Are you tired of hearing the word omnichannel yet? It’s become so widely used that many media publications are looking for alternative terms to use – omnicommerce or connected retail, for example.

However, for all the discussion surrounding omnichannel, the truth is that few retailers can currently deliver a clean and consistent experience across all their platforms. The store in particular feels like it is disconnected from the digital world, even though smartphones are widely used by consumers within the bricks-and-mortar journey (as I discussed in my previous blog post).

Part of the problem is where focus has been placed up until now. Many retailers have been looking at how to impress shoppers using the latest technology, when, in fact, building an omnichannel experience begins behind the scenes.

iVend recently led a webinar with the British Retail Consortium on driving store performance, and our comments really resonated with the audience. To the consumer, omnichannel doesn’t necessarily mean interacting in new, digitized ways; it means delivering on the promise the retailer has made to them, no matter how complex the logistics. They want what they want, when and where they want it.

Of course, saying this is easy – achieving it means overcoming a huge number of challenges. That’s why true omnichannel commerce must start with two major infrastructural milestones:

  • A single view of the customer
  • A single view of stock

On the whole, retailers are on the way to achieving the single customer view, by integrating operational systems such as loyalty and CRM to gain a fuller picture of how their shoppers are behaving. However, not all retail organizations are as advanced on their journey towards a single view of stock.

The ongoing growth in trading touchpoints has led to an increase in the volume of safety stock held by businesses; if each channel is managed in a siloed manner, then it requires its own contingency plan. This creates a larger volume of inventory to content with potentially with separate replenishment models for each channel.

Not only that, but a siloed approach to stock management makes satisfying customer expectations that much harder. Demand for an item is never going to be perfectly balanced across all channels and locations, so it’s not uncommon to end up in situations where a customer is being told a product is unavailable in one place, but there’s excess product sitting in another part of the business.

This situation is not just costing retailers sales; it’s damaging customer relationships.

To move as flexibly between channels as the customer, retailers need to be able to see inventory in all locations, manage it in a real-time manner, and allocate stock according to where demand lies.

By doing this, businesses will find that they are able to not just ‘talk the talk’ when it comes to omnichannel – they are able to deliver on the customer’s concept of wanting what they want, when and where they want it.

In an environment where a large proportion of retailers cannot offer true omnichannel fulfilment, those that can will quite clearly stand out from the competition. They will be able meet customer expectations; sell more stock at full price; and reduce the volume of safety stock required. It’s a ‘win-win’ situation.

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