Demystifying the hype
Omni-channel has been the retail industry’s buzzword for the better half of the last decade. Across boardrooms, investors’ calls, business planning meetings and in-store, the term omni-channel comes up as a perennial agenda item for most organized retailers across the world. But the reality is that whether you call it omni-channel, multi-channel, experiential retail or even new retail, very few brands and retailers have a cohesive idea of their physical + digital roadmaps and, more importantly, what this new way of servicing customers can really do for a retail business.
While omni-channel visionaries paint the future of seamless, high-tech, intra-session, crosschannel journeys across the purchase funnel, most retailers must still grapple with the brass tacks realities of defining their omni-channel vision and making the right ground-zero decisions to realize it.
Amongst all the noise of new channels, e-tail innovation, in-store technologies, and omni-vanity metrics, retailers who excel in this new way of selling find a balance between the existential reality of doing omni-channel versus getting sucked into a vortex of investments with lacking returns. Against the backdrop of day-to-day realities of hyper competition, rising retail costs of business, and productivity, these retailers are able to draw clear lines between the must haves, nice to haves, and pies-in-the-sky omni-channel journeys to focus their retail transformation efforts. These retailers also look beyond the technology and treat omni-channel as a fundamental change management process in their organizations to achieve the true benefits.
At an industry event, panelists comprising stalwarts of the retail industry, took a hard look at the true essence of omni-channel beyond the buzzwords, hype, and outside-in esoterics. Specifically, the panel addressed hard-hitting topics for retailers and articulated the view points of industry practitioners who have delivered customer delight and ROI on omni-channel. The panelists were: Anshu Dubey, Executive Director, Distribution Sector, IBM; Atul Madan, Director Retail, SSIPL; Deven Pabaru, Chief Strategy & Implementation Officer, Stellar Value Chain Solutions; Kavindra Mishra, MD & CEO, Pepe Jeans; Uma Talreja, Chief Digital Officer, Raymond; H.S. Sidhu, President, Mufti; Pooran Jaiswal, CTO, Globus Stores; Jaideep Shetty, Co-founder & MD, Minerals Fashion. The session was moderated by Mukul Bafana, Co-founder and CEO, Arvind Internet and Harmeet Bajaj, Fashion Academician, Consultant and Partner, Impresario (Social).
To put things in the context, Mukul Bafana started by talking about how retailers can get their omni-channel strategies right. “We need a well-sequenced approach to get the ROI from our business. For this, we need to act on the omnichannel playbook. A key principal of the omnichannel model is to keep the business features centred around consumers. We need to understand our customers’ needs and build the appropriate channels to help them in their shopping journeys. Omni-channel is a transformation journey, so the playbook needs to be sequenced in a manner that helps us create a futuristic roadmap.” Expanding on the omni-channel theme further, Harmeet Bajaj asked the panelists about their omni-channel journeys and to share their experience.
Atul Madan of SSIPL spoke about Nike’s omnichannel journey and said, “We run close to 170 stores for Nike in India and we are concentrating on maintaining hygiene in inventory and supply chain. We rolled out our omni-channel strategy about 18 months ago, and it has given us incremental sale of around 5-7 per cent even though our omni-channel
We need a well sequenced approach to get the ROI from our business. For this, we need to act on the omni-channel playbook. A key principal of the omnichannel model is to keep the business features centred around consumers. — Mukul Bafana Co-founder and CEO, Arvind Internet
model is nowhere competing with the e-commerce business of the brand.”
Kavindra Mishra of Pepe Jeans talked about how omni-channel adds value to the consumer experience and the importance of inventory turnover operations. “Technology intervention should add to the consumer experience. Within six months, we are planning to come out with e-commerce and omnichannel retail interfaces.” Anshu Dubey of IBM gave his take on omni-channel. “Omni-channel is a journey from brick to clicks. The roadmap of a brand needs to be very clear about where you want to lead so that your various formats or alternate channels don’t cannibalize each other’s business.” Uma Talreja of Raymond said: “A lot of us talk about omnichannel as a supply and fulfillment experience and there are lots of operational efficiencies related to it. But we believe that we need to gauge and regain consumer trust and experience to save the sales.”
H.S. Sidhu recounted his experience of how Mufti is marrying the omni-channel strategy between COCO and FOFO stores. He said: “If any franchisee is serving on behalf of other franchisee, I have no problem in giving extra margins to them.
We all are multi-channel and my idea of omnichannel is to navigate between the mediums. Our omni-channel strategy is at a nascent stage but we are focused on making it big. I will lead my omnichannel strategy from my stores.” On his part, Jaideep Shetty spoke of the omni-channel strategy of Minerals Fashion. “We have been looking to ramp up sales from our shop-in-shops and in a couple of months we will be launching an app that will help us to generate more sales by assuring greater accessibility. It will help drive our sales strategy from online to the store.”