The trend of Omnichannel refers to the progressive synchronization and combination of all product sales, distribution, and return channels accessible to a customer. This trend goes further than a multichannel system in which the customer is exposed to many channels but must buy and return through the same channel. Omnichannel systems empower the customer to browse in all channels and select any channel for purchase, product receipt, and return.
The seamless integration of online and offline channels with a clear focus on the end customer is at the heart of a successful omnichannel strategy. For example, 1/3rd of US shoppers said that, since the pandemic, omnichannel features such as the ability to buy online and pickup in store (BOPIS) have become part of their regular shopping routine. The start of 2022 with the reopening of brick-and-mortar stores has also shown that retail stores still have high value for end customers and companies, as retailers are also increasingly using stores as strategic distribution channels. Only by exploiting and connecting all potential channels can an omnichannel strategy be established successfully, especially in the e-commerce retail and fashion sector. While this is a challenging task, it opens up a very lucrative market – the total global value of omnichannel distribution is expected to increase every year by 7%, reaching up to 840 billion USD by 2025.
In recent years, more and more companies have recognized the great potential of implementing omnichannel strategies. Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are investing heavily in e-commerce programs; for example, Walmart announced an investment in the Indian e-commerce company Flipkart of 1.2 billion USD in 2020, and e-commerce companies are investing in traditional store retail concepts that leverage the offline channel as well, like Amazon’s chain of convenience stores Amazon Go and supermarket chain Whole Foods Market. This illustrates the importance of this trend to corporate agendas. Omnichannel strategies require sophisticated supply chain management to deliver the promised customer experience as, for example, planning, lead times, inventory levels, and locations become more complex. However, it will still take 2 to 3 years before most companies are able to design and implement a comprehensive omnichannel strategy for day-to-day operations, transport networks, and IT systems.