The “most common” definition of Omni-channel retailing is enabling customers to shop and return merchandise across any of the channels (stores, e-commerce, catalog, mobile). Catalog and mobile channels being a relatively small portion of the sales for most retailers, it effectively reduces the problem to store and e-commerce.
A lot of retailers have been doing “multi-channel” retailing for decades. Two things changed:
- Rise in e-commerce spending leading to a larger share of revenue from e-commerce.
- Consumers shopping behavior – Earlier there was a belief that the consumer who shops in a store is different from the consumer who shops online. This belief has been invalidated. There is consensus that the same consumer shops across channels and they expect a more seamless shopping experience.
In summary, a lot of retailers have been operating multiple channels for the last two decades. However, they have been operating in silos internally as well as customer facing. Omni-channel requires a retailer to eliminate the silos from a customer experience perspective as well as internal operations. To put a marketing phrase around it: “One customer, One inventory, One price, One Experience”.