders from vendors.
A Safeway delivery truck illustrates how some traditional supermarkets are now pursuing a bricks and clicks strategy.
The term “Bricks and Clicks” has been used by Advertising Age to refer to how what some call Omnichannel retail strategy has been well used by Walmart. This model has typically been used by traditional retailers who have extensive logistics and supply chains, but are well known and often respected for their traditional physical presence. Part of the reason for its success is that it is far easier for a traditional retailer to establish an online presence than it is for a start-up company to employ a successful purely online one, or for an online only retailer to establish a traditional presence, including a strong and well recognised brand, without having a large marketing budget. It can also be said that adoption of a bricks and clicks model where a customer can return items to a brick and mortar store can reduce wasted costs to a business such as shipping for undelivered and returned items that would traditionally be incurred.
A bricks and clicks business model can benefit various members of a customer base. For example, supermarkets often have different customer types requiring alternative shopping options; one group may wish to see the goods directly before purchase and like the convenience of shopping in person on short notice, while another group may require a different convenience of shopping online and getting the order delivered when it suits them, having a bricks and clicks model means both customer groups are satisfied. Other previously online-only retailers have stated that they have found benefit in adding a brick-and-mortar presence to their online-only business, as customers can physically see and test products before purchase as well as get advice and support on any purchases they have made. Additionally, consumers are likely to feel safer and have more confidence using a bricks-and-clicks business if they already know the brand from a brick-and-mortar store. Ordering and picking up has an advantage for families with children because the parents do not have to get their children out of the car. Also, during hot weather, the car does not get hot again if the shopper does not have to leave the car.
A major factor in the success or failure of this business model is in the control of costs, as usually maintaining a physical presence paying for many physical store premises and their staffing requires larger capital expenditure which online only businesses do not usually have. Conversely, a business selling more luxurious, often expensive, or only occasionally purchased products like cars may find sales are more common with a physical presence, due to the more considered nature of the purchasing decision, though they may still offer online product information. However, some car manufacturers such as Dacia have introduced online configurators that allow a customer to configure and order complete cars online, only going to a dealership to collect the completed car, which has proven popular with customers.
“On the other hand, an online-only service can remain a best-in-class operation because its executives focus on just the online business.” It has been argued that a bricks and clicks business model is more difficult to implement than an online only model. In the future, the bricks and clicks model may be more successful, but in 2010 some online only businesses grew at a staggering 30%, while some bricks and clicks businesses grew at a paltry 3%. The key factor for a bricks and clicks business model to be successful “will, to a large extent, be determined by a company’s ability to manage the trade-offs between separation and integration” of their retail and online businesses.
- Some argue that online shopping, which makes price comparison easier for customers, encourages a ‘race-to-the-bottom’, where retailers only compete on price, with quality and service deteriorating as a result. This is especially prevalent when comparison shopping websites.
- The prices listed online may not match the prices listed offline. The reasons for this include mis-management, and economics (overhead cost of an online purchase and an offline purchase is different). This may result in confusion and deviations of expectations for the buyers.
- Buyers may end up buying more items than they need, because online businesses are able to show them more items, more promotions, and more advertisements.
Omnichannel vs. Multichannel
The major difference between omnichannel and multichannel is the level of integration. Multichannel is usually identified as a non-integrated way to approach customers and inventory holdings, while omnichannel requires coherent and absolute inventory integration. More and more organizations have realized the opportunities and advantages of integrating multiple channels by adopting an omnichannel approach. The boundaries between channels tend to vanish in an omnichannel environment, giving the customer a consistent brand experience.
Fast and Efficient Payment Checkouts
Between blockchain solutions, contactless payment, and more, consumers expect easier methods for checkout whether it’s online, in-store, or over the phone. Increasingly, shoppers will gravitate toward brands that no longer require them to enter their billing address, 16-digit credit card number, expiry date, and security code to complete their purchase especially for repeat customers. Providing various payment options at checkouts, such as Phonepay and GPay, will give your customers the convenience of using their preferred method of payment and make shopping easier than ever before.
Shoppers, like everyone else, pursue relationships that make sense. They respond especially well to offers targeted to their interests. To overcome this, brands can leverage the data collected through multiple user touchpoints. Combining identity data with deep insights enables you to customize offers and experiences in alignment with each customer’s current search and need. When all your channels are connected, every consumer touchpoint helps to reinforce your competitive advantage and strengthen your relationship with customers.
Customers’ ever-increasing appetite and enthusiasm for different and interactive experiences has already paved the way to many technological advancements in retail, such as virtual and augmented reality. This trend is here to stay. In order to satisfy their customers’ need for an unforgettable experience, many companies will have to think of different ways to engage their customers with their stores. An omnichannel approach will in this way enable the consumers to use their smartphones in a physical store to better their customer journey.
Customer Service 24/7
Even though keeping the doors of a physical location open 24/7 is not possible for many businesses, it is feasible to offer 24/7 online shopping, ordering, and customer service. When aligning your retail strategy with omnichannel retail trends in 2021, consider enhancing customer service with 24/7 accessibility. Shopping across many different platforms and devices has its perks, but it also can bring more questions from your customers. Ensure that you have an outstanding in-person, email, and online customer service program for your shoppers.
Visually-oriented audiences increasingly purchase products directly from their preferred social media platforms. This creates an opportunity for omnichannel retailers to figure out new ways to integrate social content into their websites or to add their product listings into social media posts, and more.