Today’s world is about choices. When one wants to buy a phone, she has a hundred choices no matter what her budget is. She asks for opinions from friends, everyone has an opinion or a favourite. She goes online to check for reviews, more opinions. And once she decides to buy, she has the choice of buying it online from the hundreds of options available or she can walk in to a high street store. So one’s final choice, apart from just the price, would mostly depend on satisfaction. Satisfaction is the underlying factor of a customer’s buying exercise. This is what Omni Channel retail is all about – providing a uniform customer experience across in-store and online channels. It aims to provide a seamless experience of interacting with a brand through all of its available shopping channels such as brick-and-mortar, computers, mobile devices, television, catalogs, phone calls, etc. With the growing popularity of online shopping in India, retailers will benefit more by adopting the omni channel approach. Today’s shoppers, especially the time-constrained urban shoppers, find it most convenient to browse through online sites and order for the desired item to be delivered at the doorstep. Alternatively they visit a store, pay there, but want the product delivered to their doorstep. With the freedom to browse through multiple channels, uniformity in pricing and user experience will ensure that a brand enhances the buying experience thus pushing repeat sales.

Omni Channel Retail at global level

Globally, many retailers like Macy’s, John Lewis and Sacks have already resorted to Omni channel retailing to ensure brand stability and consistency. This has shown a 9-20 percent increase in their overall sales while ensuring customer satisfaction. Thanks to an Omni-Channel strategy, John Lewis has experienced a steady growth in sales and profit in one of the most difficult times in the UK economy, at a time when mega high-street brands like Comet, Jessops and Blockbuster have gone to the butchers.

Omni Channel Retail in India

Omni channel retail, though in its early days in the Indian market, is a growing area of interest for most retailers. With more and more people turning to online shopping, retailers find it difficult to increase footfall in the physical stores, mainly because of the pure convenience of online shopping. While some like Shoppers Stop have already adopted the Omni-Channel strategy by integrating their selling patterns across their physical and online stores, some others like Lifestyle, Tata Croma etc. have begun charting out plans to integrate their online and offline selling patterns. One of the most significant brands to have adopted this method in India is Domino’s Pizza. Whether it’s through their stores, online site or mobile orders, prices, choices, offers and services remain the same. The numbers of their outlets have only increased and not decreased. The customer experience and incentives cross all their channels are the same.

The key to Omni-Channel Strategy

The key to attainting Omni-Chanel retail, and also its biggest challenge, is integrating the backend operations, namely supply-chain management, logistics, IT and marketing for all products/services for the brand. Significant investment, good technology and attention to detail is required to achieve this. Consider a customer who walks into a store and the product he wants is out of stock. A unified inventory system available under an Omni-channel strategy will allow the brand to procure the product from another one of their stores, or have it directly delivered to the customer at their doorstep via a logistics partner. Moreover, such a unified supply chain enables the brand to provide a click-and-collect service, where a customer buys online but the product is delivered to the nearest affiliated store to be picked up by the customer at their own convenience. Thus, a connection between the brand’s backend operations is most vital to provide Omni-channel retail.

Not to be confused with Multi Channel Retail

Multichannel Retail involves selling through multiple sales channels, which are possibly disjoint from each other. Little or no cross-selling may exist between the different channels of sales, the brand communication may be different and prices may be different, the sole purpose is to sell. For multi-channel online sales, there are tools like Browntape that enable multi-channel sales across eBay, Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, etc. online marketplaces. Omni channel on the other hand, is about providing a single brand face to the customer across all its channels, tied together by common back-end and customer service processes.

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