Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Retailing in the modern world Pt II - Omni-channel vs Multi-channel buzz words

It is a big buzz word to say 'omni-channel retail' in today's world but what does that mean? Is it the same as multi-channel? No. Then what is the difference? Depends on interpretation.

    Multi-channel retail – involves both the sales and supply chain aspects of a retail channel independent of any other channel
    Omni-channel retail – same definition as multi-channel but involves integrating the various channels to create a seamless, 360 degree experience for the customer. For example, it is creating a wish list on the website and continuing your order from any other channel.
Really, omni-channel is an evolved iteration of multi-channel that was created as time went by and systems didn’t have to be disjointed solutions. When technologies like mobile first came out, they were completely separate worlds from existing retail channels that relied heavily on integrations and imports/exports. There were commonly large lags and discrepancies in data due to physical and data limitations of the time. Now that the concepts have been around for a while now and limitations reduced, solutions for that retail channel can be improved with interfaces reduced and optimized if existent at all.
Omni-channel is also a bit of a sales buzz word. Elements of the 360 view existed in systems that were dubbed multi-channel at the time. When things improve significantly, it helps to have a new name or something to distinguish it as new and an improvement. For instance, omni-channel sounds better than multi-channel. Xbox 360 is better than Xbox. PS4 is better than PS2.
However you define and view it, it all boils down to improving a seamless customer experience to assure a consistently exceptional experience. How do you best accomplish this? Have a centralized location for your ‘One version of the truth’.
What are the aspects of the seamless experience?
·         Branding
·         Pricing, Discounts, Shipping, and Taxes
·         Channel Management & Publishing
·         Catalog Management Enrichment & Publishing
·         Customer Management
·         Merchandising
·         EOD & Financials
·         Order Management & Fulfillment
·         BI/Reporting
·         Payment Processing
·         Inventory & Replenishment
As an example of a fully integrated omni-channel situation, if a customer has special pricing for an item at 9am on a specific day, they should be able to engage any retail channel at 9am and see consistent pricing across the board. It doesn’t seem like a big deal until you are encounter a situation where it isn’t working. These incongruences between systems is where some internet discount sites get their ‘hacker’ pricing or discounts. When I see these, it always makes me as a consumer second guess if I’m truly getting the best price from the same company.

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