“Omni-channel” or “multi-channel” retailing refers to a seamless shopping experience with in-store, mobile device, computer, catalogue, flyers, etc. Implementing a fully omni-channel environment involves special supply chain software with universal inventory and pricing control, which may be maintained in-house or through a partner marketplace.
Last Fall, a Comscore survey underlined the importance of omni-channel options in Canada. 65% of Canadians said the most important aspect that drives them to choose an online retailer is the ability to exchange purchases in-store. 49% said the ability to pick up their order at an offline store motivates their choice of stores to order from.
Deloitte’s 2013 annual holiday survey stated, “Omni-channel allows consumers to seamlessly shop however they want – online, via mobile, or in-store. In particular, consumers are demanding ‘click and collect’, in-store returns of online purchases, real time inventory updates, and the ability to source out-of-stock items. Canadian retailers must address these demands if they are to fully meet the expectations of today’s consumer.”
Canadian retailers have acknowledged the benefits of omni-channel retail, but have been confused and apprehensive about the process and implementation. A panel discussion about omni-Channel retail at the 2014 Canadian Research Conference revealed some critical insights about the trend in this country. The conference was hosted by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and the Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity (CSCA).
An expert panel at the conference included Chloe Raincock, owner of Heel Boy. Their experience with omni-channel retail from the customer and retail point of view respectively, results in unique insights and observations.
Key panel insights included:
- A thriving Canadian Internet economy is dependent upon long-term vision on the part of both the retailer and the service providers they choose to work with.
- The time between order placement and delivery are critical. Providing customers with the option to pick up their order in-store can speed up the process.
- Canadian retailers need to focus on driving traffic to their website using both traditional search engine marketing and non-traditional traffic generators like blogger outreach campaigns and online marketplaces. Marketplace partners bring in traffic from direct advertising, word-of-mouth, and with loyalty programs.
- Females are often the focus of retailers. However, males are big online shoppers. For example, males represent 60% of Shop.ca’s visitors.
- It’s important that Canadian retailers consider all of their options before entering the online marketplace. Building an in-house eCommerce platform works for some retailers, but others benefit far more from established marketplaces. Furthermore, a combination of the two can be twice as rewarding.
Omni-channel shopping is an involved and relatively expensive strategy to implement. However, it can significantly boost sales and customer satisfaction, while also offering a competitive advantage.
Are you moving towards omni-channel retail? Please share why or why not in the comments below.
✔ You may also be interested in reading:
Online Marketplaces for Canadian Sellers
Canadian Online Shopping and Digital Demands (2013 Statistics)
Canadian eCommerce and Website Marketing Statistics
B2B PR/Marketing Opportunity: New eCommerce Tech Series
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