Omni-Channel Commerce: The Surrender of Legacy Retail to the Everywhere Consumer

Omni channel commerceWith consumers continuously shifting from one mode of shopping to the other, retailers are trying out different ways to stay ahead in the competition by offering incentives to their walk-in and online customers. The omni-channel commerce is one such strategy.

It can be broadly defined as an integrated shopping experience for the connected customer who uses traditional and digital shopping channels. Omni-channel retailing offers consumers the flexibility to shop seamlessly across channels-which could be a brick and mortar store, a digital mobile or web platform or even tele-shopping. That is, a user chooses a product online, goes to the offline store to get the touch and feel of that particular product and uses his/her mobile to complete the checkout process-a seamless experience.

Seamless shopping experience-the way to go for future commerce

Multi device ownership and permeative connectivity mean customers now have, use, and expect multiple ways to interact and perhaps shop from today’s retailing companies. Today’s consumer use simultaneous engagement mediums-the most common of which is watching TV while using an Internet-connected device. Now if you look at it from the eyes of a retailer-these collaborative interactions that integrate multiple touchpoints complement a retail business-but only if the experience is seamless.

A report from Forrester revealed that while shopping, 75% of the time customers will move to another communication channel if they are unsatisfied with an earlier contact method. “Omni-channel has a number of benefits to retailers and shoppers.  For the latter, it’s convenient and often efficient.  For retailers, there are theoretically lots of cost savings and the ability to leverage the store footprint more effectively than investing in separate web distribution facilities,” believes Sucharita, VP, Forrester Research.

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Moreover, today’s customers don’t only want to be able to switch channels, they want to be able to switch channels and continue the same conversation with the brand-and that’s where omni channel retailing comes into play. But for omni-channel retailers, it’s very important to understand shoppers and enable them to effortlessly move across touch-points even for a single purchase and have a consistent experience.

Are you omni-channel or multichannel ?

Before moving ahead, it’s important to understand the difference between omni-channel and multi channel retailing. The older term–multichannel–refers to an approach where a retailer tries to reach its customers via different channels, most convenient to the customer, while keeping all the channels independent of each other. It could be a retail store, website, print catalog, direct mail, email or text message-all independently working. Whereas, in omni channel the user experience and user interface remain the same.

Looking at the current market trends, it would not be wrong to say that the businesses that know how to create an omni-channel customer experience will be the winners of tomorrow. Businesses that continue to believe in a single channel approach will start to struggle to keep the attention of the customer. Moreover, keeping the benefits of the multichannel approach in mind, we believe that a real omni-channel customer experience strategy will generate and create more benefits for the brand and the consumer in the long run.

To contact the author, email at devesh@iamwire.com. Discover more on latest trends in eCommerce at the upcoming #IRE2014.

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