O2O for eTailers: how to deliver the OmniChannel experience to your customers
“I think eCommerce for many years was an interesting trend, but it was on the side, largely, of what was happening in retail. Today we don’t even know what eCommerce means. They’ve just come together, the online and the offline. Now, every merchant, every retailer must have an OmniChannel strategy or they won’t survive.” – Devin Wenig, President, eBay Marketplaces
Today’s shoppers are always connected. They want to browse Online, research Offline, chat with a sales associate in the store to add to their knowledge, touch and feel the merchandise in the store, pay from an e-wallet, get the purchase delivered home, picked up from a store/nearby location, reserved at a location of their choice and enjoy same or near same day delivery.
Source: Forrester Consulting Research
Customers expect convenience in shopping and flexibility in order delivery like never before. In this scenario, OmniChannel is no more an option for Online brands; “Omnipresence” is an immediate imperative.
O2O (Online to Offline) transformation can enable online brands to provide a seamless shopping experience to their customers, across multiple sales channels such as online stores and mobile apps as well as brick and mortar stores.
In an attempt to establish touchpoints for customers to touch and feel their merchandise, Online brands and marketplaces are going Offline. The touchpoints can be in the form of collection centers, express retail stores and vintage locations, e.g. shopping malls
Interestingly, Online brands and marketplaces are trying various means to court customers including:
- Offering extra conveniences –Buy online, pickup from store; Cash on Delivery, Reserve Orders, and Payment through Credit/Debit Cards or eWallets etc. have emerged as an important strategy to provide convenience to customers. Customers look for this flexibility as they do not have to wait at billing counters, keep cash, wait for deliveries, travel to a distant store or pay shipping charges.
- Setting up kiosks in departmental stores, shopping malls. Collaborating with retailers by working in conjunction with them for trials in stores etc. Several eTailers are now going for hybrid retailing, which is a mix of Online and Offline channels. The companies are opening kiosks/franchisee outlets and tying up with retailers. This model not only helps eTailers increase their sales, it also eliminates worries about shipping, logistics and warehousing costs and challenges.
Fulfillment options like these are gaining huge popularity among online store owners and shoppers alike. They allow a shopper to buy from an online channel and then collect the items from the retail store. Today, retailers like Argos are not considered as competitors, but partners in this win-win situation.
The Offline – Online – Offline continuum throws up multiple collaboration opportunities for the entire ecosystem.
- Sell on multiple marketplaces: Online brands and Brick n Mortar retailers can sell their items on a partner marketplace like Amazon, eBay, Flipkart etc. Many brands & SMEs have built a business model to grow domestically and internationally by selling on multiple marketplaces.
- Retailers as a fulfillment partner: As customers shop Online on eStore or marketplaces like Amazon, Ralali, Nykaa etc. – they see options for regular delivery or pick up from the store. Additionally, if the location of the store is close to the customer, the order can be directly shipped to the customer to save time and logistics cost.
In both the scenarios the key to facilitating this is having a real-time view of the inventory in the partner store and integrations of store systems with eCommerce system to ensure they have this information.
- Sell Cross-border: SMEs, Online brands, retailers and CPGs, all have the opportunity to not only reach customers domestically but also internationally, across multiple countries so long as the cost of the products along with shipping costs allows them to sell profitably.
There are many shipping platforms today which facilitate item handling, customs management and local deliveries in multiple countries which allow you to sell on your web-stores or on marketplaces. Already, many SMEs use this model to sell extensively across continents. Cross-border is poised to grow and the smart multi-channel retailer will exploit the opportunities to collaborate with 3PLs and marketplaces to grow their revenues.
How can O2O tranformation be achieved through technology?
A typical Online brand (eTailer) makes investments in the following systems:
- Order Management Systems: To manage and streamline orders across channels.
- Warehouse Management Systems: For B-B and B-C eCommerce fulfillment.
While the respective building blocks are best of the breed in their domain, they are not geared to meet the functionality/flexibility required to support additional sales channels. Thus, Some of the key areas to address include:
- Update and synchronization of inventory in real time between both online and offline channels
- Online order fulfillment from single/ multiple partner stores
- Online tracking of orders
- Clean and consistent data across multiple channels and applications
- Cloud POS to set up express stores or kiosks, order to easily support their small stores.
The first step in enabling offline operations is to collaborate with retail chains or set up own kiosks/small stores. The next step is the implementation of different modules in the O2O suite which helps in ensuring a smooth integration with ERP systems, logistics companies/3PLs, in-store systems, web front-ends, and/or marketplaces.
Vin eRetail O2O Suite, has 175+ ready product integrations with web stores/frontend platforms, marketplaces, and 3PLs/last-mile fulfillment companies that provides a complete set of solution to enable the online to offline transformation.
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