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Rupal Bhandari Author's Perspective
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3 Minute read

Omnichannel Commerce in 2021: Beyond Buy Online, Pickup in Store

In May 2020, Buy Online, Pickup in Store (BOPIS) sales reached 195% year-on-year growth. 60% of US retailers either already have implemented BOPIS, or plan to do so quickly. With BOPIS gaining such popularity, it’s no wonder that the idea of omnichannel commerce has become almost synonymous with BOPIS.

However, as an owner or manager at a retail business in 2021, you understand that omnichannel commerce is no longer just another way of saying you sell both online and in-store. It’s no longer just about giving the customer the option to pick up the order in store or have their store-bought order home-delivered. Today’s omnichannel commerce is about delivering a consistent brand and customer experience at each touchpoint, and it can only be done when the sales channel, marketing, operations, and fulfillment work in tandem with each other.

The Four Pillars of Omnichannel Commerce Success

The best omnichannel commerce strategies go beyond sales and marketing, and ensure consistency across operations and fulfillment. However, delivering a seamless customer experience across a digital channel and in-store is no cakewalk.

To create a winning omnichannel strategy and meet the customer expectation of a consistent shopping experience, it is important for you to understand what the four key pillars are built off and how they fit in together.

Sales channels

Online storefront, eCommerce platform, social media platform, app for mobile device, brick-and-mortar stores, chain retailer, wholesale outlet... you can choose from a near-endless list of sales channels. However, choosing the right mix of channels is critical to get reach, improve customer engagement, enhance brand recognition, and increase revenue.

Remember, every business is different, and you have to choose channels that are right for your business. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Where does my target customer spend the most time and money?
  • Which channels best serve my product category?
  • Which mobile device or ecommerce platform does my average shopper use to browse and make purchases?
  • Which multichannel mix will enable me to provide the shopper a seamless experience and enhance customer satisfaction?

The answers to some of these questions might be intuitive. For instance, knowing that a platform like Instagram is better for fashion and food businesses, while Amazon or eBay might be better for household products. The answers to other questions can be found in your current sales data and in what your competitors are doing.

Marketing

Regardless of which sales channels you choose, customers are not going to find you themselves. You have to drive traffic to your sales channels to make actual sales and revenue happen. This is where omnichannel marketing becomes relevant.

Today business have a multitude of marketing and advertising options to choose from. Following are some hot digital advertising channels for retailers:

  • Google Shopping Ads : These are ads on Google which are created with rich product information, such as product image, price, and merchant name. These improve top-of-funnel sales by reaching shoppers who are already searching for the kind of products that you are advertising.

  • Marketplace Advertising : These ads are placed on an on ecommerce platform such as Amazon and eBay, that are shown to shoppers when they look for a product similar to yours. This is gaining popularity as businesses realize the value of targeting shoppers who have already shown purchase intent.

  • Retargeting Ads : This is about targeting shoppers who already browsed or expressed interest in your site or products via other platforms such as search engines, email marketing, and social media. Retargeting ads can be critical for businesses in finding customers most likely to convert.

Operations

The more the sales channels, the more the confusion on the supply chain. However, clear visibility on inventory is critical to ensure sales on all channels run smooth, and no channel is over-promising customers products that have run out of stock. This is why it’s important for businesses in omnichannel commerce to leverage tech solutions for operations and create a connected inventory management system.

Following are some hot tech solutions for omnichannel inventory management for you to choose from:

  • Listings : This automates your ability to publish products to new sales channels, optimize product content for each channel, and unify order management across channels. This will ensure that each channel reflects the right amount of stock available.

  • IMS/OMS : Inventory Management Systems (IMS) and Order Management Systems (OMS) help with order routing, inventory shipment, and purchasing workflows.

  • ERP : Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions combine a back-end tasks such as stock management, order routing, inventory shipment, and purchasing workflows, and enable you to stay on top of your stock across channels and storage locations.

Fulfillment

This is the most difficult part of omnichannel commerce — delivering customers a consistent brand experience across locations, shipment timelines, and product types. While fulfillment can give you a competitive advantage, especially if if enable convenience for customers, getting it wrong can also turn the customer experience sour very quickly. No wonder 84% of customers say that delivery experience stands out the most to them.

Depending on the kind of product you’re selling and the locations you’re shopping you, you’ll have multiple fulfillment options to choose from. Fulfillment by Amazon, FedEx fulfillment, other third-party fulfillment providers, as well as various shipping software solutions are only some of the many options available to businesses.

Post COVID Omnichannel Commerce: What’s Next?

2020 saw a double-digit growth in digital commerce. COVID resulted in stay-at-home orders in countries around the world, encouraging customers to shop online. Gartner found that nearly half of consumers increased their frequency of online shopping in 2020.

However, as new sales and marketing channels evolve, omnichannel commerce is not just going to be about shoppers who want to buy online. Its also going to be about shoppers who want to purchase in-store and across a multitude of other locations, and retail businesses need to be ready for that.

Currently, only 32% of retailers combine a best-in-class site experience with adequate marketing efforts to be an industry leader. Only 22% of omnichannel-related emails sent by businesses mention stores. Only 35% of retailers enable shoppers to switch between delivery and pickup at checkout, and only 22% allow for same-day pickup at checkout.

What these numbers essentially mean is that any retail business today needs a robust omnichannel commerce strategy to sustain. And this can only be built on the back of the four pillar of omnichannel commerce, that help you reach the right audience while also creating smoother back-end processes for you and your team.

Rupal Bhandari


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