Omnichannel - More than just a buzz word

19 February 2013 -

Richard Goodley, CEO of Davidson Richards, addresses the position of small and medium-sized retailers as the pressure for a move to omnichannel mounts.

For the retailer, 2012 was all about multichannel and mobile. But in 2013, retailers need to think less about multichannel and more on the concept of omnichannel, incorporating bricks and mortar, online, call centres, mobile, social media, tablets and even, in some cases, interactive TV.
 
It's no longer just about mobile shopping or visiting a store. Consumers are now using smartphones to look for deals en route to the store, while they're in them and are sharing information on social networks whilst they're at it.
 
Consumers are driving the retail agenda towards omnichannel with unwavering momentum. Accountants Deloitte predict the number of active phones with a touch screen or alphabet keyboard to reach 2 billion by the end of the year and the number of tablets in UK households are expected to nearly double from 5.87 to 10 million by August. We also know that consumers who engage across more than one channel are more loyal.
 
It's the retailers who are reacting who are thriving. Analysts are attributing Next's recent 3.9% jump in sales to the fashion and homeware retailer's strength in the internet and omnichannel arena. The facts dictate that omnichannel is the way forward and small and medium-sized retailers know that this will be critical to success in 2013. How this can be achieved on a smaller budget, however, is a matter of concern.
 
No comprise
 
Creating a second-rate omnichannel strategy will, if anything, prove detrimental to a retailer's success. It's not enough to offer the option to shop in-store, online, on a smart phone or on a tablet. Consumers don't think in channels. They want one single view of the retailer - meaning a connected approach to pricing, promotions and products - and are becoming increasingly frustrated when this is not the case.
 
For example, a consumer wants to purchase a new pair of shoes to wear later that evening. They browse on their mobile device and come across a suitable pair with a forty per cent discount. They phone the nearest store to check the correct model and size of shoe is in stock and drive to purchase them in-store. On arrival, they find the shoes do not have the same discount that was available online.
 
Frustrated, the consumer leaves to search for another pair. Whilst searching on their smartphone they tweet their disappointment and post a note on Facebook when they find that another shoe shop has them in stock. A seamlessly integrated omnichannel strategy would allow the consumer to browse on their mobile device, order on the same device but opt to collect the desired shoes in-store - the backlash would be avoided, because on arrival, the shoes would be waiting ready for payment and collection - at the same discounted price as online. The happy customer may even post a positive tweet or Facebook entry as they leave the store.
 
A way forward
 
So, smaller retailers with smaller budgets can't comprise - SMEs still need to offer the ideal omnichannel experience, where consumers can mix and match at will whichever touch points they want to use. The implications of this are that small to medium sized businesses will increasingly push into the Cloud.
 
Analysts agree that the hype surrounding the Cloud is now being exchanged for the realisation that it provides very real benefits that could not be enjoyed without it. For small and mid-sized retailers, Cloud-based retail solutions provide the only realistic option to implement seamless omnichannel strategies and manage all retail operations from anywhere, at any-time.
 
The nature of the Cloud means that all retail operational data can be collated in real-time, allowing all aspects of retail operations to be managed with precision.
 
And, a Cloud-based solution provides the SMB retailer with the ability to scale and flex the number of in-store lanes and tills they have fused into the solution depending on demand, meaning retailers save money by paying only for what they need.
 
Large scale retailers will inevitably throw budget and resources at omnichannel strategies in 2013. But the Cloud will give SMBs every opportunity to remain competitive and stay successful in their markets by supporting a fully integrated omnichannel strategy on a more restricted budget.