Redefining Omnichannel: How To Be Where Your Customers Are

The defining tenet of any successful omnichannel strategy is one where customer experience is fundamental and sacrosanct across channels

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In today’s entrepreneurial climate, the channels of retail at one’s disposal are limitless. As any brand charts out their business model, the one true north remains the same: a seamless customer experience. Between a purely offline model to a 100 per cent digital retail system, the spectrum is wide. However, the one emerging business model in a post-pandemic world is Omnichannel: an intricate balance of online and offline retail channels, coupled with a unique storytelling experience and marketing initiatives.

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The defining tenet of any successful omnichannel strategy is one where customer experience is fundamental and sacrosanct across channels. Speed and flexibility, defined as the “minimum processing time” by the business gurus is pivotal, and responsiveness is key. In the saturated marketplace that exists across industries today, reliability and transparency in communication, be it of processes, supply chain and even value systems enhances customer trust and in turn experience.

When we examine customer experiences and journeys, multiple channels contribute to the final purchase decision. Research online, purchase offline and vice-versa, with a mix of social media communication and quick feedback channels give rise to innumerable customer journeys. For a brand, mapping these channels extensively through robust data analytics and evaluating channel performance within the category they function in, is key to being where your customers are. For example, chat as a channel today is fast gaining market share. Retail offers a deeply personal shopping experience that can help build brand loyalty for years to come. In the digital world, live agents on video call are playing the role of personal shoppers, solving complex problems and demonstrating empathy. The educational component as well as the consumer's need for actual product experience that they enjoy in retail however is more difficult to solve online. Globally, shopping online and picking up in-person is becoming the norm and this is something that can be seen in tier I, II and III cities in India.

Being where your customers are also gives brands the unique opportunity to tell their story and showcase brand experience across multiple channels. With the onset of digital commerce, the cost of entry is minimal, giving brands the previously-unheard-of opportunity to build their equity online and create a physical presence once they are ready. The pandemic has further accelerated this, with e-commerce becoming the norm, across categories and functions. This also gives rise to an invaluable set of data: consumer insights.

The gold mine that any digital business sits on today is consumer insights that are born out of all the channels that it communicates with its customers through. Social media insights give brands a sneak peek into the aspects of the brand’s story and personality that resonate most with their audience. Through the ROPO model, the customer demand can be gauged before any new product hits the market. Finally, studying sales trends, product-to-market fit, consumer feedback that measures conversion and returns, gives businesses data to make smarter, swifter decisions and mitigate risks; i.e., a host of advantages to make your D2C business a true success in the 21st century entrepreneurial climate. In a country like India, the vast geography and diverse target audience creates multiple barriers of entry when it comes to establishing a physical footprint. Keeping consumer insights as one’s true north allows brands to physically enter a market place after continuous dipsticks to gauge demand, response as well as consumer behavior.

Customer value creation is truly the holy grail of omnichannel. Too many businesses focus on technology but at the end of the day, the customer has to be front and centre for any omnichannel strategy to work. With ever-evolving customer behaviour and preferences, an agile team that can stay ahead of the curve is where the real opportunity is for brands. Within the Indian subcontinent, a 50km distance is enough to alter culture, demand, climate, spending power, customer need and behavior and eventually purchase decisions. The true power of omnichannel is to be where your customers are, but with the plethora of avenues that exist today, an agile, data-rich brand with their ear to the ground can do this with minimal risk and maximum returns.