You’ve been hearing the term everywhere, and you’re wondering: “What is omnichannel retail?” Beyond that, you may be nervous that it is out of reach for your retail chain. 

This post clarifies the principles of omnichannel retail, and lists things your chain can do to adopt it. We will also clarify the difference between omni-channel retail, multi-channel retail and single-channel retail.

What is Omnichannel Retail?

Omnichannel retail is an integrated form of multi-channel retail, where the customer experience is seamless across devices and retail chain touchpoints — because the chain’s technology and inventory are managed through a unified technology stack and management approach.

With omni-channel retail (also called omnichannel commerce), the entire chain inventory for all online stores and brick-and-mortar stores is managed as one unified body. The customer has access to this unified inventory through any retail chain touch point and on any device. These shoppers can manage purchases seamlessly between those touchpoints and devices.

To the customer, this means options and ease. You help them shop online for e-commerce purchases that ship to their home. They can see inventory at their local store for buy online/pickup in store (BOPIS) purchases. You enable them to research product availability in multiple nearby stores for same-day pickup. And these customers use one account across their laptop, mobile phone and in-store visits.

Omnichannel vs. Multi-channel

Omni-channel commerce is different from traditional multi-channel retail. Multi-channel provides multiple touch points across devices and between online and in-store sales, but interactions across touchpoints are not integrated. The e-store and street stores draw from different inventory lots, and work from different retail software systems.

To the customer, multi-channel feels old school. You allow them to buy online but only for home delivery. They can’t see available inventory at their nearby store for same-day pickup. Perhaps they have to pick up the phone for answers.

Omnichannel vs. Single Channel

As you may guess, single channel retailers are just one thing — all online or all brick and mortar. Now, we love independent brick-and-mortar chains and we advocate that everyone supports local retail. But omnichannel retail is now possible for any retail chain (keep reading for more on this).

The Benefits of Omnichannel for Retailers

Much is said about e-commerce killing brick-and-mortar retail, but the truth is that omni-channel is now the dominant approach. 

This is evident in the increased e-commerce market share taken by Wal-mart, Target and other omnichannel retailers. These big-box chains have store networks that double as on-the-ground e-commerce distribution centers. Amazon itself cast a vote for omni-channel by acquiring Whole Foods — a move that provides a distribution network to support Amazon’s grocery e-commerce goals.

How to Be an Omnichannel Retail Chain

The truth is, omnichannel retail is an approach to retail chain management that, until recently, was only available to big box chains. Why? Because the method is so data intensive that only large corporations could afford the data management technology and teams of analysts required.

Enter FieldStack retail management software. FieldStack offers you a suite of omnichannel retail tech that powers any retail chain with the advanced capabilities of global retail brands.

FieldStack provides you with automated inventory software that manages inventory across e-stores, street stores, and third-party marketplaces in one system. 

This unified inventory is then available through integrated e-commerce and point of sale software tools. This enables your customers to research online/buy offline (ROBO). buy online/pickup-in store (BOPIS). It allows you to offer same-day delivery from nearby stores. It empowers great customer service from any employee anywhere.

Once FieldStack’s technology is implemented, we support our clients in adopting fulfillment systems that meet the new array of purchase options. How do you arrange your store for curbside pickup? How do you fulfill e-commerce purchases within your stores? We provide retail strategy consultation to help.

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Old school Point of saleRetail shopping cart in a woman's hand