Is it time for retailers to move beyond fulfillment and on to experience?
Omnichannel. Cross-channel. Harmonized Retail. Harmonic Retail. All of these terms were thrown about and used interchangeably at the 2020 FutureStores conference in Miami last weekend.
Through several sessions and many speakers, contributors and panelists, regardless of the word they used, the message was the same: It is critical to have a seamless brand experience across channels in today’s retailing environment.
Seamless, however, does not mean identical. It’s all about being where your customers are, when they want you to be there. The customer will decide when, where and how they want to transact with a brand. As Brian Kennedy, VP of operations for Ministry of Supply said, “We are at a point where customers are now leading us.”
For so long, omnichannel really was about distribution and fulfillment. Buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS), ship from store, endless aisle, curbside pickup — to name a few. But what does it mean now? One panelist put it this way. “Customers are looking for convenience or solutions.” Rather than focusing on any one stage, retailers need to take note of the entire customer journey and tailor experiences accordingly across channels.
Here are some examples of how retailers are viewing omnichannel and how they are serving their customers in new ways.
- Zak Normandin, the founder and CEO of Iris Nova, shared how its Dirty Lemon brand, an all-natural beverage, is leveraging chatbots and SMS to sell at scale through conversational commerce.
- Bonobos, a digitally native brand owned by Walmart, has over 60 physical locations that serve as showrooms. Customers can try on apparel in-store and merchandise is shipped to their homes.
- Shari Rossow, VP retail operations & in-store services from Best Buy, referenced its “Brick, Click, Knock, Ring” view of omnichannel. This encompasses how customers move from the store to online to interactions in their home with Geek Squad and even phone interactions. Best Buy places a big emphasis on post-purchase behavior through their repair and installation services.
Regardless of the name, retailers need to meet the moment and create tools and experiences for customers to transact with them when they want and how they want.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see the need for a new term to replace “omnichannel”? How can retailers move beyond distribution and fulfillment methods to create an end-to-end customer journey across channels?