Omnichannel: Is it still the future of retail?

Since its introduction in the late 2000s, omnichannel has hit buzzword status. For many years, retailers have been striving to give customers this seamless experience. It’s been a decade since Macy’s became the omnichannel poster child. At the time, omnichannel was dubbed the “future of retail.” But now, the future is here. Is the future still omnichannel? Or has its time come to fade into all those other innovations we forgot about?

Omnichannel: The Old Future of Retail

A decade later, it’s now clear that omnichannel did meet the predictions. With e-commerce still on the rise, using multiple channels is a consumer norm. Consumers shop online, offline, on mobile, everything. Today, the buzzword is just what consumers expect. Seamless is no longer something that’s nice to have, it’s what you need. So, where do we go from here?

As Forbes’ Michael Jones says, the old approach to omnichannel is dead. Customers don’t care about what you call it. They expect the seamless, easy browsing and shipping experience. As a result, obsessing over channels may do you more harm than good. The lines between said channels are starting to blur. As a result, it’s time for the walls to come down.

The New Future of Retail

Jones cites Walgreens as a stand out retailer in where cross-channel is going. As Walgreens’ David Sturrus says, customers don’t view them as e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores. Customers just see them as Walgreen’s. For this reason, Walgreens puts their omnichannel focus on the customers, not the channels.

One example of Walgreens blurring the channel lines is with their mobile app. The app offers the typical product and location info, but it also connects with a third-party fitness tracker. Why would Walgreens do this? Well, they offer Balance Rewards to their shoppers for making healthy choices. It’s with strategies like this that they are combining physical and digital channels.

Omnichannel was the response to customers shopping anywhere at any time. It pushed retailers to offer a seamless experience from channel to channel. But, it’s no longer about the specific channels. It’s time to open up this idea from shopping in multiple channels to shopping without boundaries. What can you do to remove barriers for your shoppers?

One way Target is doing this is with their showroom of online patio furniture. Customers come in to the physical showroom, browse, and ultimately place orders online. Target is finding new ways of engaging with shoppers, breaking down walls between channels.

It’s clear that the customer experience will be the future for omnichannel. Walgreens and Target are forgoing the channel focus and instead working to give customers what they want. Retailers should focus on improving this experience across all channels. As Cerasis says, it’s about unifying the experience not the operations.

In conclusion, as the world develops your cross-channel strategies will have to change with it.  As channel lines blur, focusing on your customers and their demands is the key to staying ahead. Is omnichannel dead? No. It’s just evolving.