Shedding some light on omnichannel retail
Like any other industry, the world of retail is full of confusing buzzwords. One of the most common ones within the past year is omni-channel, a concept that is particularly important to us. But what does it mean, and how can retailers use it to their advantage?
It’s best to start by understanding multi-channel retail, which is when companies sell their merchandise via multiple channels, including brick-and-mortar, online, mobile, catalogue, television, and others. Omni-channel – literally meaning all channels – can be understood as the seamless integration of those multiple channels, rather than each being independently siloed. Back-end operations and customer-facing services are streamlined and synced with one another.
There are many advantages, some of the most prominent being:
- Corporate communications can become consistent across channels, blurring the lines between one and another. For example, customer facing messaging like item selection and promotions must be the same whether a consumer is looking at your store on an iPad, desktop, or in-store.
- When it comes to buying and returning, omni-channel retail allows customers to buy online and return in-store, or vice versa.
- Omni-channel setups allow retailers to manage all of their retail channels through one inventory system, bringing more efficiency to the supply chain that must cater to consumer demands at every touch point.
Ultimately, omni-channel means better accessibility and customer service, and it can seriously pay off. Athletic shoe company Finish Line saw their stock price increase by 70% because of their dedication to omni-channel retailing. Fortunately, the same omni-channel capabilities that larger retailers are investing heavily in can be attained by making smart choices about the technology in your store. Jeremy Argyle, a popular menswear store in SoHo, NYC, uses LightSpeed to help integrate his eCommerce and brick-and-mortar business. Owner Brian Guttman is committed to constantly upgrading technology so that his store is accessible to everyone, from everywhere:
We could have the best product in the world, but if people don’t see it, and they don’t see it in ways they’re used to seeing it, we’re going to be thought of as VHS dinosaurs.
Every store can have a unique technology mix that works best for them, but observing crowds of consumers with their heads bent over their iPhones has pushed many successful merchants towards the omni-channel approach.