Omni-channel: Redefining the Online and Physical Retail

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.

Sachin Mehta, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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Indian retail sector has been evolving tremendously with number of customers as well as retailers growing significantly. Several online retailers are contemplating to use multiple channels working in uniformity as a part of their expansion plans. Omni-channel retailing has proved to be a smart customer value proposition which integrates the multiple channels including online, mobile and physical stores in order to deliver the seam less experience to the customers.

India has been a vibrant cash economy where people like to inspect the product from different perspectives and pay afterwards. Despite the number of Indian customers buying online is growing exponentially still the major chunk of sales is driven by physical retail. The brick and mortar shops have been dominating the $600 billion business in India. The Indian retailers have understood the need of conducting a detailed opportunity assessment and providing a tailored business strategy accordingly.  Consequently, the online retailers are a making a strategic move towards the omni-channel distribution network by linking themselves with the local legions in the retail sector. Recently, Snapdeal made a move to connect with the local players as a part of its omni-channel strategy.

According to Bhavik Khaveri, CEO & founder of Ambab Infotech “Retailers have to be online and mobile by default. They should be willing to take risks and experiment. They should leverage existing backend systems and create more integrated experience. A cardinal sin is to consider being online same as being omni-channel. Retailers need to redefine the role of physical stores and blur the difference between online and in-store experience. One should not consider physical and digital as two different business units. Be contextual, personalised and location aware. Do capture data at every touch point.”

Omni-channel systems provide a click-and-collect option for the customer which has proved to be the driving force for the retail sector. Moreover it helps to redefine the purchasing experience of the customers as the firms could track the likes and dislikes of the customers giving a personalized touch to it. With more and more consumers embracing digital technologies in their purchasing behaviour several companies are planning to provide both online as well as offline options for the customers. The physical retailers are also planning to go online so as to cater to a wider customer base. Adidas group has aggressively rolled out its omni-channel strategy to integrate its several stores with shopper-friendly technology in order to deliver the tailored offerings exclusively for the customers.

In the coming years, Indian retail is likely to evolve as a mature and larger market. Retail in India has been a game of market share and market penetration, causing all the serious players to have their war chest ready for when the industry scales multiple times. Omni-channel is a reality that needs to be embraced by every retailer so as to sustain this competitive environment.

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