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Tarun Madan
Tarun Madan

For any omnichannel strategy, it is important to strike a balance between supporting the ongoing business and looking for opportunities to grow the business. Omniagile means evolving with the changing market needs, technology, customer preferences, and channels.

OmniagileThe year 2015 was deemed as “the year of mobile commerce”. Rightly so considering that countless digital marketers began to realize the impact technology has on a customer’s journey during this time. From multi-channel to omnichannel, the fine lines between different channels are rapidly getting blurred, prompting digital retailers to adopt omnichannel strategies to remain competitive.  But growing from a brick and mortar retailer to an omnichannel one is like changing all four wheels of a moving car. Retailers need to align their business to their customers’ needs by leveraging technology, changing business operations and adapting to an agile way of working.

You have to be Agile in order to be Omni. We like to call it, #omniagile!

Having worked with several leading brick and mortar retailers who have transformed into omnichannel retailers, one thing is clear – it is very important to maintain a balance between supporting the ongoing business and looking for growth opportunities in new channels.  To keep this balance, enterprises have to be nimble, and continuously need to realign their vision and adjust to the changing market needs, disruptive and rapid technology innovations, and evolving user preferences.

Challenges in transforming into a successful omnichannel business include organizational, operational and execution issues, channel conflicts, pricing complexities and much more. This means being agile in terms of technology, internal processes, in mindset, in delivery, and in your general approach.

Let's look at why it is important to integrate omniagile in your omnichannel strategy.

  • 1. Loss of opportunity cost can be huge
    If you do not grow into new channels, someone else will take away your customers. We all know the fate of HMV records and Blockbuster movie rental stores, who suffered in revenue and eventually became irrelevant as they were not able to recognize and seize the opportunities brought on by the digital age.

    On the other hand, if you jump to new channels too fast without a proper strategy, your business will fall prey to cross-channel cannibalization. If your customer base and your net sales do not increase with the new channel then it means you are eating into your own existing channels, which is only helping your competitors, not you. Therefore, you have to plan your channel strategy well and continuously adapt to the changing competitive landscape across channels.

  • 2. Existing business should not stop
    Omnichannel roll out can be a big challenge on its own. But you cannot overlook the needs of the ongoing business and traditional or existing channels that still demand continuous roll out of features.  We have had an experience where the real differentiator for a large brick and mortar fashion retailer, with an elementary online commerce presence, in a highly competitive and value-conscious market, was the omnichannel experience. However, even this differentiator becomes irrelevant if the roll out takes several months. Thus, it is important to quickly roll out new promotions and find innovative ways to keep the customer engaged till the retailer is able to offer a value beyond lowering cost.

    In order to achieve this, you need to be agile in development and take a step-by-step approach towards a long journey rather than a leapfrog into something new. Ongoing support, minor enhancement, and bigger roll outs; all three need to be worked upon in parallel to remain ahead of the competition in short as well as long-term.

  • 3. Business needs are changing
    Omnichannel implementation is a lengthy affair. If the requirements of your omnichannel vision are frozen at the beginning while your monolithic omnichannel platform is in development, the business reality and competitive landscape might change by the time you end. Therefore, it is recommended to build the platform piece by piece and become agile in adapting to changing requirements.

    We used a similar strategy with a large grocery retailer in Asia who wanted to start selling online. The challenge was to draft a product, price and promotion strategy for a single online store vis-a-vis multiple offline stores where the strategy depended on local competition. The only way to create a successful strategy was to test the market to see how they would react to global vs local product, price and promotion strategy. Therefore, we built a flexible solution which could cater to both - a uniform or varied strategy. The solution roadmap allowed us to quickly adapt to new market learnings as we progressed.  Our approach was to keep a flexible and agile mindset, and adapt to the changing business needs.

  • 4. Role of traditional channels are not the same anymore
    For a retailer, it is important to know if his store is a point of sale, or a service or a point of experience. For customers, physical stores have become experience centers where they can touch, feel and try the product, but may often choose to buy the same product online for a lesser cost. So if physical stores are becoming experience or service centers, why do you still need to have a bigger expensive store with huge inventory when you can operate with a lean experience and service center that justifies the cost.

    As a retailer, you need to be agile in changing your channels and operations strategy to adapt to the role that traditional channels have to play in the omnichannel world. Several offline retailers are carefully doing this and creating local fulfillment centers out of their stores for servicing online orders faster compared to pure-play online retailers with few central warehouses serving an entire country or region. Capitalizing on hundreds of mini fulfillment centers near the customers bringing added advantages and opportunities.

  • 5. Customer preferences are evolving
    71% customers expect to view in-store inventory online, while 50% expect to shop online and pick up their purchase in-store. 39% consumers are unlikely or very unlikely to visit a retailer’s store if the online store does not provide physical store inventory information.

    Customers are changing the way they engage with brands and retailers owing to maturing digital channels. E-commerce players are also having to change with them. Social media is gaining importance by not only impacting buying decisions but also evolving as a channel of commerce - social commerce. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are increasingly being used for commerce. Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp have advanced into being business tools for listening and servicing the customers. Meanwhile, there are unfathomable commerce possibilities in new technologies such as NFC, AR/VR, digital wallets, delivery drones and digital mirrors.

    Thus, one has to be on their toes to follow their customer, wherever they are, understand the way they want to shop and how they want to shop. It’s about omnichannel connections. With several personas and identities of the same customer over different channels, you have to somehow connect the dots and become as agile as your customer.

So, let’s sit back and think, is your organization omniagile? Does your partner back you up in becoming omniagile?