What is OmniChannel? Really?


So what does it mean for a retailer to be really OMNI CHANNEL. Being a consultant by profession and wired the way I am, I will take a shot at it from the following 3 dimensions and would also put across some of the do’s and don’ts.

  1. What are the common use cases ?
  2. What does it mean operationally for a retailer (We know that OmniChannel is really an operational concept driven by the customer expectations and user stories)
  3. What does it mean strategically for a retailer?

Caution
There is enough talk about what is truly OmniChannel. Here are my disclaimers
a) There are too many definitions of the term itself and I wouldn’t be surprised if you notice a different definition somewhere or this post sounds a lot like another blog/article. I guess It does not matter for now.
b) When I say “channel” I do not mean – website, mobile, app etc. I mean the sales channel. (Brick & Mortar Store Vs Online Store Vs Partner Stores Vs Micro Store Format Vs Affiliate sites etc.). We all know that we are dealing with ever evolving systems interaction points.

======================COMMON USE CASES========================

Buy From Any Store – For Online Order
Check availability at SKU level.
All Variants available at all channels.
Find any store for ‘buy from any store’ or select regular (or any DC) for fulfilment.

Pick Up from Any Store for Online Order
Check availability at SKU level.
All variants available at all channels.
Find any store for store pickup.
Reviews about the stores itself – for online order.

Build a Single view of the following Online Only Features
Gift Registries – where customer was a buyer as well as recipient.
Customer Wish lists
Customer Likes and Social Media Conversations
Customer’s Ratings and Reviews
Customer’s Order History including Returns and Refunds
Personalisation to build loyalty.
Product Recommendations should learn from all the channels. Does not matter whether a customer bought this product online or in the stores. If it is a favorite pair of your customer. It is a favourite pair. Period.

Returns Processing
Initiate return in store (any nearby store).
Initiate return through return shipping label (easy self service-automation a must).
Initiate refunds from stores for items bought online. (i.e store walk-ins).
Initiate refunds online for items bought in store.
View my returns (per SKU) online.
View my refunds and amounts (prorated/actual per SKU) online.
Self help modules for customers which brings customers back.

Service Capabilities
Register a product online. Allow him to do what he/she might have done at the store.
Offer some self help tutorials and guides which are engaging for the customer
Offer a host of value added services. Encouraging enough to be bought.

==================OPERATIONALLY – WHAT IS IT?====================

Cost Effective:
Ship from anywhere nearby but, be cost effective – customer does not care where the item came from – if it reaches fine and on time. Needless to say this but remember a bad customer service is also when you charge a lot for shipping.

One View Everywhere
Store systems should be capable to manage online profiles.
Better still store systems & online profiles are the same as CRM profile of your customer. Ditto for warehouse systems, DCs and also fulfillment partners.

Customer Life-cycle
Marketing has a view of the life-cycle of the customer. Not just curates content, media and engages customers.Marketing rewards loyal customers based on the same CRM profile. It does not matter where the customer was acquired. Channel does not matter. Perhaps this could help justify the marketing dollars spent.

Although the deals and the offers customers use are from the same bundle of offerings. Personalisation strategy should be designed to provide – channel relevant offers/deals/incentives (e.g. do not ever offer Buy X Get Y on discount if the Y is not available in that store OR offer a free discount for every 5 recommendations)

Cross Train
Also consider this – store staff should be trained for – cross channel sales, product know-how and competitive price matching.

=================STRATEGICALLY – WHAT IS IT?======================

Single View
To have a sustainable approach to building and maintaining single view of the customer and consistent end user experience. Have a continuous review around that approach.

Strive to Have It All
Aim to fulfill all the use cases from the end customer (who shops around various channels) (eventually – oh yes there will be more use cases!).

Channel Agnostic Approach
Ensure
 everything is channel agnostic yet meaningful and relevant to the customer and it evolves along with these ever changing use cases.

Supply Chain Efficiency is a Must.
Agreed it is not an easy rejig. Must rely on the experts. Higher transparency across suppliers is one of the essential pointers to achieve that. Checkout http://www.GTNEXUS.com

Cater to Social Shoppers
OmniChannel should support the use cases of a social shopper. E.g. I liked a product online on Facebook and your store rep says – do you want to buy that today – you liked it yesterday? Are you still thinking?). This is a fundamental shift and it pushes businesses to rethink traditional strategies of selling.

OmniChannel as a concept should cater to odd customer requests and have an easy mechanism of managing it through a minimum cost (take this for an example: My sister bought this for me from your SF store but I live in newyork and i need to change the color at NY store. I can’t send it back to SF coz i have to fly to London tomorrow for the wedding. This is a wedding dress.). Keeping such customers in mind is at the crux of redesigning your supply chain and build a strategy to continuously improve that.

There is more….what do you think? Do leave your comments and opinions.

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