Omnichannel is just a term to describe everyday shopping

Photo: RetailWire
Nov 10, 2017
George Anderson

A growing percentage of consumers are shopping both online and in stores for everyday items in categories including food and beverages, health and beauty care, and household cleaning products, according to new research from GfK.

According to the firm’s annual “FutureBuy” report, omnichannel behavior for key categories has increased significantly over the past year.

  • Forty percent of consumers purchased beauty and personal care items online and in stores compared to 32 percent in 2016;
  • Twenty-three percent bought packaged food and beverages up from 14 percent;
  • Twenty-seven percent purchased over-the-counter remedies versus 21 percent the year before;
  • Twenty-five percent bought household cleaning products compared to 15 percent.

When it comes to purchasing online, savings is key, according to the study. Fifty-four percent cited saving money most frequently to explain their choice of shopping destination.

As a point of contrast, saving money was only mentioned by 29 percent of those who bought in stores. Often cited factors also included being able to see an item before purchasing it (47 percent), getting the product sooner (43 percent) and buying an item as part of routine shopping trip (35 percent).

Those seeking further proof of the efficacy of an omnichannel strategy may look to yesterday’s announcement by that it will open pop-up shops at select Whole Foods stores in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois and Michigan. Amazon announced that more than 100 Whole Foods locations currently carry its Echo, Fire and Kindle devices.

“The goal for marketers and retailers should be to give shoppers the options they need for increasingly busy schedules — be everywhere your customers are, giving them the freedom to shop when and where they like, and they will embrace your brand,” said Joe Beier, EVP of shopper and retail strategy at GfK.

Mobile devices are becoming increasingly important when it comes to researching and making purchases in stores and online.

Adobe recently forecast that web traffic on smartphones and tablets (54 percent) will be higher than desktops (46 percent) for the first time this holiday season. While the study authors expect desktops to account for about two-thirds of online sales for Christmas, they found a correlation between “fast mobile growth” and “fast revenue growth” at higher performing companies.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you expect to see a rapid acceleration of so-called omnichannel initiatives at retail in the coming year? Do you mostly see an upside to these strategies or do retailers face risks by trying to keep up with the likes of Amazon and Walmart?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Retailers need to get into far more of a data-driven mindset than they are today. THAT's where Amazon is killing it, not by being omnichannel."
"Omnichannel is not about channels! It is about your customers and how they interact and access your products and services."
"There is no “e” in e-commerce … just commerce. Customers don’t see channels, retailers have been clinging to them."

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20 Comments on "Omnichannel is just a term to describe everyday shopping"

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Phil Chang
Phil Chang
Retail Influencer, Speaker and Consultant
2 years 3 months ago

I really hate the word “omnichannel” because it suggests something too lofty. Having said that, this article does a really good job of boiling it down to the essence of “omnichannel” or “multichannel.”

You never really know where your customer will come from. You need to be everywhere, and your plan for your store front — virtual or physical — needs to account for consumers coming from anywhere. That means being online, mobile and having a great brick-and-mortar storefront. Retailers shouldn’t be worried about Amazon or Walmart in that regard, they need to worry about the consumers who can’t find them at the moment they intend to purchase.

Dick Seesel

I ordered razor blades from Amazon a few days ago, and I just ordered some K-cups this morning. (They will be here later today.) Would I describe this as “omnichannel,” because it involves commodity items that I might have found in a physical store? No, I would call this purely an e-commerce transaction.

A true “omnichannel” initiative is one that bridges the divide between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar. If I had bought the K-cups from (and picked them up at the store), that would be closer to an omnichannel play. And the more seamless the shopping experience, the better … whether I am buying food, consumables or apparel.

Once we get past the semantic distinctions, there is little doubt that programs like BOPIS, BORIS, ship-from-store and curbside pickup are escalating rapidly. The consumer continues to search for the perfect combination of price and convenience — the “blue-eyed unicorn” of today’s retail.

Nikki Baird
Nikki Baird
VP of Retail Innovation, Aptos
2 years 3 months ago

Um, retailers have been implementing omnichannel strategies for the last eight years. A lot of them have been what I’ve called “shellac,” as in a thin outer coating that makes promises to consumers while changing very little internally. But we are definitely reaching the tipping point where retailers can no longer protect their internal structures — organizational structures, processes, tech investments, economic models — from the changes required to be truly “omnichannel.”

However I would argue that it’s less about omnichannel and more about data. Retailers need to get into far more of a data-driven mindset than they are today. THAT’s where Amazon is killing it, not by being omnichannel.

And I would just like to note that any argument over the term omnichannel is just a distraction. We need to call it something. Who cares what it is? But it’s not fair to say “it’s just retail” — not yet. Because retailers clearly aren’t there yet.

Bob Amster

There will be an acceleration of the number of retailers engaging in omnichannel initiatives. There are many retailers in the U.S. and we really only focus on the influential ones. Many retailers are not yet engaged in omnichannel models but most retailers are under pressure to have a presence in many channels so yes, there will be more retailers undertaking more omnichannel initiatives. This will happen at varying levels of sophistication. The retailers with the most loyal constituencies have the least worries but, eventually, even they will have to up their omnichannel game.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

There is no “e” in e-commerce … just commerce. Customers don’t see channels, retailers have been clinging to them. We are beyond the proverbial tipping point in the transformation.

All of the data cited adds up to the fact that the customer is now the POS (Point of Sale). They have the ability to transcend both time and place of when they shop, where they purchase and how they choose to take delivery.

Ian Percy

The attention-grabbing snap of the article title is much stronger than the questions at the end of it.

Look, nothing over the years has wasted more time and money than consultant-speak! That is evident in all sectors and especially in retail. The more protracted and obtuse the words you use, the higher your fees I guess. (See what I did there?)

Adrian Weidmann

Omnichannel is a word with which we describe and define workflows among ourselves — we observers and pundits of the retail landscape. Shoppers simply call it shopping. And when we are acting as shoppers and consumers, we simply call it shopping. We select the path of least resistance depending upon the product(s) and where we are — physically and mentally on life’s journey. We don’t necessarily plan the shopping journey. In many cases the shopping journey unfolds as we move in life. Retailers and brands can no longer choose to provide these access points and portals — they are simply part of the shopping experience. They are expected and if they don’t exist and address expectations, we’ll find brands that do provide them.

Ken Lonyai

The fact that we are still discussing “omnichannel” and that most retailers are still making plans to embrace it when integrating it should have been years old news already, is a huge indicator that most are laggards and do not really understand consumers. So when they grumble about Amazon, they need a slap in the face to hopefully wake up and accept that they created their own failings.

Charles Dimov

70 percent of consumers state that they prefer the omnichannel combination of physical and online shopping (Forbes, Nov 2017). Today, only 27 percent of North American retailers offer BOPIS. There is a huge shortfall, and the retailers that deploy early are going to capture these customers — and get them to keep coming back to their stores (online and off). So will omnichannel see an acceleration? Only among the smart and capable retailers!

Lee Kent

Most retailers are moving as fast as they can but with the internal structures and systems they have, like Nikki said, it looks like shellac right now. Retailers are laden with many obstacles from their pasts so it’s more like work-arounds until the past is unraveled. I would offer that the first step should be inventory visibility and many retailers are still not even there yet. I see an upside to having a strategy but no strategy is without risk in this day and age. So I suggest customer experience improvements to keep them coming back while they keep on plugging. For my 2 cents.

Cathy Hotka

Amazon and others are technology companies that just happen to sell merchandise efficiently by learning a lot about customers and their preferences. Until Main Street retail realizes it has to do this too, we’ll keep seeing disproportionate competition.

Todd Trombley

One would hope that retailers will increase their omnichannel initiatives. Omnichannel is how consumers want to shop. Newer channels for connecting with consumers or for enabling shopping are emerging seemingly every day. This is the future! It is not about keeping up with Amazon or Walmart. It is about playing in these channels in ways that reinforce a retailer’s unique brand and appeal to their customers. What is most important is to be a player in the game.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.

Omnichannel is not about channels! It is about your customers and how they interact and access your products and services. It is about a variety of robust order fulfillment strategies. It is about better mobile experiences.

It’s not about online versus brick-and-mortar. It’s about a combination of the
two that allows customers to chose when, where and how they shop. It’s about making all
interactions seamless, efficient and effective.

It is the new shopping paradigm.

Peter Luff

The term omnichannel is a much used and abused term. Truly integrated “single channel” activity that works in tandem across both online and offline still feels a ways off. This does not mean to say initiatives in each area will not happen, but until a measurement system of the effectiveness of both areas as a whole system is established, they will still operate as relatively independent islands for the foreseeable future.

Ralph Jacobson

Forget omnichannel. The consumer IS the channel. The shopping journey can no longer be managed manually by the retailer. And, just because you’re sitting in front of a PC looking at your shopping journeys, doesn’t mean you’re taking advantage of the best tools available today. We are seeing merchants leverage insights on the path to purchase and modifying entire marketing strategies because of these new insights. It’s all about machine learning. Taking human intelligence and augmenting it. To effectively compete today, you’re kidding yourself if you’re not employing AI.

Ricardo Belmar
The debate over “omnichannel” as a term is a never ending one — we have to call it something, and it isn’t fair to say “it’s just retail” because the fact is most retailers are just not able to deliver on that promise. Omnichannel is clearly where retailers need to be if they are to serve their customers anywhere and anytime they want to shop. At the end of the day this really boils down to convenience, whether it’s BOPIS, ship from store, curbside pickup, home delivery, etc., it’s all about making the experience as easy and frictionless as possible for the shopper. It’s become pretty obvious by now that newer retail brands have an easier time adapting. Why? They have fewer legacy systems and processes to deal with and can more quickly implement new digital platforms. Size is also a factor. Unless you’re Walmart’s size, you’ll wish you were smaller with fewer stores to quickly roll out those new omnichannel experiences. Most retailers fall in the middle ground of being not quite large enough… Read more »
Cynthia Holcomb

Omnichannel initiatives? 20 years — 2 decades of retailer quagmire. The disconnect? Retailers are stuck in limbo. Hiring tech folk and tech advisors to make decisions for them propping up the newest shiny tech solution to become the latest mantra blown by the forces of tech vs. retailer in-house politics. This reality is cemented in process and business decisions, drip, drip, dripping over the past 20 years. To combat Amazon, I recommend a new position: chief merchant technologist. An experienced merchant with customer experience technology chops. A merchant that know products and customers inside and out, enabling navigating the plethora of micro fixes into a cohesive holistic multi faceted solution that can be explained in one sentence.

Dave Nixon

Omnichannel is simply just blending EVERY touchpoint into one overall customer experience.

The failure of this term was that it was leveraged to be was too far towards digital and technology and that creates a silo in itself.

Retailers need to have a “Data at the core” strategy and then build the experience around the engagement of their customers, in whatever way they expect the brand to engage them, based on the retailers understanding of the shopper through solid data and insights.

Are channels really separate anymore? I choose my products in an app, then pick up at a store … which channel is that? It isn’t a channel … it is part of the overall CX. Time to think across engagement points and not channels.

Min-Jee Hwang

I feel like “omnichannel” is often misused or overused in retail. Just as Nike recently stated that they’re toning down their sales on mediocre channels, true omnichannel is going for gold in the experience category. Shoppers need to have a smooth experience across all selling channels. This is easier for bigger retailers to accomplish, since they have the resources to try it out until they get it right. Shoppers are beginning to expect an omnichannel experience and smaller retailers need to keep up by learning how to do it right or risk getting left behind.

Aakash Varma

Really insightful article!!!

But I believe omnichannel has lived its life and retail is moving towards more of boundaryless retail where geographies, channels, etc. will not constrain retailers. A small e-tailer in one part of the world can sell products in a store in other part of the world. I believe more than money, feel of product or any other things, retail is moving more towards customer experience where new age technologies like AR, IoT, etc. will make the shopping journey joyful without any hassles. Amazon even I believe is doing the same with ideas like drone delivery, tunnel delivery, etc.

So, for me its more of customer-centric retailing which will take the forefront instead of making it omnichannel or multichannel.

"Retailers need to get into far more of a data-driven mindset than they are today. THAT's where Amazon is killing it, not by being omnichannel."
"Omnichannel is not about channels! It is about your customers and how they interact and access your products and services."
"There is no “e” in e-commerce … just commerce. Customers don’t see channels, retailers have been clinging to them."

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