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Omnichannel is the Way Forward for Retail Enterprises

By Nishith Rastogi, CEO, Locus

Modern retailing is a multi-faceted, dynamic business landscape. Sellers have to fulfil consumers of varied generations, varied tastes, and preferences. Plus, 2020 has been a roller-coaster of a year for retail businesses, redefining buying and selling norms at a rapid pace.

At first, retailers faced the heat of the pandemic due to uncertain lockdowns and closure of businesses. Markets are gradually opening up but as people continue to maintain social distancing measures and restrict themselves from visiting stores in person, retailers are being forced to evolve and keep up with the changing dynamics.

Omnichannel selling is no more a winning strategy for retail businesses, it is a must-have for survival in the market. Even before the pandemic erupted, online commerce was booming in Southeast Asia. But this year, the rising trend of stay-at-home shopping, home delivery demands, and contactless selling have influenced traditional brick and mortar stores in developing nations across Southeast Asia to rethink their selling strategies. The ones that already had an online presence have had to innovate their delivery methods for the customer’s convenience.

But omnichannel retail is not just about selling online or having a digital presence. It is about using various sales channels — physical and digital storefronts, to create a unified, seamless buying experience for consumers on any platform, at any time.

Building an omnichannel brand presence can be done in many different ways. Retailers could launch their own E-commerce website, leverage social media to sell products online, or list their products on a third-party distribution platform.

They could also introduce Buy Online Pick Up In-Store (BOPIS) or curbside delivery options to their customers for greater convenience. Owing to pandemic-driven trends, retail and consumer goods brands have also started Direct-to-Consumer selling to reach customers faster without the involvement of wholesalers or in-store sellers.

Convenience, price, and free shipping are the top reasons consumers across all generations choose to buy an item at a branded online store. While millennials prefer to shop online from an E-commerce website, the Gen Z consumers spend more on social channels, with Instagram and Snapchat shopping taking the lead. At the same time, Baby Boomers prefer in-store buying experiences, mainly due to the ability to touch or try on an item before purchase. Effective omnichannel retailing is about offering convenience on the customer’s plate, no matter where or how they want to shop. Businesses must have an omnichannel strategy that caters to all customer groups, striking the right balance between online and offline selling.

Beyond having an omnichannel storefront, efficient distribution and logistics management plays a crucial role in ensuring a complete and happy omnichannel buying experience. This is especially important in Southeast Asia’s complex geographies, where a number of on-ground logistical challenges exist.

Retailers are now embracing AI-powered logistics tech to streamline warehousing and shipping activities, optimize last-mile delivery operations, and reach customers faster and more efficiently. According to a DHL’s Omnichannel Logistics Report, 58% of companies invest in Cloud-based logistics to monitor supply chains and identify inefficiencies in real-time. Predictive logistics, which provides more accurate forecasts of future demand based on past demand data, is also a growth area, with 29% of supply chains planning to invest in it.

  • Location Intelligence technology in geocoding allows retailers to map even the fuzziest customer addresses accurately on a map, speeding up on-ground operations.
  • Last-mile routing solutions help in planning optimal and cost-effective delivery routes automatically, reducing the time taken, and improving the efficiency of day-to-day logistics planning.
  • Smart route optimization helps in planning delivery routes dynamically, managing returns/reverse logistics effectively, and allocating the right executives for the right tasks.
  • Supply chain visibility tools such as fleet tracking enable logistics managers to closely monitor on-ground operations and take preventive measures to avoid unnecessary delays or disturbances.
  • Real-time tracking solutions allow retailers to share order status with customers, letting them know the exact whereabouts of their package, thereby improving customer experience and supply chain transparency.

Logistics tech is the true game-changer for retail businesses to stand out in the omnichannel market and keep customers satisfied with fast and effective last-mile fulfillment. Whether you’re running a small-scale convenience store, a supermarket, or a fashion outlet, omnichannel selling is the only way forward to cater to customers in 2020 and the times ahead.

Understanding customer expectations, building a well-thought omnichannel retail strategy, and optimizing delivery operations with the right use of logistics tech is therefore essential for businesses to stay ahead in the retail rat race.

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