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The Crucial Role of Omni-channel in Retail

3rd November 2016


Recently, I was fascinated reading the views of Badri Narayanan, Global Vice President of Customer Development at Unilever, on the importance of omni-channel for retailers. Unilever is one of the biggest consumer focused companies in the world and has to manage retailers in almost every country – if he thinks that omni-channel is where retailers need to go then it validates much of what I have blogged about in the past.

But delivering an omni-channel experience is not just about raising the bar and improving the level of customer service you offer; as far as Narayanan is concerned, if you are in retail and not adopting omni-channel processes then you will not survive. As he told the Warc business blog: “You won’t survive in this era of e-commerce [and] digitised economy… you will not survive the next ten years if you’re not good enough.

“From an omni-channel perspective, you need to realize that a consumer doing research offline can end up buying it online. He can research online [but] end up buying it offline. Or he could do both online and offline,” Narayanan said.

“Your ability to manage the physical world and the virtual world has to be the same.”

The main point Narayanan is making is that customers expect consistency across all channels. They don’t consider your app or website to be any different to your stores. Service across the board must be consistently good and of a similar style.

I echo this view, and I believe that most retailers with an eye on the future have started investigating how to deliver on the omni-channel expectations of their customers. However, there are many that are lagging behind or not implementing solutions that offer a consistent experience. For example, it’s great to see some fantastic retail apps being developed, but an improvement in one area of the customer experience needs to be reflected in others. You cannot offer great service via the app, but allow in-store service to wither away.

The important point to take away from this senior executive is that he believes that retailers who don’t meet the omni-channel challenge will not survive.

How is your own omni-channel strategy progressing? Do you view omni-channel as crucial to customer service? Write a comment below, or get in touch with me on LinkedIn, and let me know.

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David Turner
Article by: David Turner

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