And again, a bit more about Omnichannel…
“Omnis” is Latin for “every/all” and is considered the integration of all physical channels (offline) and digital channels (online) to offer a seamless and unified customer experience. According to Frost & Sullivan, omnichannel is defined as “seamless and effortless, high-quality customer experiences that occur within and between contact channels”.
Until the early 1990s, retail was either a physical brick and mortar store or catalog sales where an order was placed by mail or via telephone. Sale by mail order dates back to when British entrepreneur Pryce Pryce-Jones set up the first modern mail order in 1861, selling Welsh flannel. Catalog sales for an assortment of general goods started in the late 1800s when Sears & Roebuck issued its first catalog in 1896. In the early 1900s, L.L. Bean started its catalog business in United States.
AOL, CompuServe and Prodigy experimented with selling through their proprietary online services in the early 1990s. These companies started sales channel expansion, while general merchants had evolved to department stores and Big-box store electronic ordering. In August 1994, NetMarket processed the first Internet sale where the credit card was encrypted. Shortly thereafter, Amazon.com was founded and the eCommerce sales channel was established. Mobile commerce arrived in 1997, and multichannel retailing really took off.
Omnichannel’s origins date back to Best Buy’s use of customer centricity to compete with Walmart’s electronic department in 2003. The company created an approach that centered around the customer both in-store and online, while providing post-sales support. Omnichannel was coined as a form of “assembled commerce” and spread into the healthcare and financial services industries.
Omnichannel retailing uses a variety of channels in a customer’s shopping experience including research before a purchase. Such channels include retail stores, online stores, mobile stores, mobile app stores, telephone sales and any other method of transacting with a customer. Transacting includes browsing, buying, returning as well as pre-sale and after-sale service. Extending across channels and devices, shoppers can visit stores, how and when they want.
Although omnichannel is said to be dictated by systems and processes, it is the customer who dictates how a transaction occurs. Systems and processes facilitate the customer journey to transact and be served. Omnichannel is moving toward increased personalization based on analytics to make the customer experience more seamless. According to an MIT report, omnichannel “is the central force shaping the future of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores alike.”
An omnichannel supply chain uses a central stock pool to control a number of factors such as:
- stock management and
These orders are fulfilled from numerous retail channels such as:
- concessions (is a grant of rights, land or property by a government, local authority, corporation, individual or other legal entity),
- catalogue (mail order),
- stores and
- mobile apps.
The central stock pool is the heart of all these operations. The supply chain is now on the front line thanks to omnichannel. Consumers are increasingly demanding in this day and age, expecting to be able to browse, buy and return goods through various channels and not just the traditional in-store way. This requires real-time, channel-agnostic visibility of inventory across the supply chain and a single view of the consumer as they hop from one channel to another.
Similar to multichannel retailing, whether the channel is the web, the store, or on mobile, the supply chain is the key to delivering a customer experience. With an omnichannel supply chain, it means the product or service can be ensured in the right place, at the right time. The supply chain has now grown as a platform for many methods of omnichannel retailing. Omnichannel shopping/retailing is not just one method, but multiple channels including the web, store, catalogue etc.
Successful omnichannel retailing is giving the customer a choice as to how they shop, when they shop and where they shop. Omnichannel retailing provides a seamless experience to the customer. But as this is no longer a linear process, retailers need to organize their supply chains to manage multiple channels and a complicated path to purchase. The central stock pool is there to fulfil orders from all retail channels.
Omnichannel Supply Chain Solutions
Many retailers require a third party supplier to provide omnichannel supply chain solutions to fulfill the seamless coming together of shopping channels with one single view of stock. Retailers can then ensure their customers are shopping the full brand and not just one single channel (eg: website). Karen Millen for example uses the omnichannel supply chain solution Merret.
The omnichannel retailing principles are also applied to external and internal organizational communication due the similarities in their nature. Similar to omnichannel retailing, consumers and employees do not want to be constrained to a single communication channel. They want to switch seamlessly between different communication channels, without restarting the conversation.