Strategies for Adopting Omni-channel Retailing

According to a survey conducted by A.T. Kearney, 55% of shoppers said they engage via both online and physical touch points throughout their shopping life cycle. Brands must understand the customer engagement across all touch points and focus on the broader benefits of an omni-Channel strategy to optimize consumer experience. To adopt omni-channel strategy, retailers need to align their business with customers by leveraging IT systems, optimizing business operations, and creating agile work culture in a way that the division between online and in-store disappears.

Here are the three must-have strategies to help you adopt omni-channel retailing:

  1. Customer-centric Approach

Building a sustainable relationship with customers is key to achieving omni-channel success. Retailers need to provide seamless access across web, mobile, and store channels for customers and convert these into richer engagement. To achieve this, retailers need to implement:

Personalized campaigns and promotions: Mere personalization is not a good-to-have strategy anymore; Relevance is the key to winning customer loyalty. To design and run personalized and relevant campaigns, retailers need to integrate structured and unstructured data, use advanced analytics to identify shopping preferences and buying behaviour. The predictive analytical capabilities enable retailers to launch personalized campaigns and promotions, resulting in improved loyalties.

Location-based customer engagement: New technologies such as NFC and iBeacon enable retailers to personalize customer engagement based on proximity. It allows advertisers to embed customer preferences and information with real-time context and send relevant notifications. Thus, location-based marketing connects the digital and physical marketing channels, and helps in deeply engaging mobile shoppers.

Social engagement: According to Hubspot, 71% consumers are likely to make a purchase decision based on social media referrals and as per SproutSocial 74% shoppers rely on social media networks to make purchase decisions. Social media marketing should be an integral part of retailers’ marketing strategy today. It provides an extensive platform to expand reach, connect with target audiences, and explore exponential growth. In addition to this, engaging with customers through social media channels not only provides an opportunity for social commerce, but also helps gain customer insights, by integrating customers’ social interactions.

Care everywhere: Retailers must care for customers across their journey – before shopping, during shopping, and post shopping through modern ways such as shopping assistance, one-touch support, recommendations, post-sales service, 24/7 helpdesk, and call centre support.

It is critical for retailers to stand out in the cluttered marketplace by effectively reaching out and engaging with their target audiences, while optimizing returns.

  1. Unified Commerce Platforms

A survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, Ecommerce Europe and Ecommerce Foundation, in partnership with Demandware early this year, indicates that a high percentage of respondents are in favour of a unified commerce platform. Out of approximately 300 U.S., Australian, and European retail business executives, 53% of respondents said that they were going to deploy a unified commerce platform, an increase of 50% from last year. Adopting the right technology platforms can help transform the business model, and establish a centralized system that enables consistent service delivery across channels. Leading unified commerce platforms offer highly scalable and integrated IT solutions from engagement to fulfilment. The flexible architecture of these platforms supports the integration of multiple data sources and augments surrounding technologies such as e-Commerce, mobility, and analytics. The major advantages of adopting unified commerce platforms are:

Single view of customers across channels: Provides 360 degree view of customers regardless of the channels that helps enhance analytical capabilities, augment actionable insights, and offer personalized experience.

Inventory visibility across channels: Provides real-time and holistic view of inventory, optimizing operations, and reducing out-of-stock scenarios.

Optimized cross-channel order management: The integrated order management system enables seamless order flow across channels.

Enhanced order fulfilment capabilities: These platforms can be easily extended to fulfil orders through multiple ways, like home deliveries, click and collect, and temporary pickup locations.

Integrations with social media and online marketplaces: These platforms are flexible to integrate with social media and online marketplaces, providing complete visibility into order and inventory data.

Scalability: The unified commerce platforms are highly scalable in nature and supports business growth seamlessly.

  1. Agile Work Environment

It is not enough to unify systems and build comprehensive consumer database spanning web, mobile, and store. To maximize potential, retailers need to eliminate the distinction between business units and reorganize team structures. For example, target and incentives should be re-designed to account for overall sales, than just measuring channel-specific performance. Agile work environment is about bringing people and processes in sync with technology to find the most appropriate and effective way of working collaboratively. To realize omni-channel imperative, businesses need to eliminate siloed work culture amongst channel-specific teams by creating cross-functional teams based on shared company goals.

Preparing for the Future of Retail

Achieving omni-channel excellence requires defining clear objectives and extensive executional, tactical, and strategic capabilities. Retailers who move away from siloed and legacy systems to modern unified solutions, offering highly-scalable unified platforms, have great potential to successfully adopt omni-channel strategies. Such platforms ensure successful integration of various touch points and offer great potential to retailers to gain competitive advantage.

Having said that, collaborating with strategic implementation partners with relevant industry-domain knowledge and experience will allow leveraging the partner’s expertise in implementing best-fit solutions and providing omni-channel retail services.


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Omprakash Subbarao
Omprakash Subbarao is Senior Vice President – Strategy & Digital at Sonata Software. He holds an M Tech degree from IISc and an MBA from IIM Bangalore and has over 25 years’ experience in the industry managing multiple responsibilities. Prior to joining Sonata, he has held leadership positions in organisations like Yahoo, KPMG and Accenture. He has worked in key international markets such as USA, Europe, Japan, China and Australia. He is often invited to speak at national and international seminars.