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Why Every Retailer Needs to Be Fully Omnichannel, Which Includes Having Bricks & Mortar Stores

eft’s CEO Chris Saynor has written a new column which looks at how bricks and mortar retailers who fully embrace omnichannel can gain an advantage on pure play online retailers such as Amazon

There are a couple of supply chain related topics that have been on my mind at the moment which I’m going to use in the column this week to vent about one.

Omni-channel retail: It is surely common knowledge that consumers simply want an integrated, unified shopping experience. They want to buy something from a retailer in store on the phone or online and want to have the option to have it delivered at a time and to a place that is convenient for them. That is what the retail experience has to be now, yet most companies do not have the capabilities to offer the above yet….

….it makes me want to grab these retail execs and shout at them ‘it’s not an option, you have to do this, and do it quickly and do it well!’

I know it’s hugely complicated and expensive, with a lot of supply chain technology involved, but the pace of change needs to speed-up. But there are also simple things that retailers can do to give the customer a better experience. For example I was in Palm Beach last month buying a gift at a very well know womenswear store and the customer in front of me was trying to return something she purchased online. The sales assistant explained that they could not accept the return as it was bought online, which is unfortunately quite common, but then compounded the situation by trying to explain that the online store and the physical store are different companies (which they are not). Retailers need to think about the communication that they have with customers regarding their online presence and ensure the staff are informed as such.

I truly believe that bricks and mortar retailers have the potential to beat the pure online players such as Amazon, but only if they offer the same delivery options as the online players and truly integrate their inventory, returns and customer message across all channels. Consumers want to purchase items when they want, and they want those items delivered when they want; but the USP of being able to also offer the chance to pick up items at stores, be able to speak face-to-face with human sales assistants, get advice, to try and test things and a place you can return and exchange items without resorting to mailing items will be very hard for a pure play online retailer to compete with…IF the bricks and mortar retailer can truly step-up their levels of automation and delivery options.

I believe that Amazon and others will in the next 12-24 months make some acquisitions or will create more partnerships with physical stores, or they will create their own bricks and mortar presence, because once (as they will eventually, even without access to Kiva robots or drones) the bricks and mortar competition catches-up, then it is the Wal-Marts, Office Depots and Sears of the world who will be the only ones able to satisfy all of the consumers retail expectations in 2015 and beyond. The market to look towards is the UK, which has one of the most established online retail markets, but it is the bricks and mortar retailers such as Tesco, Argos and John Lewis that are now the front runners. For those of you that know the UK market, my advice to Amazon would be…..”buy Argos”.

To ensure you are up-to-date on the latest omnichannel supply chain discussions make sure you join me at the CSCO Forum in Chicago on June 11-13 and hear first-hand from and meet with Carhartt ,Sears and BuySeasons. Full details at www.cscoforum.com and complimentary passes are available worth $3000 for qualified retailers and manufacturers