Omnichannel RetailThe Challenges of Omnichannel Retail
An omnichannel retail model gives retailers the ability to integrate back-end infrastructure with consumer-facing services such as inventory and shipping data and customer reviews to create a seamless and modern shopping experience both in store and online. Below, we’ll cover the basics of omnichannel retail, the ideal omnichannel experience, how consumers are driving today’s retail evolutions, and why it’s important to make the shift to omnichannel retail with a trusted partner like Aptos now, instead of playing the continual game of catch up as the industry continues to rapidly shift.
Omnichannel Retailing: The Basics
Omnichannel retailing is the result when retailers implement an integrated approach to their business that delivers shoppers a unified experience across all touchpoints, including all online and offline channels. Essentially, it’s the modern shopping journey brought to life, for both the retailer and the consumer. In a true omnichannel world, shoppers have the freedom to research, purchase, buy, and return seamlessly across any channel: online, mobile, or in a physical store location. At the same time retailers have systems and infrastructures that are completely connected in order to execute critical processes like inventory management, order fulfillment, and operations management in a manner that’s just as seamless. It’s the retail world’s response to today’s “always on” shopper. It’s also the next logical evolution from a multi-channel retail strategy where online, social, and physical purchases all come from one retailer, but in siloed, compartmentalized processes that are complicated for both shopper and retailer.
In a multi-channel world, shoppers can be limited in the way their purchases cross channels. An item bought online, for example, may be difficult or impossible to return in store. Or an item browsed on a mobile device can’t be shipped to a local store. Conversely, multi-channel retailers find themselves caught in a mess of competing and isolated systems where you don’t have full visibility to your inventory needs, order fulfillment, or distribution requirements. The ideal scenario is an evolution from individualized multi-channel systems, to a fully integrated omnichannel experience. But what does that really look like?
Omnichannel Retailing: The Vision
Imagine a world where a shopper visits your website. After they leave, they are served a banner ad that reminds them of what they browsed for and offers them a deal. The shopper then goes to the brick and mortar store location to compare items and make a selection. Rather than leave with an item, they have their purchase shipped to their home. Later, if a return is required the shopper can have returns or exchanges processed in-store, no matter what channel they purchased the item from. From there, you can then follow up with the shopper with emails of offers for loyalty programs, discounts, and other guided selling opportunities. The shopper moves across all channels fluidly, and the retailer fulfills the customers’ expectations while promoting their business needs and being operationally integrated.
The move to a true omnichannel experience is about creating an environment that hits every consumer touchpoint. So, let’s continue our exploration of omnichannel Retail by understanding who today’s consumer really is.
The New Consumer and You
Omnichannel retail arose as a response to the modern consumer’s shopping habits that require technology to create a consistent experience across all channels, including in-store, phone, mail and web. Importantly, the term “omnichannel” does not refer to technology, but rather to a seamless customer experience that spans from need recognition through all stages of the purchase cycle. Customers are rarely aware of all the technology needed to create this environment; however they are acutely aware of the differences in shopping experiences.
Looking more closely at the customer experience illustrates omnichannel’s impact on retail. Traditionally, customers made critical purchasing decisions inside the store. It was a world of flashy packaging and high-impact displays designed to influence shoppers as they worked their way through the primary part of their consumer journey. Today’s shoppers often begin their purchase journeys outside the store. From checking their tablet for product reviews over coffee, to doing side-by-side comparisons at the shelf with their phones, by the time they’re inside the store, today’s shoppers are informed, focused, and definitely expecting a fully integrated experience.
The omnichannel experience mirrors these new customer journeys with fluid but consistent interactions across every consumer touchpoint. It aligns with shoppers’ preferences by integrating mobile shopping with real-time inventory and shipping information. It allows shoppers to compare and read reviews even as they shop, and it empowers store associates to maximize sales and provide superior customer service. The resulting environment is one of operational excellence, higher sales conversions, and most importantly, the best possible experience. And that’s only one of the ways omnichannel retail is beneficial to business.
How Omnichannel Delivers Tangible Value
There are multiple reasons why creating a connected and seamless omnichannel environment is essential in today’s retail world.
An integrated omnichannel retail strategy allows retailers to stay competitive in an increasingly global and connected retail environment. Continuous connections and 360-degree visibility allow retailers to see where they can reduce layers, rethink inventories, reduce costs, and improve the overall customer experience.
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It provides inventory that’s in step with the consumer.
Shoppers use multiple digital channels and resources in order to research their next single purchase. And in today’s world, purchases can be made at any time, from anywhere, which can make accurate inventory management difficult. This affects everyone across the supply chain, from the employees at the Distribution Center to the staff members in store, because every layer needs to have inventory visibility to meet real-time customer demands. An omnichannel business model creates connectivity across channels and touchpoints that lead to seamless experiences throughout the entire journey, such as the ability to buy online and return in-store (BORIS), same-day pick-up, or ship-to-store fulfillment.
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It lets you guide the sale in a meaningful way.
There was a time when customers relied on brick-and-mortar retailers, traditional marketing and advertising like TV and radio, and recommendations from friends to make purchase decisions. Now, omnichannel retail and social media have made customers more price-aware and product-savvy than ever as they compare, contrast, and educate themselves on products in real time. However, with this evolution, omnichannel has also created opportunities for retailers to provide a compelling point of difference in an increasingly price-conscious market.
Ecommerce and digital channels have introduced a whole new world of marketing products. Omnichannel retail gives retailers a depth of customer data that they can use to personalize brand messages and offers. This new information also gives retailers the ability to guide the sale with messages that meet that customer’s unique needs or provide deeper information that give the consumer additional value from the brand. But how do you bring all of these technologies together to create an omnichannel environment?
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APTOS: One Singular Retail Solution
Bringing these technologies together is tricky, as most existing retail technology were never designed to meet these heightened expectations. Staying agile and adaptable enough to keep pace with today’s consumers is a daunting task, and many that attempt to do so with legacy technology actually run the risk of getting further behind and losing relevance with shoppers.
Aptos can help bring your technologies and services together with our Singular Commerce solutions.
Aptos’ Singular Commerce solutions leverage the “Power of One” to optimize your operations and stay competitive in an omnichannel world. Aptos tears down siloed operations and conquers logistical challenges with a singular solution backed by support and analytics across every phase of the merchandise and customer lifecycle.
This means your customers can shop in a retail world that matches their expectations; where an item can be purchased and acquired through any touchpoint with no hassle and an optimum experience.
This rapid retail revolution is still in progress, and adopting a singular solution with a partner you can trust now will ensure smooth retail operations and continued innovations for both retailers and consumers. Aptos can unite it all today and help move you from multi-channel retail to omnichannel retail and the endless aisles of the future.