Becoming Omnipotent on Omnichannel

A look at Imperative #1 for Rethinking Retail

The retail community has faced remarkable challenges, opportunities, and change over the past year. Circumstances triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic have changed consumers, retailers, and the ecosystem around them in extraordinary ways. To ensure success moving forward, retailers will need to draw on lessons learned from the pandemic to make strategic investments and accelerate existing efforts in key areas. Our recent research with knowledge partner McKinsey & Company – Retail Speaks – defines these key areas via seven imperatives. The insight below dives into imperative #1, which focuses on the need to create seamless omnichannel experiences for retailers’ long-term success.

Imperative 1 – Become Omnipotent on Omnichannel

Omnichannel has been a buzzword—and trend—in retail for several years.  But the distance between using the term and successfully implementing a seamless customer experience can be a long journey for retailers. 

The crucible of COVID-19 lit a fire under retailers who had planned on a longer timeline to achieve their omnichannel goals.  The dramatic acceleration of ecommerce adoption in 2020 truly turned omnichannel from—as one CEO put it—a “nice to have” into a “must have.”

There are many elements to a successful omnichannel strategy.  Supply chain may be one of the most crucial. 
To achieve the seamless, frictionless customer experience, it is necessary to have a supply chain that is agile, flexible, and resilient—an interconnected and practically living entity.  A retailer’s network is essentially the framework on which omnichannel execution is built.  Since the pandemic’s onset, virtually every large retailer has been reevaluating their network in the context of rapid ecommerce growth and future trajectory—assessing the role and interplay of each element: distribution and fulfillment centers, brick & mortar stores, vendors and suppliers, solution provider partners, and more.

Stores in particular are a muscle that saw great development over the past year. Throughout the pandemic, many retailers launched or ramped up tactics like buy online pickup in store, curbside pickup, and ship from store.  Leading retailers think of stores in the context of a market strategy rather than as a bunch of independent endpoints.

Are DCs and fulfillment operations sited in the right locations to meet customers’ expectations for ever-faster delivery?  What store replenishment strategies lead to better performance on all-important inventory accuracy metrics?  Are warehouse robots the best way to improve efficiency and productivity, especially in a challenging labor market?  How can data and analytics better enable top performance on key customer metrics?  It seems each question begets countless more on the road to omnichannel progress.

The array of omnichannel necessities is great, and the answers and priorities are different for each retailer.  To successfully prioritize and thrive, retailers must be guided by the voice of their customer, and by their own core brand DNA.
To learn more about the 1st imperative in our Retail Speaks report, download your copy here. For additional information on RILA’s communities engaging directly on these topics, please contact VP of Supply Chain Jess Dankert.
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