What does “Omni-channel Fulfillment” actually mean and how can I execute it?

“Omni-channel”, “Multi-channel”, “Unified commerce”. We have all heard these industry buzz words used a numerous amount of times over the past few years, but what do they actually mean? All of the terms are simply different ways of explaining one core concept that is evident in today’s landscape. In this post, I will explain this core concept and how some retailers are setting themselves apart by implementing a truly “Omni-channel” model.

Hubspot defines “Omni-channel” as “the ability to deliver a seamless and consistent experience across channels, while factoring in the different devices that consumers are using to interact with your business.” Simply put, we are trying to find different ways to provide a convenient and unique ordering experience for our customer regardless of where they may be ordering from (store, website, mobile, etc.). The first step is understanding the value of having different channels and the next step is executing the fulfillment from these channels.

Ordering Channels

The more options you can provide to your customer, the better chances for customer sales.. Different types of customers have different shopping habits, therefore it is important to appeal to each individual customer. Let’s use the below graphic, taken from a blog done by bigcommerce.com, to depict shopping habits of various generations. We can see that Millennials typically shop online more than Baby Boomers. However, this doesn’t change the need for online and in-store experience to appeal to each generation of shoppers.

We can better understand the importance of ordering channels with an example that compares different product types in one store. A department store may sell luxury watches and everyday items such as a pack of white t-shirts or socks. If you’re going to order a pack of white t-shirts, there is a good chance you know your size and can order this online. However, a product like a luxury watch is usually something you want to see in person and hold in your hand before putting forth a large amount of money. Thus, your Omni-channel model has to be flexible enough to cater to both of these shopping experiences.

Are you currently offering your customers different ordering options and getting in front of them at the time they want to make a purchase? If not, this is the first place to start.

Execution

So now that you know why you need multiple ordering channels, what are some ways retailers are currently following through with the execution?

One way to accomplish this is through a BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In Store) model. According to the Omni-1000 Research report performed by Order Dynamics for the US Market, a shocking 29.1% of retailers with an E-commerce site use this model. This not only offers the customer an alternate means of obtaining their product, but it also helps increase in-store traffic and save money on shipping costs.

Even pure play E-commerce giants like Amazon are starting to implement lockers and other ways for customers to pick up their products. The competitive advantage for retailers is created when the BOPIS model is implemented correctly. If you have the inventory in store and can guarantee a same day pickup, customers are more likely to purchase from you than waiting two days for Amazon to deliver.

Convenience is the key to capturing customers, creating value, and driving repeat sales. The customer will most likely find multiple sources to buy a product from, but it’s the value a retailer can create that sets them apart from other sellers in the market. Offering a customer multiple ways to order and pick up an item is one way you can set yourself apart from the competition.

There are a number of different strategies that all factor into the Omni-channel execution. This year, Bricz (www.bricz.com) will be releasing a blog each month that touches on some of these focus areas. Everything from inventory strategy to allocation strategy will be broken down to further show how to develop a true Omni-channel model.

“Omni-channel”, “Multi-channel”, and “Unified commerce” aren’t just buzz words anymore. They are defining a core concept that is changing the world of retail as we know it. It’s time to understand what they mean and learn how to execute.

 Contributor: Kevin Quigley, Supply Chain Leader at Bricz

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