The importance for omni-channel retailing in today’s market

Columbus Chamber
The Columbus Chamber provides connections, resources and solutions that help small businesses and Fortune 500 enterprises grow Central Ohio's economy.

Member Insights by eComchain

The business world is abuzz with the news of Walmart’s latest acquisition – for $3.3 billion. This New Jersey-based company is now going to be center stage for the next phase of Walmart’s online shopping strategy. The retail giant has been getting aggressive in e-commerce and yet it hasn’t been able to stand up to its biggest rival in the space, Amazon. While Walmart’s e-commerce sales were $13.7 billion last year, Amazon’s revenue was a whopping $107 billion compared to that. But Walmart is not all about ecommerce. Its total revenue was close to a half trillion dollars. What the brand needs is not a retail plan but a robust omni-channel retail plan that will help balance these figures. The company hopes that the acquisition of will help them do just that.

The retail marketing industry is changing fast and this is posing new challenges for retailers and businesses looking to reach out to prospective customers. As more people are choosing to buy their goods from online stores, traditional retailers are no longer able to depend on their conventional brand promotion approaches when it comes to reaching out to their targeted customers. Increasing number of companies within a given niche are trying to appeal to a segment of customers, and it has now become necessary for a brand to make use of multiple channels to reach out to the customers and convince them to buy. Retailers like Macy’s and Nordstrom’s are prime examples of how emerging technologies can be leveraged for the omni-channel experience. Magic Mirrors, Smart Fitting Rooms, Neiman Marcus’ Mytheresa and Nordstrom’s Trunk Club are well-worth the study.

Statistics has revealed that more people are choosing to shop on the go than ever before, which means that they are using their smartphones instead of desktops to browse goods and buy them. Companies that invest in omni-channel efforts have experienced 89% of customer engagement and retention compared to the meagre 33% of their counterparts. In fact, ardent shoppers are no longer differentiating between the desktop and mobile platforms when it comes to carrying out their shopping, whether it is from an ecommerce store or a traditional store. While 71% of in-store customers say that their device and online search has become intrinsic to their shopping, a mere 45% of retailers have made any effort to harness the new emerging technologies. Unless they do, they may face extinction sooner than later. Such factors and developments have made it necessary for companies to invest in omni-channel retailing.

What is omni-channel retailing?

Omni-channel retailing can be defined as a well coordinated multichannel sales approach with the aim to provide customers with a wholesome shopping experience. Whether a customer chooses to shop from an online store or a traditional brick and mortar store, he or she may use a mobile or desktop device or even a telephone to get in touch with the store and the shopping experience would be perfectly seamless. In today’s world, omni-channel retailing has become extremely important as it makes it a lot easier for the customers to communicate with the store or the brand and get everything that they need. This not only encourages more people to buy goods from a specific retailer but also ensures satisfaction for both parties.

It is however necessary to differentiate between omni-channel retail experience from multichannel retail experience. While all retail stores making use of omni-channel retailing implements multi-channel methods, not all multichannel retail experience can be labeled as omni-channel retailing. While a company can have excellent mobile marketing skills, amazing social media campaigns as well as a perfectly well-designed website, they cannot be described as omni-channel retailing unless they work together seamlessly. This is where a robust cloud based ecommerce system can come in to play strongly.

Methods to implement omni-channel retailing

A Forrester Research report showed that while 2015 US online retail exceeded $325 billion in sales, web-influenced in store sales totaled more than $1.4 trillion. This is a case in study for the emerging consumer behavior, 81% of whom do online research before making a purchasing decision. They may still be buying from the physical stores but they are steadily shifting their focus on 100% online purchase. In order to effectively implement omni-channel retailing, a company needs to understand consumer behavior in great detail.

For instance, the retail store and its brand should have a clear idea about their main customer segment, their location, demographic, web browsing habits and the things that they like to shop for. They should also try and measure customer behavior both online and offline as well as across multiple devices. The information collected in this way can then provide with valuable insight on how web and mobile user experience can drive in-store visits. In this way, the quality of digital user experience can be enhanced, cross device conversions can be increased and retailers can make use of omni-channel retailing facilities to maximize their profits.  Without a strong online retail presence backed by a large inventory and supply chain network, without robust ecommerce efforts, businesses are setting themselves up for failure.