How omnichannel seamless shopping experiences are benefitting both brands and buyers – Times of India

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Chief Retail Officer at DaMENSCH
The digital realm has led to unprecedented changes in consumers’ shopping habits. The immediacy of digital has led to customers expecting fast, transparent services along with the freedom to shop both online and offline.
Consumers now begin their shopping journey through mobile phones or tabs and then visit brick-and-mortar outlets to check the items in person. As a result, retailers have been nudged into presenting consumers with an omnichannel shopping experience that integrates online and offline. This hybrid model is beneficial for brands as well as shoppers, thereby transforming the entire retail experience. 
The transition towards an omnichannel model was accelerated by the pandemic-induced lockdowns, which confined people within their homes, forcing them to adopt digital means to purchase essential goods, garments and other items. Even after restrictions have been lifted, consumers and retailers prefer the hybrid model, thanks to the multiple benefits, some of which are detailed below.
Personalised shopping experiences: Perhaps one of the most popular benefits for shoppers is the bespoke shopping experiences offered by the omnichannel model leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and data analytics. Due to the massive amounts of data generated online and offline, AI, ML and analytics help in gleaning great insights about consumer preferences, likes, dislikes, buying behaviour and more. Whenever consumers browse online, products like them then pop up periodically. Backed by bespoke product information, the pop-ups inflate the chances of sales conversions. 
Big data analytics: Consumer data generated via the hybrid model assists in understanding the online and offline purchase practices of customers. Given the AI and ML inputs, data analytics decodes customers’ favourite shopping channels and preferred products. The next time the customer shops, his/her favoured products are displayed through the preferred channel. Besides enhancing product visibility, it boosts sales prospects because buyers can find their favourite items without much effort.
Multiple touchpoints: With omnichannel, brands can interact with individuals through the platform of their choice, fostering a positive shopping experience. An omnichannel approach benefits both customers and retailers. While customers enjoy more services and various delivery options, retailers maintain better sales and higher revenues through efficient delivery options. The overall benefits enhance customer loyalty in the long run.
Scaling orders according to demand: During the festive season, sudden spikes in demand can occur. As omnichannel operates with the latest technology tools, a sales surge can be met by routing orders through OMS (order management system), ensuring better handling of inventory. This helps retailers respond with more flexibility by increasing or decreasing fulfilment centre orders in meeting customer demand. OMS was particularly important during the pandemic because consumer habits had changed overnight, with more shoppers buying online and ordering items in bulk to offset the possibility of delivery delays. 
Promoting endless aisles: Through the endless aisles approach, retailers can help in-store shoppers order items from an online store during their visit. The in-store application permits consumers to browse and buy goods not available within the retail store. Endless aisles can ensure a reduced loss of sales arising from the size or product unavailability, increased cross-selling and upselling as well as better brand management through superior, multichannel physical store services.
Retail stores double as fulfilment centres: Many consumers now place orders and make payments online but prefer to pick up the products from stores after checking the items in person. Therefore, retailers have introduced the BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) option. The positive consumer experience ensures that returns and refunds are virtually negligible since customers satisfy themselves about the product in person. Greater customer loyalty is another productive outcome of this model as retail stores are also designed to operate as mini-fulfilment centres. Consequently, there is better inventory management, reducing supply chain expenses.
Diverse payment options: Today, consumers have the choice of paying through credit or debit cards plus other online payment modes such as UPI, Paytm, Phone Pe, Google Pay and others – not to mention cash or COD (cash on delivery). Diverse payment options help reduce the incidents of cart abandonment – one of the problems with online transactions. Thanks to various payment options, retailers have benefitted from higher sales and revenues.
Leveraging augmented reality: A digitalised version of physical reality, augmented reality (AR) uses audio and video technology to provide customers with a real-life experience. Since an omnichannel approach caters to customers shopping via varied modes – mobile, desktop, in-store or BOPIS – AR integrations are part of the overall retail strategies. AR and VR (virtual reality) tools came into play during the pandemic-linked lockdowns. As businesses were mandated to temporarily down shutters, enterprises used AR/VR tools to keep their BCPs (business continuity plans) running while employees worked from home.
Though pandemic restrictions have been largely removed, retailers and consumers appreciated the seamless sales and purchase experience that omnichannel tools provide. Brands have economised on inventory space through endless aisles and other strategies, lowering expenses. Likewise, consumers have gained from the broad spectrum of products and multiple payment options available through omnichannel. As per the estimates of market analysts, the integration of online and offline has seen sales soar by nearly 30%, boosted customer engagement by almost 160% and curbed return rates as much as 37% – apart from offering an unparalleled shopping experience for customers.
Considering the above advantages, it is apparent that the omnichannel model benefits both brands and buyers through seamless shopping experiences. 
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Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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