Omni-channel is like a second skin for participants in the fashion and leisure industries (which include clothes, footwear, and accessories) in developed economies. It is how customers engage with brands and merchants. Think about this More than 40% of US shops provide “Buy-online-return-in-store” (BORIS) services. The ‘Click & Collect’ option that shops provide is used by more than 60% of consumers in the US.
This adoption is less pronounced in India, which is closer to home. The implementation and outcomes of omnichannel have not been very impressive, except for a small number of players.
Because of concerns about theft and the cheap cost of manpower for sales and delivery staff in India, several features (such as BORIS, C&C, and self-checkout) may not be as significant there. However, a lot of it relates to issues with execution, organizational competency, and buy-in.
However, customers are demanding more, and the Covid-19 epidemic is expected to increase the share of transactions that take place throughout the whole consumer experience across both digital and physical channels. For instance, a sizable portion of consumers who previously solely made purchases offline will begin making purchases online while still wishing to use their “offline loyalty points.”
At the same time, offline channels like “touch-and-feel” and retail therapy will always be necessary. However, customers may wish to reduce the likelihood of a fruitless visit by verifying product availability on the shelf using the real-time inventory view on the brand or retailer’s website.
Given this, it is crucial to pinpoint the essential omnichannel components that would still be relevant in the context of Indian retail after COVID-19. The top three are as follows:
Integrated loyalty programs and promotions
Enabling cross-channel promos and loyalty programs for customers is virtually a hygiene need as more and more people move their shopping online. There are clear advantages to doing this; for instance, members of Pottery Barn’s cross-channel loyalty scheme spent three times as much money and bought twice as often.
Several well-known companies (brands and merchants) have implemented this aspect in India, although widespread acceptance has not yet been seen. Players also need to consider how customers may log in to purchases made on the marketplace and still earn loyalty points with the brand, given the prevalence of marketplaces in the online realm.
In a post-Covid era, physical stores could be bigger to accommodate for cozy distances. The necessity to increase profitability will also put a cap on store sizes. When these two factors are combined, less inventory will be kept on-site. Even customers could want to see the remainder of the items digitally, with only a small number of sterile products available for in-person testing. Enter a maze of aisles. Consumers may secure their purchase of these virtual goods using a tab or something equivalent, and the goods would then be transported to their homes or made accessible for pick-up in-store in a few hours or days. These virtual goods might be at nearby stores or e-commerce warehouses.
In India, endless aisles have been used more frequently than other omnichannel components. They provide definite advantages: If a mass-market retailer added limitless aisles to certain of their locations, the ‘available inventory’ may increase by 2.5 times, eventually leading to a 15% increase in-store conversions.
Get Delivery from the store
Providing an online inventory view, as well as ordering and in-store shipment, can provide several benefits. It might cost more than Rs 100 to get a pair of shoes shipped from a local warehouse in Gurugram to a consumer in Jaipur. This cost may be cut in half or more by having a nearby retailer complete the order. The delivery period may also be dramatically shortened, going from a few days to a few hours. After Covid, consumers who work from home may demand same-day delivery services to mimic the quick gratification (touch, feel, try-on, and buy) experience.
This factor has begun to be increased by a few Indian players, and the advantages are obvious. A major fashion brand, for instance, witnessed a 20 percent increase in-store sales after partnering with a few online retailers who offered a ship-from-store option. The earlier-discussed options to “view store inventory” and “book time slot in-store” are scaled-down choices inside this section.
The answer to the question “what” has to be done is very obvious, but “how” is trickier. Brands and retailers must be aware of the skills required to successfully implement omnichannel. Several important factors:
Systems and technology are essential. For example, ship-from-store requires a unified picture of inventory across stores and warehouses with low latency. A product might be reserved with the promise of an incorrect delivery time, or worse, it could result in an eventual cancellation, if records are updated even an hour late.