3 Building Blocks of Omni-Channel

As per the BCG Report 2020: $ 250Bn of the Indian retail market is estimated to be web influenced by 2020; which will be a whopping 2.5 times that of the pure play eCommerce market.
An Omni-Channel strategy has become a brand imperative to drive growth and profitability in a multi-channel environment. This blog seeks to create a forum that shares the basics, the nuts & bolts and the peer and leadership thoughts on this subject.

Omni-channel, which is not as omniscient as its usage is; is best explained basics up. Familiar concepts and existing practices that build up your Omni-channel strategy need to be guided to best suit your business.

For Sanjay Roy, Executive Director of PUMA India, Omni-channel is, ‘when the consumer does not feel the difference between the online world and the brick & mortar environment that a brand offers’

The first block and the true enabler of Omni-channel would be “the Right Technology”. This is not necessarily the existence of one or more technologies, but more the technology’s ability to integrate seamlessly to form a well oiled machine where input and output of data is uncomplicated, non-repetitive and accessible where and when needed.
The clear outcome of having the right fit of technology is the access to data in real-time.

For Vasanth Kumar, Executive Director, Max Fashions, ‘Omni-Channel is convergence, and digital retailing is the logical progression for India’

The second block is the “Single View of Inventory”. Macy’s in a communication to its vendors put it simply as, ‘Single View of Inventory (SVI) improves our ability to manage and optimize overall inventory investment and react to customer demand’. In essence having a single view of inventory enables you to pinpoint accurately where stock is at every point in your supply chain. With the right Omni-channel technology you can now control stock movement, locations and prices. You can fulfill demand from the most convenient supply point with the speed and efficiency of the sum of the various moving parts (like inventories, warehousing, transportation logistics etc.)

The singular benefit of having this single view of inventory is that the customer should be able to Order from anywhere and the brand should be able to fulfill these orders from the most optimum stock point. This could be retail stores or warehouses that act as fulfillment centers.
The customer benefits from having the endless aisle at his fingertips; where inventory of products is not constrained by shelf space in a brick & mortar environment.

For G Sankar, CEO, Reliance Footprints ‘being Omni-Channel allows consumers to seamlessly toggle from one channel to the other’

The third block that follows is the “Single View of Customer”. A single view of customer is an aggregated, consistent and holistic representation of the data known by an organization about its customers. It enables the organization to understand aspects of ‘how they shop’, ‘what they buy’, ‘where they spend their time’ and ‘what they value’. An aggregation of personal data and behavourial patterns is possible through a unifying identity. Thus, being where your customer is, regardless of the channel being used, ensures that your brand establishes comfort, connect and continuity in customer engagement.
The direct benefits of having a single view of the customer are: improved personalization and customer service, better customer retention, higher conversion rates and an improved overall customer lifetime value.
The benefits to the customer are: more convenience with the ability to buy from one channel and return through another; and the availability of information enabling better informed  decisions and guided purchase journeys.

Having “the right technology” leads to having the “single view of inventory” and a “single view of the customer”. Using the three as building blocks effectively and their co-existence in your brand eco-system will multiply the brand outcomes manifold.