Omnichannel Trends in 2021

Omnichannel trends in 2021 are the outcome of the paradigm shift in eCommerce business structures since the pandemic hit the world. Just two years back, the word simply meant having multiple channels for selling your products. Industry leaders ensured that they either adopted online sales or offline sales; whichever was missing in the go-to-market strategy. 

New Meaning of  Omnichannel

Come March 2020, everything changed. The Indian eCommerce industry leapt 5 years ahead in a matter of 2 years. Lock-down, schools and work from home caused a dramatic rise in internet adoption, use of smartphones/computers and overall digital adaptation. Businesses with maximum reliance on brick & mortar presence were forced to adopt an omnichannel approach.

Pre-pandemic, omnichannel had a passive existence- it was enough to have your products offline and online. A largely me-too approach, the motivation was staying in line with industry trends. However omnichannel trends in 2021 indicate that now, the customers’ convenience is the centre of any approach that is taken. It has a survival requisite where if a business doesn’t grab a customer; there are ten others waiting in line with a seamless omnichannel approach, to do so.

To summarise, it is no longer enough to be present online and offline. Omnichannel retail trends in 2021 indicate that eCommerce sellers and large brands have to combine new ‘channels’ in an innovative way. A customer may start his purchase on one channel, pay on another channel and receive his product on a third channel. This fluidity defines omnichannel retail trends in 2021. 

Omnichannel Retail Trends in 2021

Logically one might wonder, why would someone pay online but then walk out to a store to pick the product. Isn’t online shopping all about convenience? Well, here’s the twist. Since the lockdowns opened, Indian consumers have been avoiding spending time at physical stores. They want to quickly get in; collect what they need and move- to reduce the chances of getting infected. 

BOPIS- Perfect for Companies with Extensive Retail Network

BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store). This is perfect for fashion & lifestyle products such as shoes, clothes and even regular FMCG products- one’s weekly packaged foods shopping list. Let’s take an example. Imagine Arun, a Nike loyal customer who is looking for a new pair of shoes. He knows his Nike size well- however; doesn’t want to spend extra time at the store to scan through designs. So he chooses BOPIS. He goes online; browses through multiple designs and zeros in on one. The website then directs him to the nearest store in the city which has his size. He purchases the shoes. He gets into his car, drives to the store and then picks up his brand new pair of shoes. No wonder BOPIS has become one of the top omnichannel retail trends in 2021.

Key Benefits of BOPIS

  1. Customers can buy and block a product; before it runs out of stock
  2. Customers get the products faster than they do via online shopping
  3. Reduced or no shipping fees
  4. Customers get directed to the store where the product is available; eliminating the need for him to run store to store to find the product. 
  5. The short but effective in-store experience; ensures continued loyalty
  6. BOPIS saves time at the store for the consumer; he/she can just pick up & leave.

BOPIS is also known as Click-and-Collect and  Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store.  56% of respondents who were interviewed by McKinsey & Co said that they would opt for BOPIS even after the pandemic subsides.

BOPAC – Limiting Person to Person Interaction

BOPAC allows you to pick your products, with minimal contact with store staff.

BOPAC means Buy Online, Pick Up at Curb. It is also called BOPAK- Buy Online, Pick Up at Kerbside, depending on the spelling you use for the kerb. This is one of the omnichannel trends in 2021 that played a crucial role for many customers.  It is almost similar to BOPIS; but here the customer does not step into the store. Instead, he stops at the curb of the warehouse or storefront to pick up his order. An employee needs to simply step out and hand over the order to the customer. 

Let’s take an example for this. Say Katya wants to buy a specific brand of protein supplements that has limited distribution due to niche demand. She goes directly to or the company’s website and places an order with BOPAC as the choice of delivery. She is directed to a store that is within her pincode and nearest to her home address- a store that has a particular SKU. In case the store doesn’t have the SKU, then a transfer from another store in the city is initiated ( if it’s a company-run outlet). Whichever way; all Katya needs to do is drive down to the store, call the number that’s provided and the store employee will come to the car and hand over the order of her protein supplement.

Key Benefits of BOPAC

  1. Limited person to person interaction- perfect for the pandemic
  2. Reduced or no shipping cost
  3. No product damage in transit
  4. Same day receipt of product
  5. Eliminates the need for the customer to run from store to store searching for a specific product.

In the times of COVID-19, this is a much safer alternative for consumers as it limits, person to person interaction.

The benefit of BOPIS is that the customers get their orders delivered much quicker in comparison to traditional e-commerce deliveries. Customers who stay alone & work for long hours can easily miss their deliveries. Curbside pickup allows them to pick up orders at their convenience. Another benefit is the reduced shipping fee and minimizes any potential damage to the item since it won’t be in transit.

Social Commerce- No Longer the Fringe Channel 

social commerce- a key piece of omnichannel retail in india
Shopping on Social Media Platforms is Bound to Grow

Social commerce sprouted due to rapid growth in entrepreneurs who started selling niche products on platforms like Instagram and Facebook. These platforms were perfect for selling healthy snacks, colourful socks, rare gifts, and home decor items. In fact, many successful businesses began on social media and then went on to grow on other platforms like eCommerce and then moved offline. However, this is surely one of the omnichannel trends in 2021 that you need to watch out for.

Now when it comes to large established brands, the journey has moved the other way around. They have been present offline with an extensive distribution footprint for decades. Owing to the pandemic; they began selling on eCommerce platforms or got aggressive on it, due to the realities of the market. However, brands that are catering to millennial consumers cannot afford to let social commerce out of their radar. This includes conducting business on or being present on Whatsapp. Or using Instagram’s shopping feature. The idea is to be present where your customers are.  The benefit of social commerce is that it is way more dynamic than other channels. It allows brands to be innovative such as with shoppable videos, using rich media ads, involving influencers, and more.

Augmented Reality (AR) Applications Aiding Online Sales

While AR was used by some noticeable online brands before the pandemic; it was mainly a delighting feature in one’s shopping experience. However, due to the pandemic-led restrictions, AR has become a necessity; in categories that require in-store experience. For example, in the brief period that Lenskart stores were shut; usage of their AR-based online glasses trial played an important substitute role. Similarly, virtual try-on of clothes and buying furniture by virtually placing them in one’s house is picking up.  Hence augmented reality is one of the omnichannel trends in 2021 that you need to look at capitalising on. 

In the era of eCommerce, the reason why consumers still opt for in-store shopping is that they can see how the product will look before they buy it. Augmented reality (AR) applications give online shoppers a feel of how the products will fit into their lives or space. Augmented reality is helping large brands give their consumers a partial ‘in-store experience and is going to become an important element of the omnichannel piece.

Growth in Adoption of Digital Payment Apps

contactless digital payment is the backbone of omnichannel trends in 2021

While they may not feel like a direct omnichannel trend; it has formed the foundation on which seamless omnichannel supply chains are being built. Owing to the exponential growth in the need for contactless payment during the pandemic; digital payment systems such as wallets and UPIs have become the supporting beams of omnichannel. 

Thus in the payment options that one provides its customers, it is important not only to include debit and credit cards but as many wallets/UPI options as you can. Wallets are far more convenient and linked to the user’s phones. Pandemic era online shopping adopters from especially Tier II and III might mainly be shopping via mobile.  Wallets might seem to them as a safer payment option compared to entering their internet banking or debit card. 

Endless Aisle

Endless aisle is a concept that allows shoppers at your physical store to browse through a virtual inventory of your products. This essentially converts the aisle at your store into an endless aisle. If a product is not available at the store at a particular time, then the customer can browse through your online catalog using a tablet within your store. After selection and payment; the same product can be delivered or be collected from the store in a day or two. Endless aisles can be executed in two forms:

  1. Order Fulfillment as a Dropship: Here the in-store employees enable customers to order through a virtual catalog which is fulfilled by the parent company. It is almost akin to dropship where the store does not need to hold any inventory. Instead, the product is delivered as per the order.
  2. Interactive Kiosks: This scenario is perfect for situations where hiring employees is tough or you want to cut down additional human resource costs altogether. Here, customers can help themselves to the stationed touch screens, browse products and place an order. Only a POS billing terminal is present where the stationed employee handles cash if required and also manages the day-to-day of the store. The products are either picked up by customers or delivered to them in a few days.

We hope the above gave you a gist of the omnichannel trends of 2021. There is more to omnichannel than what can be covered in one article, so stay tuned for our future videos, articles, and infographics. Until then, jot down ideas on how you can steer your business towards a truly omnichannel route. And if you are an e-commerce seller or a brand wanting to expand their online presence or be truly omnichannel, explore Browntape.


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