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Omni-Channel Retailing is the evolution of multi-channel retailing, but is concentrated more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, brick-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail, catalog and so on. Retailers are meeting the new customer demands by deploying specialized supply chain strategy software. To use all channels simultaneously, retailers using an omni-channel approach will track customers across all channels, not just one or two. In the brick-and-mortar channel, digitally-savvy consumers are entering stores already well-informed about a product’s features and prices and expect store employees to know more than they do. Using omni-channel retailing while working with the "Connected Consumer", all shopping channels work from the same database of products, prices, promotions, etc. Instead of perceiving a variety of touch-points as part of the same brand, omni-channel retailers let consumers experience the brand, not a channel within a brand. Merchandise and promotions are not channel specific, but rather consistent across all retail channels. The brick-and-mortar stores become an extension of the supply chain in which purchases may be made in the store, but are researched through other "channels" of communication. With omni-channel retailing, marketing is made more efficient with offers that are relative to a specific consumer determined by purchase patterns, social network affinities, website visits, loyalty programs, and other data mining techniques.
In Harvard Business Review there are several articles on the omnichannel concept. The first article in Harvard Business Review on the subject is written by D. Rigby (2011). However, the author does not make a contribution by looking at what the differences are between the "omnichannel" and "multichannel" concepts. These concepts are very similar and at the moment the difference needs to be clarified. One thing that can be pointed out is that “multi” means “many”, and “omni” means “all”. Some practitioners therefore argue that the omnichannel concept refers to the application of the same business strategy for all channels, while a multichannel concept refers to the application of different strategies for many different channels.
A move to omni-channel retailing can create a more knowledgeable consumer, so store employees need to be more knowledgeable about merchandise carried and production processes. There’s a lot of talk today about omni-channel, but a series of underlying factors are driving this experiential change for consumers. As a result, retailers and brands have to reformulate their supply chain strategies to match this paradigm shift in consumer demand. According to IDC Retail Insights, omni-channel shopping “requires providing an immersive and superior customer experience regardless of channel”. Omni-channel retailers carry merchandise that is customer-centric and is not specific to any channel(s). Supply chain visibility is necessary to enable omni-channel sales.
Real-time data may be necessary when moving towards an omni-channel approach, as socially connected consumers move from one channel to another, expecting their stopping point to be "bookmarked", then allowing them to return through a different retail channel to finish the browsing or purchase process where they had originally left off. A consistent and convenient brand exposure from an omni-channel retailer will create better top of mind awareness from consumers.
Preparing for an omni-channel presence will require a heavy investment of both time, and money. Communications between the IT department, marketing department, and sales staff will need to be as smooth as possible with little confusion about goals and strategies. A clear and thorough understanding of the customer, or target market, is required to be able to make appropriate decisions about channel integration and usability. Because brick-and-mortar sales influenced by online search are four times higher than total e-commerce sales, omni-channel retailers need to be informative, personable, always connected and allow channel transparency.
- Multimedia Plus Research. "How To Improve The Customer Experience With App-Based, On-Floor Associate Training"
- Little, Margaret. "Terry Lundgren’s take on “omnichannel” retail",(this link is broken) Shop.org, 18 November 2010. Retrieved on 2010-3-2.
- Kilcourse, Brian. Retail Systems Research "Gaming Google: The Growing Importance of Omni-channel", Retail Systems Research, 1 March 2011. Retrieved on 15 November 2012.
- Rigby, D. "The Future of Shopping" hbr.org, December 2011
- TradeCard Founder Kurt Cavano to Focus on Omni-Channel Retail and its Impact on the Supply Chain at SRI Lanka Design Festival
- Carsten, Thoma. "The Omnichannel Shopper: Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere", Retail Online Integration, 23 December 2010. Retrieved on 2010-03-2.
- IDC Retail's Guide to Enabling Immersive Shopping Experiences (2009)