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An Introduction to Omnichannel Retail

In the rapidly evolving world of eCommerce, building an omnichannel retail system has become a major goal for an increasing number of merchants. Eruptions in the use of both mobile technology and social media, and the resultant shifts in consumer behavior, have brought us to this place.

The ability to maintain engagement with shoppers in an environment where their attention is being continually diverted is no small feat. However, the brands that can create a rewarding omnichannel experience stand to gain loyalty, increase market share, and scale their businesses.

At SkuNexus, we understand the challenges online retailers face and we design all of our software to facilitate communication, remove barriers, and enable free data flow. These are foundational building blocks for any successful omnichannel system.

With any relatively new business model, there can be some confusion as to what it all means, so we’d like to provide a brief overview of omnichannel retail by discussing what it is and how it works. We will be going much deeper into omnichannel order management and fulfillment in the near future.

SkuNexus management software helps merchants streamline omnichannel performance.

What is Omnichannel Retail, Exactly?

Sometimes, it helps to explain what something is by putting it in context, so let’s take a quick look at the difference between omnichannel and multichannel. 

This is critical.

Multichannel retail involves selling goods and/or services through a variety of different, uncoordinated platforms (brick-and-mortar, online store, Amazon store, Pinterest, Facebook, etc.). Nearly all retailers today sell via some combination of methods - even your local 7-11 has an app now. 

By allowing consumers to engage with a brand on the channel they prefer, multichannel is a powerful tool and a foundational layer of omnichannel.

Omnichannel retail builds upon this by taking all of those disparate channels and connecting them into a web, each one coupled to every other. By synchronizing data across channels, it links the various touchpoints between customer and brand. The result? As a customer moves from one channel to another, so too does their data.

Above all else, omnichannel retail is customer-centric - it creates a consistent, seamless experience for the customer within the brand. 

How Omnichannel Retail Works

Omnichannel retail is accessible to even very new eCommerce merchants, but there is no all-encompassing rule for how it works. Because each brand is different, so too will be their approaches.

There are some elements essential to a successful omnichannel strategy and implementation, however:

  • A deep understanding of your customers. In a customer-centric system, their wants, needs and behaviors will guide nearly every other decision.
  • A tech stack that both supports a broad array of channels and tracks all the data across those channels.
  • The resources to adequately manage and coordinate a comprehensive omnichannel system. 
  • Flexibility. The only constant in business is change, and merchants must be prepared to continually adjust their strategies as well. 

Because so much of the overall model seems focused on front-end communication between business and customer, it is easy to lose sight of the vital role played by omnichannel software on the back end. The system cannot function without accurate data from a brand’s physical locations, and this is where omnichannel management plays the central role. 

Order management. Inventory management. Fulfillment management. Warehouse management. Vendor management. Shipping management. Optimizing these processes ensures efficiency for your business and provides your customers with the most accurate data, synchronized across all channels.

An omnichannel retail strategy will be as strong as the commitment and coordination of the people behind it. Omni means, “of all things,” and everyone at the company will play a role in achieving the desired outcomes. 

SkuNexus management software helps merchants streamline omnichannel performance.

Sample Omnichannel Retail Methods & Examples

While broad explanations and guidelines are useful, for a clearer understanding, here are a few examples of omnichannel in practice.

Rewards Program

A well-thought out rewards program provides a broad array of potential interactions between business and customer. 

For example, a footwear retailer offers redeemable points for any purchases made in-store or online. The same shoe store can encourage engagement across its social media by offering points for likes, shares, mentions, retweets, etc. It can offer its rewards program members points for filling out an email survey or taking a Facebook quiz about its products or any number of other creative ideas. 

In the end, customers are interacting with the brand on many channels and getting something in return while providing extremely useful data to the company at the same time.

SkuNexus management software helps merchants streamline omnichannel performance.

Payment Links

Friction reduction is a significant goal in the omnichannel model and a cumbersome checkout process can result in abandoned carts and lost sales. The use of a payment link (URL, QR code, etc.) will open a portal/page with the specific details of a customer’s purchase. 

Versatility makes the payment link an extremely useful checkout method. They may be specific to one transaction or tied to a particular product/service. They can be personalized or made available for any customer. And unlike a shopping cart or payment form, a link can easily travel as a shopper moves from one channel to another.

Incorporating Physical and Digital Channels

Shopping online yet receiving (and returning) goods at a brick-and-mortar location has seen an explosion in popularity in recent years. As the omnichannel experience involves meeting customers where they are, online retailers must consider providing these options or risk losing sales as a result.

BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In Store) and BORIS (Buy Online Return In Store) are relatively new models and acronyms in the eCommerce space, but their appeal is undeniable. Proper management of these types of order fulfillment is dependent on accurate, real-time inventory and clear, unfettered communication between a merchant’s internal information systems.

We have merely scratched the surface of omnichannel retail here. It is a fascinating development within the realm of eCommerce and one that demands attention from every merchant, regardless of size or industry. The ability to continually and consistently interact with customers, and vice-versa, is unprecedented in human history and a true revolution throughout the business world.

At SkuNexus, we design solutions to help companies compete in this brave new world. If you would like to get a better look at what we can do for your brand, please schedule a demo. 

And, if you would like to continue reading our insights into all things eCommerce, please subscribe to our blog.

 

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