All Things to All People: Doing Omnichannel Right

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Expectations are the driving force behind both brick-and-mortar retail and eCommerce today. Customer preferences are evolving, demanding that these two types of sales not just grow on their own, but actively intertwine. Organizations that reach customers both in person and online need to ensure that their efforts form one cohesive whole instead of fractured parts. Omnichannel has become the new norm – and companies are being judged on their ability to keep up.

The main way to determine whether your omnichannel experience goes far enough is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If you were a shopper, would you notice a disconnect between the online and offline services with your company’s name on them? If so, it’s time to determine where the connections between your channels are failing.

The Right Reasons

When thinking about making omnichannel work for you, it’s important to get off to a good start. Some companies harm their chances right out of the gate. Organizations that feel forced into omnichannel operations, using the new style of retail as a way to defend their current levels of revenue and profits, tend to go in unprepared and lacking in vision. They may succeed in the end, but they aren’t well positioned to get the best omnichannel experience.

Organizations that take this sort of tentative approach to omnichannel may end up with low levels of preparation. This isn’t just an operational risk: Businesses that don’t plan their omnichannel future adequately may end up making inaccurate promises about the future. Failing to deliver on goals the company itself has laid out can compromise an organization’s reputation at a moment when it is reinventing itself.

So, what does the opposite kind of transformation look like? When leaders see omnichannel as an opportunity, a way to enhance their offerings, they tend to fare better. Committing to being a great, modern business instead of grudgingly converting means setting out clear plans regarding what can be enhanced and improved. Picking the right eCommerce platform is another essential step. Sometimes, legacy tech simply can’t bring together the different parts of your company seamlessly. In those cases, it’s time to change.

Dodging the Difficulties

Real-world examples can help you on your path to omnichannel excellence. Diginomica’s Stuart Lauchlan recently spotlighted the case of Gap, which has set itself an ambitious omnichannel set of goals, but is falling short on one side of the equation. Lauchlan specified that Gap is putting in what its CEO calls “foundational work” on its digital experience. For a major retail brand, one that hopes to not just survive but thrive, that is a worrying level of imbalance with its mature brick-and-mortar business.

The takeaway from this awkward transitional phase, in Lauchlan’s opinion, is that being truly omnichannel is easily said but hard to accomplish. The brand is promoting fundamental strength in inventory management and the integration of digital features into brick-and-mortar retail stores. How close these features are to deployment is the real question, and it may determine the difference between success and failure for Gap.

Learning that omnichannel success is neither automatic nor particularly easy is an important reality check on your journey to this new model. Once you’ve formed a realistic picture of your present and future capabilities – and put in the effort to bring your organization up to speed with present market expectations – you’re on the road to success. Imbalance and disconnection, with one part of your infrastructure much stronger than the other, don’t make for a mature retail environment.

Get a Good Overview

If you’re looking for an overview of the omnichannel world – what to expect, which steps to take and how technology can help you – check out our infographic. When you have knowledge about every step of the omnichannel process from the reasons for its popularity to the pitfalls to avoid, you’ll be ready to embark on this journey.

As more of your competitors commit to omnichannel models, whether they’re moving from online to brick-and-mortar, going in the opposite direction or fusing two existing lines of business, the pressure to follow suit will naturally increase. It’s best to consider your strategy as soon as possible so you’re not scrambling later.

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