Across the globe, retailers have picked up on the omnichannel trend and try to give the customers what they want: the same level of service across all sales channels.
Some are doing better than others but everyone’s trying. Especially for multi-channel retailers, the switch is essential in keeping up with an increasing competition from online pure-plays.
The switch is not easy and certain bottlenecks stand out:
1. Multichannel commerce (ecommerce + in-store) is sometimes treated as a marketing or tech buzzword. Hint: it’s not
When you say omnichannel you say “all channels”. When you say multi-channel – pretty much the same thing as most channels are in-store or ecommerce. You have to think of all the sales and distribution channels you manage. Hence the “omni”. That certainly looks like a marketing area and to a certain degree, it is.
But to make omnichannel a reality instead of long consultative talks, you have to go beyond marketing and into the dark woods of technology systems and process management. That’s the hard part. The change comes when companies and especially executives leave aside their differences and interact to connect cross-department processes.
Yes, omnichannel is marketing driven but it needs inventory transparency, it needs technology investment and updating and it needs a change in internal processes and culture.
Yes, culture because…
2. There’s a lot of sales cannibalization between channels
Mid to large retailers that switched from brick and mortar to multi-channel did this by adding silo-ed sales structures one after another. First came the brick and mortar operation, then came the online store, the call-center, the mobile sales and so on.
Each of these channels eventually developed into a full-fledged sub-organization. It is not uncommon to see, for example, ecommerce departments with full operational structures from purchasing, warehouse management, picking and packing, sales, marketing and others.
When such structures emerge, a certain type of independence emerges also and this can lead to channel cannibalisation. Simply put it’s one channel stealing sales from another, instead of working together for the customer and the common (company) good.
That’s why a change in culture is much needed when striving to implement omnichannel retail policies. Any customer should be encouraged to buy from any channel, as long as it stays within the retailer’s domain.
3. BAGA is a lot more complicated than it seems
BAGA stands for “Buy Anywhere, Get Anywhere“. Buy online, pick up in store. Or at home. Buy in the physical store and receive at home. Place an order on the phone and pick up in store.
It’s complicated just working with two or three of these scenarios. When you add general inventory transparency, cross-store orders and supplier availability it gets a lot more complicated.
That’s why a BAGA policy should be built after implementing:
- inventory transparency policy and technology. This should spread across the full inventory spectrum including warehouses, stores, in-movement goods and suppliers.
- customer master-data management. The customer is the same across all channels and should be recognized and its treatment personalized on demand. Think of this area as a CRM on steroids that spreads across all channels.
- product master-data management. Product information should be available on all channels, when needed and in the right format.
- cross-channel marketing policies. Think marketing independent of channel and at the same time available on all.
These are just three of the most important factors that slow down omnichannel adoption. The fourth is probably the fact that some companies are just so tired of working their way through ecommerce adoption that they are unwilling to move forward.
It takes willingness to discover the benefits and what omnichannel is. For many, the switch is rather simple in terms of technology. It does bare costs in willingness to learn new concepts and implement these concepts within the company.
4. Coronavirus made all stores go warp-speed on multichannel adoption
In 2020 all businesses had to go all digital and all channels, in order to survive. Most affected were the brick and mortar chains, with 15000 stores closed and roughly 2 million employees laid off.
As the economy shows signs of rebounding, even in the midst of the pandemic, most of the re-growth has been based on the response companies have had into improving their experiences across channels.