Omni channel retailing

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OMNI CHANNEL RETAILING

Omni channel retailing

Introduction

Omni channel is a business model that is cross channel by nature and is used by many companies with the sole purpose of increasing their customer experience. These channels that are being utilized include social media, mobile applications, live web chats and telephone communication (Rowell, 2013). Omni channel is majorly being utilized by companies who believe in the fact that customers value to be in communication constantly with the company through various avenues (Beck & Rygl, 2015). Recent technological advancements especially in mobile computing and augmented reality continue to blur the boundaries between internet retailing and the traditional forms of retailing. This has contributed in a big way to enhance retailer interactions with their consumer base through the various platforms that are available (Frazer & Stiehler, 2014). These platforms are efficient since they expose the consumers to both offline and online content.

Smart phones are widely used by a majority of the population and of these, 70% percent have been reported to use their devices for comparison shopping. This is a habit that is gaining popularity worldwide. In the past, retail stores were preferred due to their uniqueness of allowing consumers to feel and touch merchandise (Bodhani, 2012). Moreover, these retail stores had the ability to provide instant gratification. On the other hand, internet retailers could not provide the ability to feel and touch as well as instant gratification and therefore they tried to woo the consumers by offering a wide range of product selection, product rating and reviews as well as offering low prices (Verhoef et al., 2015). The distinction between online and physical is likely to vanish thereby turning the world into a showroom that does not have walls with the evolution of retail industry towards an Omni channel retailing experience. This shift in the retail industry is geared on consumer satisfaction, away from what it focused on in the past including deliveries and transactions (Piotrowicz & Cuthbertson, 2014). Virtual content which is easily accessible from applications available on smart phones will augment lot of physical space. Omni channel retailing comes at the most appropriate time when old barriers such as consumer ignorance and geography ought to be a thing of the past (Verhoef et al., 2015). This has made it critically important for supply chain partners and the retailers to take time off and rethink their competitive strategy.

Discussion

For omni channel to be effective and efficient, certain enabling technologies have to be used appropriately by both the retailers and consumers. Location based applications come in handy for consumers and retailers are taking advantage of these opportunities created by these location based applications (Rowell, 2013). These include offering clients electronic coupons on their phones, offering free Wi-Fi and goodies to help steer customers towards physical stores. Mobile applications have become increasingly advanced (Piotrowicz & Cuthbertson, 2014). For instance, loopt provides location based services on real time with the aim of reaching popular locations and specific end users. Loopt can also be used a loyalty card and this provides a suitable chance for the retailers to connect directly with their customers wherever they may be located (Hübner et al., 2016). Moreover, this application allows its users to find friends who are near their location as well as receive rewards and coupons for visiting various locations. Another application called the Doot provides its users with the ability to leave private or public messages for their family and friends and its only when the designated person reach the site that the message is activated (Verhoef et al., 2015).

Merging the physical world touch and feel information with online content is becoming increasingly common with augmented reality technologies. Google Glass exposes the consumers to both online and offline information while allowing them to make purchases from either traditional or online channels (Hübner et al., 2016).

Mobile technology has brought a lot of revolution in consumer behavior and expectations. To retailers, expanding their markets and reaching new consumers has become even easier, both offline and online. This can be attributed to the fact that the mobile has made internet accessible round the clock despite location and this has made it more convenient (Bell et al., 2014). These applications give consumers the opportunity to search for products online as well as get to find out their prices. This helps to give the consumers information that is more accurate about the products that are available in the stores and this can help attract a large number of customers who might have viewed the products online (Piotrowicz & Cuthbertson, 2014).

In the past, retailers have taken advantage of barriers such as customer ignorance and geography in the traditional markets in the quest of advancing their positions. Technology has come in a big way to take away such barriers (Verhoef et al., 2015). Many retailers have been found in a position of exaggerating certain information as a way of attracting clientele but smart phone applications have made these moves increasingly difficult sine much of the information is just a tap away. Location based applications have been used by retailers to scale up sales as well as to open up new selling opportunities. This can be through sending promotional messages to customers who are within the vicinity. Price scan applications provide consumers with the ability to view a range of pricing for the particular commodity they want to purchase and retailers are therefore learning to respond by offering more focused promotional offers (Frazer & Stiehler, 2014). Moreover, online retailers seek an upper hand through attempts such as offering low prices and liaising with the local retailers who act as their show room to the convenience of the customer.

Through the smart phone application, it is possible for the retailers to keep track of their customers. This has been made possible by a technology developed by Euclid analytics which keeps a record of the Media Access Control (MAC) addresses of all smart phones that are Wi-Fi enabled (Bodhani, 2012). With this application, it is possible to track the traffic of the store as well as get to know the repeat customers, those who frequently visit the store. It won’t be long before retailers start providing special incentives for the customers as they enter the store based on their previous history.

Features such as the ability to generate targeted ads and compare prices make omni channel retailing appear similar to e-commerce. In order for omni channel retailing to be successful, there are various strategies that ought to be implemented by both the consumers and the retailers. It is important therefore that retailers start adopting the best practices on areas such as designing the consumer shopping experience, pricing and building long standing relationships with the consumers both from the online and offline worlds (Brynjolfsson et al., 2013). While establishing what strategy will work best, it is important to consider various aspects like the level of demand for your products, the product itself and the type of client base you are reaching out to.

It is essential that the retailer provide attractive prices for their products and curated contents. Consumers not only want good prices but they also do not want to get lost in the numerous products therefore the importance of curating merchandise (Bell et al., 2014). It becomes easy and convenient for the consumer to find and purchase products from an array of neatly well presented list of products. With the new data that is going to be made available by the applications in omni channel retailing, it will be easier to understand customer transactions as well as their interactions with the sites and stores (Rowell, 2013). This therefore shifts the limitation from lack of data to the ability to analyze the data and utilize it appropriately. This information will come in handy for the retailers especially because they can be able to apply predictive analytics which will enable them make time and location specific recommendations and offers to their existing and potential customers.

Steps aimed at making direct comparison difficult are highly recommended especially because such can help protect the retailers against competitor poaching thus helping to mitigate the effects of competition of prices. Although price comparison benefits consumers while making purchases, it can be detrimental to retailers and their business (Rowell, 2013). To achieve this, retailers can liaise with their manufacturers to offer various versions of products where the manufacturer will produce commodities that are retailer specific. Also, retailers could consider creating exclusive products that are not available at their competitors’ stores. Bundling products could also come in handy by making it difficult for the consumers to make direct comparisons on the various goods available. Other than this, bundling can be a powerful tool for generating additional profits for increased sales (Rigby, 2011). Bundling can be made more effective by utilizing previous historical purchase data and establishing the meaningful relationship existing between products based on previous transactions.

Physical stores have an advantage over online retailers since they offer on the spot services, trust and instant gratification especially when the price difference between them and online retailers is minimal. However, online retailers have an advantage too when it comes to their ability to offer niche products. They focus on a long tail product kind of approach which is not economical for a physical store to operate (Beck & Rygl, 2015). Consumers will therefore find it convenient to shop online for such products so as to avoid wasting time due to the unpredictability of physical stores to stock these products. This has been corrected recently with the availability of online inventory information and finding such products from nearby stores had been made much easier. .

Omni channel retailing has made it easy for consumers to accumulate knowledge of products they are interested in and then make purchases from another channel (Verhoef et al., 2015). It is therefore upon the retailers to share product knowledge across their platforms as this will facilitate the integration of channels thereby attracting customers who like shopping in multiple channels. Customers sometimes get frustrated from conflicting information and thus integrating these channels will help minimize this. It is also necessary for retailers to embrace competition because isolating oneself from competition only means that success will be for a short while only (Rigby, 2011). Exposure to world class competition forces retailers to improve on the quality and the prices of the products they offer. In omni channel retailing, there is no room for inferior products and shoddy services since every detail is open for all to view.

Conclusion

The move by retailers to adopt selling strategies to an omni channel environment allows for change which will be felt by both downstream and upstream players. For the manufacturers, production in large scale for the same retailer might have to come to an end especially because the retailers will be looking for more exclusive and customized products (Verhoef et al., 2015). This means that the manufacturers need to be agile at producing more customized batches in smaller quantities. Moreover, the boundaries between retailing and manufacturing are likely to blur as retailers seek unique products (Hübner et al., 2016). Further, this will enhance collaborative relationships between the manufacturer and the retailer, a move that will serve to amplify the importance of market segmentation and target marketing.

Omni channel retailing together with the various smart phone applications offers the consumers channels through which they can obtain relevant information which is necessary during purchase decision making process. Information from store channels, social media, store website as well as mobile apps have a lot to do with the consumer behavior during making purchases (Rigby, 2011). Advertising agencies as well as marketing firms who work for various retailers need to become more conscious about data and analyzing these data so that they can use it to their advantage while designing marketing strategies such as campaigns and advertising messages.

With the technological advancements, avoiding omni channel retailing becomes next to impossible. This is an overly important move especially because it is minimizing the ability of consumer ignorance and geographical barriers to be used by retailers as a means of shield against competition (Brynjolfsson et al., 2013). It is also important to acknowledge that omni channel retailing is offering extended opportunities by extending the market reach as well as introducing consumers to new products which they probably would have not known about. With omni channel retailing, supply chains that operate in environments that foster consumer value are the ones which are likely to win in the long run. Moreover, transparency that comes with omni channel retailing seems to be speeding up the process and in the eventuality, this will create a winner-take-all effect (Hübner et al., 2016). As a result of this, manufacturers and retailers will have to strive to be the world’s best by proving quality products at competitive prices.

References

Beck, N. and Rygl, D., 2015. Categorization of multiple channel retailing in Multi-, Cross-, and Omni‐Channel Retailing for retailers and retailing. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 27, pp.170-178.

Bell, D.R., Gallino, S. and Moreno, A., 2014. How to win in an omnichannel world. MIT Sloan Management Review, 56(1), p.45.

Bodhani, A., 2012. Shops offer the e-tail experience. Engineering & Technology, 7(5), pp.46-49.

Brynjolfsson, E., Hu, Y.J. and Rahman, M.S., 2013. Competing in the age of omnichannel retailing. MIT Sloan Management Review, 54(4), p.23.

Frazer, M. and Stiehler, B.E., 2014, January. Omnichannel Retailing: the merging of the online and off-line environment. In Global Conference on Business & Finance Proceedings (Vol. 9, No. 1, p. 655). Institute for Business & Finance Research.

Hübner, A., Holzapfel, A. and Kuhn, H., 2016. Distribution systems in omni-channel retailing. Business Research, 9(2), pp.255-296.

Piotrowicz, W. and Cuthbertson, R., 2014. Introduction to the special issue information technology in retail: toward omnichannel retailing. International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 18(4), pp.5-16.

Rigby, D., 2011. The future of shopping. Harvard Business Review, 89(12), pp.65-76.

Rowell, J., 2013. Omni-Channel Retailing. Romanian Distribution Committee Magazine, 4(2), pp.12-15.

Verhoef, P.C., Kannan, P.K. and Inman, J.J., 2015. From multi-channel retailing to omni-channel retailing: introduction to the special issue on multi-channel retailing. Journal of Retailing, 91(2), pp.174-181.