Report: Retailers are misinterpreting 'omnichannel'

Dive Brief:

  • Retailers may be misinterpreting the phrase “omnichannel," according to a report from the O Alliance and data analytics company Revmetrix, “Retail Transformation Underway.” 

  • While “omnichannel” should mean that a retailer is able to sell and serve its customers regardless of whether they’re in store, online, or on their phones, too often retailers attempt that while segmenting channels and having them operate separately from each other.

  • Instead, retailers should be integrating their teams, their inventories, and their analytics so that they’re not all operating in silos, O Alliance co-founder Andrea Weiss said at a presentation of the report, according to New York Business Journal.

Dive Insight:

Marshall Field is famous for saying “Give the lady what she wants,” a phrase that has become a retail axiom. Among his retail innovations, way back in the 19th century, were no-questions-asked returns, in-store amenities like a nursery for children, a restaurant, lounges that people could use to hold meetings, and home delivery, all of which could be considered "omnichannel."

While many retailers might take “give the customer what they want” as a sort of acquiescence to perhaps outré demands, it should mean—according to experts like Weiss and others—that the retailer is customer-focused. That involves gleaning important information about merchandise assortment and inventory services from customers in order to make decisions that can be applied more widely. Especially, says Brett Wickard, founder-president of “lean retail” analytics firm FieldStack, from those particular customers whose behavior and preferences can be extrapolated into useful data.

Wickard, like Weiss, has told Retail Dive that retailers too often have loads of information that are held in silos, making it useless in the kind of truly “omnichannel” decisions about inventory, merchandise, and localization that could make it an indispensable place for many people to shop. And what he calls “lean retail” analytics enables retailers to quickly change or add merchandise or services when data tells them what they need.

“How you get that right is through true omnichannel, and knowing which buyers are buying which things,” says Wickard. “You don’t always have to be right,” he says of retailers. “You have to be wrong for a shorter amount of time.”

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