Good news! The market value of the retail industry in India will hit 1.7 trillion in 2026, an increase of over 80% since 2018! Clearly, the retail industry is zooming at a breakneck pace.
However, it is quite evident that a single-channel approach isn’t enough any longer, especially if retailers want to be a part of the above growth story. Modern Indian consumers (74%), shop across channels and love the seamless, integrated shopping experience offered by omnichannel E-commerce.
Now, before you go ahead and adopt an Omnichannel Strategy for your E-commerce business, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of this powerful approach –including the opportunities it presents, the roadblocks in adopting it, best practices, etc. And that’s why we have created this exhaustive guide, the only thing you need to adopt omnichannel E-commerce for your business.
What is Omnichannel E-commerce?
Omnichannel E-commerce is a retail strategy that focuses on offering an integrated shopping experience across multiple channels. It integrates different touchpoints where your customers are likely to interact with your brand into a single unified system. It could include online marketplaces, social media, brick-and-mortar stores, mobile apps, etc. The goal of the omnichannel approach is twofold. One, to enable customers to engage with your brand in any channel they prefer. Two, to ensure that the customers can switch between two channels seamlessly.
What Is The Difference Between Single Channel, Omnichannel, and Multichannel commerce?
|Definition||Businesses sell their products through a single channel.||Businesses sell their products through multiple channels that are not integrated.||Businesses sell their products through multiple channels that are integrated with each other.|
|Options for Interaction||A minimal number of options for purchasing, communicating with customer support, and tracking orders.||More options. However, there is a lack of integration and consistency across channels.||More options with a consistent and seamless experience across all channels.|
|Data sharing across channels (For creating personalized experiences in other channels)||NA||Not shared across channels||Shared across channels|
|Inventory Management||Very simple as there is only one channel to manage.||Complex because there are multiple disconnected channels.||Simple as there is a single centralized inventory to manage the inventory across all the channels.|
How Does Omnichannel E-commerce Work?
In an omnichannel system, all the channels are tightly interwoven to provide a consistent experience. Customers can start shopping on one channel and continue on the other without losing their cart. They can also track their orders and communicate with customer support via any channel of their choice.
Here is a simple example of how omnichannel E-commerce works.
Channel 1: Social media
Mary sees an ad on social media for a dress she likes. She clicks on the ad and is directed to the brand’s website.
Channel 2: E-commerce website
She browses the dress, reads the reviews, and adds it to the cart. However, she didn’t complete the purchase.
Channel 3: Mobile app
After a few hours, she receives a push notification on the brand’s app with a targeted promotion for the dress she left in the cart. She clicks on the notification and is taken to the same dress’ page in the app. This time, she plans to buy it. However, at checkout, she chooses to pick up the dress in-store as she wants to try it out before purchasing it.
Channel 4: Phone
She calls the phone support team to ask for the address of the nearest store. She also collects information about the store timings.
Channel 5: Physical store
She goes to the physical store and tries on the dress. The size doesn’t fit her, so she exchanges the product then and there and leaves with the one that fits her.
As you can see from the above example, the customer is seamlessly shifting between different channels without any interruption. This drastically improves their overall experience and trust factor with your brand.
Businesses adopting an Omnichannel Strategy have to employ a centralized inventory management system to ensure that the customers have access to the same products at the same price point across all channels. They must also ensure that their messaging is uniform everywhere. This keeps the customers at ease, knowing that they have multiple options to reach out to your brand in case something goes wrong in their purchase journey.
Examples of Omnichannel E-commerce
Let us explore the examples of brands that have successfully implemented Omnichannel E-commerce. From retail giants to upcoming businesses, these companies have leveraged omnichannel strategies to drive sales, increase customer loyalty, and stay ahead of the competition.
Pepperfry is a leading E-commerce brand that specializes in furniture and home décor. It has adopted an Omnichannel Strategy allowing its customers to order their products anytime, anywhere from any device. A key aspect of their omnichannel approach is the ‘Studios’ where people can explore and experience all types of furniture in person. Even though customers cannot purchase furniture from these studios, they help in making informed purchase decisions.
Channels present: Website, mobile app, social media, and physical store.
Lenskart is an optical retail chain that has established a strong network of stores across the country. It has successfully established an omnichannel ecosystem where customers can either place an order online or from a retail outlet. At the store, they get to try on the product in-person, but the stores have a limited category of products. The online channels have been carefully designed to accommodate its vast catalog that customers can browse and order from the comfort of their homes.
Channels present: Website, mobile app, physical store, social media, and marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart.
H&M is a Swedish fashion brand with a strong retail presence in India and known for its trendy and affordable clothing. Besides its brick-and-mortar stores, the brand also has an online website and a mobile app for customers to purchase their products. H&M has invested in creating a seamless in-store experience for its customers looking to try the attire before they buy. Customers can browse products online and find nearest stores having them. The brand is even quite active on social media platforms showcasing its products from time to time and highlighting promotions and new sale events if any.
Channels present: Website, mobile app, social media, and physical store.
Why Brands Should Focus On Omnichannel E-commerce?
Let us take a closer look at how Omnichannel E-commerce can help you stay competitive in today’s retail space –
Better Customer Experience
An omnichannel experience puts the customer first. It prioritizes their needs and preferences and delivers a better customer experience. For starters, it allows customers to shop on their own terms – a key recipe for offering a better customer experience. Some would like to buy in-store, some prefer E-commerce sites, and some mobile. By offering a range of channels, you are catering to different customer preferences, which can lead to a better overall experience.
You also reduce the time it takes for customers to complete a purchase. A simple example would be allowing customers to use their smartphone to scan a barcode in-store and complete the purchase on your E-commerce store. They do not have to wait in line to make the payment. In other words, you are effectively reducing the friction in engaging with your brand, which has a direct impact on customer experience. Decathlon has mastered this art to deal with the weekend rush. They have built a dedicated Scan & Go app that lets customers make payments through their smartphones by scanning the QR Code while exiting the store, making the check-out process seamless.
Increase in Sales and Website Traffic
By being present on multiple channels, you can reach a wider audience and provide customers with multiple options for engagement. This creates more opportunities for customers to make a purchase, which can lead to increased sales.
Omnichannel E-commerce also improves your brand’s visibility among potential customers, which can drive website traffic. For example, if you constantly post brand ads on social media or set up multiple pop-up stores in the locality of your target audience, they will be able to recognize your brand and products better. And customers are always more likely to purchase from a brand that they are familiar with.
Boost Customer Loyalty & Retention
In an omnichannel approach, you offer multiple methods to shop, different places to engage, and a much more personalized experience. This automatically attracts a band of loyal customers who are not only going to purchase from you repeatedly but also share their positive experiences with others.
Omnichannel E-commerce also allows for better communication with your customers. This is the foundation of any strong relationship. For example, you can use different social media channels to respond to customer queries and provide customer support. This is a great way to show your commitment to customers, which will ultimately lead to better loyalty and retention.
Better data collection and understanding of the customer journey
Once you implement an Omnichannel Strategy, you’ll be able to collect customer data from one channel and fill in the data gaps on other channels. You will have access to complete, organized, and centralized data. This will give you a better picture of what products or content your potential customers are engaging with, how they are interacting with them, at what point in time, etc.
This valuable information can then be used to understand the customer journey and personalize their experience irrespective of where the customers are or which device they use. For instance, you can use the information collected in an E-commerce store to provide customized product recommendations when customers visit your physical store. This can improve their overall shopping experience and increase the likelihood of a sale.
Challenges with Omnichannel E-commerce
While Omnichannel E-commerce can provide numerous benefits to you, it can also present several key challenges that must be addressed. Here are some of the common challenges associated with implementing Omnichannel E-commerce –
As you know, Omnichannel E-commerce is all about offering a consistent experience to users irrespective of where they engage with your brand. To achieve this, your inventory, logistics, and delivery processes should be in perfect sync across different channels.
With multiple channels to sell through, it gets very difficult to balance stock and demand. Overstocking is very common in omnichannel implementations. This is primarily due to a lack of real-time visibility into inventory levels across all channels.
There are also logistical issues associated with returns and cancellations. Many E-commerce brands do not have clear policies and procedures in place for handling returns owing to the sheer complexity involved in handling those processes in multiple channels. This can lead to customer dissatisfaction and result in a loss of sales.
Data privacy challenges
Collecting customer data is the only way to personalize the customer experience and drive sales. While customers love personalized experiences, they fear for their privacy due to the misuse of data collected. Recent data breach incidents have only strengthened their apprehension.
When you integrate multiple channels and adopt new tools and processes, you are getting exposed to new variables and risks. This considerably increases the risk of cyber attacks. Hackers can always exploit the vulnerabilities in one channel to gain access to sensitive data in another channel, putting customer data at risk.
To counter this, you must take precautionary measures like multi-step authentication, training employees on various data attack types, and following password protection. You also need to ensure that general industry guidelines for security and data privacy, such as GDPR and CASL are followed in all the channels.
When you are expanding to multiple countries, you have to consider the local language, currency, laws, and cultural trends to be successful there. For instance, customers in the US would not like to see the final order amount in Indian Rupees. A French customer would like to see the website content in French. And, data privacy laws are also different in different countries. Implementing this in one channel is difficult. Imagine doing the same across multiple channels that are connected with each other. It will not be easy.
One way to deal with this challenge is by adopting an E-commerce solution that can handle multiple catalogs and currencies. However, creating and managing multiple catalogs is also not easy when you do it in-house. The simpler option is to partner with a Seller of Record or E-commerce specialist like ANS Commerce who will take care of everything related to E-commerce while you focus on delivering more personalized global experiences.
Lack of tech infrastructure
Integration of multiple channels in Omnichannel E-commerce requires a robust technology infrastructure that can support various software applications, CRMs, Inventory management tools, Order Management Tools, and data analytics tools.
Most companies lack this or find that their current tech stack is not advanced enough to support the complex omnichannel requirements.
In other words, their existing commerce platform will not be able to scale with their omnichannel strategy. As a result, many businesses end up re-platforming their E-commerce solution or hiring additional support, which can drastically increase the cost. Thinking of moving your online store to a new platform? Checkout our blog on E-commerce migration and replatforming to get started.
How to create an Omnichannel Strategy for your brand?
Creating an effective Omnichannel Strategy requires careful planning and execution, taking into account your target audience and channel goals. Let us now explore the key steps involved in creating an Omnichannel Strategy for your brand.
Step 1: Understand your target audience
Start by analyzing your customers’ preferences, behaviors, and buying habits. Collect data, such as purchase history, demographics, and social media activity, to gain insights into their preferences and how they interact with different sales channels. Send surveys, invite customer feedback, and leverage social listening tools to gather this data.
Step 2: Select the right channels
Now, select the right channels for your business. Pick the ones that your customers prefer. For example, if most of your customers spend time on social media shopping, include that as one of your channels. You can also pick ones suitable for your business. For example, if you are in the home decor industry, you might want to include physical stores as one of your channels, as it will help customers visually experience the product before buying.
Step 3: Define goals for each channel
Each channel should have a clear purpose that aligns with your overall omnichannel strategy. For example, your physical store could focus on offering a more personalized shopping experience, while your website may focus on convenience.
Step 4: Connect the channels
Now start connecting all your channels. While executing this step, you must ensure that customers can switch between different channels seamlessly. For instance, if a customer starts shopping on your website and later visits your physical store, they should be able to access their online shopping cart in-store.
Step 5: Maintain your channels
Once you have connected the channels and established your Omnichannel Strategy, it is essential to maintain and update your channels regularly. Monitor customer feedback and track sales performance to identify areas for improvement. Additionally, keep up-to-date with emerging technologies and trends to stay ahead of the competition.
Ready to provide an omnichannel experience to your customers?
A FlipKart group company, ANS Commerce, is India’s #1 Full Stack E-commerce Growth Partner, renowned for its expertise in implementing omnichannel strategies. If you’re looking to provide your customers with an exceptional shopping experience, then ANS Commerce is the partner you need.
With our deep understanding of the E-commerce landscape and proven track record of success, we will help you seamlessly integrate all of your customer touchpoints, from brick-and-mortar stores to E-commerce platforms and marketplaces, to create a cohesive omnichannel experience.
By partnering with us, you can rest assured that your customers will enjoy a consistent, personalized shopping experience, regardless of where they are in the buying journey.
Want to know how we can scale your E-commerce business? Book a free consulting session with our expert today.