The Buzz Around Omnichannel

Industry Insight

It’s safe to assume that today’s consumer has never heard the term ‘omnichannel’, and if they have, they probably don’t care what it means. What they do care about is having access to what retailers refer to as omnichannel services – a seamless shopping experience between multiple channels, next-day shipping, in-store pickup options, convenient returns, etc.

However, to experts in the retail industry, omnichannel is a controversial buzzword. Many retailers and experts believe that going omnichannel is the only way to keep up with customer expectations. Others say that offering omnichannel services is a financial burden, causing many businesses to go bankrupt, because omnichannel is a myth. Both sides agree, however, that without having the right technology is place, retailers pursuing omnichannel will fail.

To succeed, retailers need to go beyond understanding the “buzz” around omnichannel. They need to have a clear understanding on where an omnichannel strategy starts, why retailers fail omnichannel implementation, and what technology is needed to support their omnichannel efforts.

Omnichannel is not a myth. Retail chains must have a fully developed omnichannel strategy to remain successful. Competition is intense, profits are declining, and customers are getting pickier and more fickle.

Omnichannel is as much a mindset as a toolset. A company can achieve dramatic, companywide success with omnichannel retail. However, a successful omnichannel strategy starts with an innovative culture – one that focuses on how customers shop today, how they buy, and then makes that entire commerce experience seamless for them across all channels.

Our client, Zumiez, is a great example of a forward-thinking, customer-first retailer who chose not to be trapped by their legacy systems that could not flexibly scale. Zumiez invested in a Distributed Order Management system and an In-Store Fulfillment application to pull off a successful omnichannel initiative.

Moving your business to an omnichannel model requires a relentless focus on the customer’s experience. This means providing a single view of product, real-time inventory visibility across all channels, personalized engagement, and seamless checkout/shipping capabilities.

There are two big reasons for omnichannel failures. First, the retailer thinks in terms of silos. This means the retailer thinks ‘omnichannel’ but still treats online as one ‘bucket’ and the stores as another ‘bucket’. For successful omnichannel execution, the mindset needs to change so that each ‘silo’ is truly integrated with the other and supports the customer wherever they shop. Second, initiatives often overlook all the legacy systems that need to be included in the design of an omnichannel strategy. Or worse yet, retailers use an inadequate “all-in-one” software solution claiming to be omnichannel. The best implementations combine the assets in which the retailer has already invested with the right Distributed Order Management system.

A revenue-boosting omnichannel solution must consist of a Distributed Order Management system, real-time inventory management, advanced workflow management, and integrated customer service at its core. It must also provide easy-to-use store applications, including pick-up in store, ship-from store, and customer loyalty. This can be done while leveraging many existing systems already in place; thus, helping retailers get to market faster, grow profits, and impress customers.