Omni-channel is the new black, and its appeal is clear: a seamless brand and shopping experience across all channels is the natural evolution of retail. And it’s a powerful driver of customer loyalty in a new world where flexibility is the default and competitors are a click away. But does omni-channel fit every business? Is the supply chain pain worth the gain? And why does the omni-channel journey of so many retailers stall just as it seems to be taking off?
The value of omni-channel comes from customers perceiving the company as the same, whether they come to it by a mobile device or website, or on foot. But achieving that perception is about far more than look and feel, for below the surface the real work involves making substantial and fundamental changes to the supply chain. And that’s hard.
A truly omni-channel supply chain provides the online customer with the products, colors, prices, discounts, service, and returns policy that they would find in a bricks and mortar store. Unfortunately, the years of hard work you’ve invested fine-tuning logistics for your current channels are likely not sufficient for omni-channel operation. Perhaps the locations and working hours of your warehouse and delivery fleet will be the problem. Or perhaps the very nature of the goods you provide is simply unsuited to decentralized distribution. For these and other reasons, we’ve seen many retailers launch their omni-channel journey, only to reduce their high ambitions, debate ambiguous results, or pull out completely, just as they seemed to be gathering pace.
Logistics people have long told us to use our supply chain to create service, but what happens when the supply chain becomes the roadblock? In a world where retailers rarely discuss their back-end purchasing or logistics, benchmarks are hard to come by. Fortunately, with our insights and experience of hands-on supply chain transformation in the omni arena, we can help you evaluate what’s most important for your business, make pragmatic decisions about your existing supply chain, and customize your level of change and integration.
Omni-channel is the path, but it’s not the destination. If your business is ready to start its omni-channel journey – or if your journey has stalled – then it’s time to carefully examine your ideal customer offering. Ask yourself this? What do you want to achieve? What do you have already? And what might stop you? Your supply chain is a precious asset, but it could also be holding you back from your vision. Revising your supply chain strategy does cost, but what is the opportunity cost of not going the right way?