The gap between click and brick is narrowing.
There is a stark difference between multichannel and omnichannel retailing. Multichannel shopping is simply offering a variety of different sales avenues to customers - people can shop on whichever one they want, but they are disconnected. Merchants typically treat them like siloed divisions with little overlap in terms of operations and shopping experience.
Omnichannel, however, infers a more cohesive shopping experience. Each channel fits together like various puzzle pieces completing a picture. This allows merchants to create a shopping experience that knows no boundaries - people can begin shopping on one channel and finalize the purchase on a different one with little resistance.
Over the past few years, the industry has seen a sharp uptick in omnichannel retailing. Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are actively embracing mobile and online commerce, while conventional pure play online retailers look to open physical locations. As the Economist noted, the "clicks and bricks" strategy is particularly important for online retailers that sell products that cannot be judged effectively through the Web
"For wares that do not have to be displayed in a showroom, online retailers are hard to beat," the news source added. "But it is easier to judge a shoe's fit or an apple's crispness in a real store. Shoppers who crave instant gratification will not get that online."
So, how can pure play online merchants take the experience offline and create an immersive, omnichannel shopping journey? Here are two considerations:
1. Use data across multiple channels
If merchants are selling across multiple channels, they need to be leveraging data from all these different avenues. if someone makes a purchase offline, retailers should seek to connect the purchase to their customer profile. Likewise, online purchases should be tracked in the same way.
This can extend beyond customer information as well. With brick-and-mortar stores, retailers can track interest in items based on foot traffic and collect other metrics as well.
"You can also use offline information to enhance your eCommerce site
," Practical eCommerce suggested. "Utilize in-store analytics tools, such as people counters and sensors, to better understand how your offline customers behave and then compare that with online behavioral data to spot patterns and opportunities."
2. Improve order fulfillment with stores
By extending operations from eCommerce websites to physical stores, merchants gain another key benefit: They can improve their order fulfillment processes.
More physical stores means retailers have more locations to fill orders from. This can not only improve delivery speeds if customers are closer to the brick-and-mortar store than they are regional distribution centers, but it also can reduce shipping costs. Moreover, it adds another degree of flexibility - retailers can choose to fill orders from brick-and-mortar locations to get rid of slow-moving inventory, for example.
In-store fulfillment for online purchase also enables customers to pick up their purchases at nearby brick-and-mortar locations, which improves convenience.
The gap between digital and physical shopping experiences is dwindling, and consumers have come to expect a uniform shopping experience across channels. Merchants that utilize a clicks and bricks approach to their retail operations will benefit in the long run by being better able to serve shoppers.