Omnichannel is a subject we’ve been talking about for a long time in retail now, but how well are we as an industry converting these thoughts and strategies into real change?

If we look at the challenges the majority of retail organizations were facing surrounding omnichannel 12 months ago, and compare them to today’s major priorities, we can see subtle – but not significant – change.

For example, rewind the clock to this time last year, and many retailers were focused on merging their channels into one, to establish a single view of the customer. This level of transparency is gradually increasing (although some companies are still yet to establish a holistic customer view), but that does not mean those businesses that have achieved it are operating in a truly omnichannel manner.

The biggest challenge today is taking all the data that retailers are now able to collect through a single customer view, and interpreting it into actionable insight. Being omnichannel doesn’t mean being the same everywhere; it means being consistently relevant to each shopper’s needs at a precise moment in time.

Therefore, retailers need to be using their data analytics more effectively to tailor relevant information and offers, so that they can be shared with customers across all retail channels. The utopia for consumers is a world in which their retail encounters are completely personalized and channel agnostic. This is a long way off yet, but business intelligence provides retailers with the opportunity to advance in this direction.

Nowhere is the need to increase personalization more apparent than in brick-and-mortar retail. Even though the store is still driving most profit, there is a need to impart a more consistent shopping experience, as retailers delicately balance in-store sales with ever increasing online sales. Retailers need the data insights and the technological flexibility to personalize customer encounters, however and wherever they choose to interact

One of the major challenges for retail store estates over the coming months will be how best to balance full price sales across channels, because often online shopping is associated with cheaper prices. Again, omnichannel investment will play a key role here.

By bringing in technologies like mobile Point of Sale to bricks-and-mortar interactions, retailers will be able to upskill store associates so that they can demonstrate transparency of pricing across all channels, and add value to the physical shopping experience.

Additionally, omnichannel technologies enable store staff to manage the diversifying demands of customers, as a result of their digital influences. The buy online and pick up in-store model is continually gaining traction globally. Once the customer is in the store, it is the store executive who needs to engage them to further drive sales.

Of course, the developing maturity of click-and-collect has created new logistical omnichannel challenges for retailers. Delivering on promise is an absolute priority, and that means having greater control of merchandize across channels and, more importantly, stores. While replenishment planning techniques have significantly improved in the recent times, cost of goods movement still remains an area which needs further optimization.

So in conclusion, the past 12 months has seen a definite shift towards retailers being able to understand the customer’s total activity in greater detail. The next steps are to use this single view to drive more personalized interaction, particularly in the store, and to make sure infrastructures are set-up to cope with the demands of the omnichannel shopper.

Meet me back here this time next year to see how well the industry rises to this challenge.

Download “The Omni-Illusion: why do customer connections disappear when shoppers reach the store?” Report

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