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Going Omni Channel in COVID days

By Retail4Growth Team | July 09, 2020

As the COVID shutdowns continue, businesses are desperately trying to scale up an omnichannel strategy and convert e-commerce to be a stable part of their businesses. Manishi Sanwal of Voiceback Analytics and Nishith Pathak, Microsoft Regional Director shares useful insights on how businesses can maximize the benefits by adding online to its capabilities and going Omni Channel

Manishi Sanwal, Managing Director, Voiceback AnalyticsWant to enable e-commerce for your existing retail business?

Digital disruption is everywhere and is transforming every Industry, business and every sphere of our life in a more unprecedented way than we can imagine. A business owner having only a physical presence was already getting severe competition from other online stores. To make matters worse, the sudden COVID closure has brought the physical business down to zero and left them struggling with fixed rental costs and salary. The only visible option is to generate revenues from your e-shop to survive. The nearly three-month (and still counting) shutdown has given a rude shock and having an e-shop has suddenly jumped from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ status. It is therefore necessary for all business owners to device the Omni channel strategy having the combination of both physical and digital experience. This article attempts to present, in simple steps, on retaining your existing investment and moving forward ofcreating the right Omni channel strategy to complement your physical store.


Nishith Pathak, Microsoft Regional DirectorTechnology Driven Physical Stores

Globally, we have seen less footfall in physical stores and more interaction with online applications.  However, an exclusion to the above statement has been physical stores that are amusing customers through the usage of technology. COVID has now created additional requirements for minimizing physical contacts to avoid the risk of infection.

The first step, therefore, is that one should do good investment of bringing technology in their physical stores to attract customers.  For e.g.  Lot of stores are using technologies like extended reality especially Augmented reality for providing in-store navigation & product demonstrations. A lot of physical stores are using technologies like Beacons to provide better-personalized messages to the customers.  The rise of IOT devices bundled with technologies like Artificial Intelligence together known as Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT) can give magical WOW factors to the customers in a low cost-effective way. AIOT devices can help in creating a low-cost self-scanning and cashier-less checkout for your customers by reading tags, thereby avoiding contact risks in the current environment.  The usage of Smart shelves supported by weight sensors has brought smart ways to track inventory of items and creating virtual checkout cart for your stores. They are also supported by RFID tags which allows to control in store theft. Some of these examples are now time and tested and being used by big retail stores. Miniature versions of these can be easily applied to small retail stores in a low cost effective way.

Web-shop is a store

While we talk of offline business trying to go online, it is very important to treat your online presence as a part of your network of stores and not as a standalone entity. If you have a long running offline business, you would have a lot of data on customers, their buying behaviors, their contact details, their addresses and many more of these coordinates. You would also have POS level data of all transactions. All this information has to be used to support the new web-shop. Using your historical data generated in physical store can help to fine tune the performance of your web-shop. With this support, the digital marketing would bring immediate gains and upswing to your digital business.  Your developers and designers would do a better job if they already know your sales mix, brand mix, customer needs and/or promotions they like. Analytics tools like Market Basket analytics or sequential pattern mining can be used to create dynamic promotions and suggest brands and products to each customer on the web-shop. Decision tree algorithms or recency - frequency studies can help create sharp cohorts of your customer. These cohorts can be then used to create your audience lists on digital marketing platforms which can then be used to run focused and much more efficient digital advertising on platforms like Google and Facebook. Using your historical data to finetune the performance of your web-shop and digital marketing would bring immediate gains and upswing to your digital business.

Your web-shop is a “store” and has to be treated like one. It should have its own revenue & gross margin target with a dedicated store manager along with his sales teams. The team however would be talents who understand the digital world and can take care of marketing, customer service, customer delight in your web-shop. They should be able to comprehend and execute your e-strategy.

Bi-directional Branding strategy

Data has been the key ingredient for any technology to be effective. Every interaction of every visitor to your retail store as well as your e-shop is measurable. Your offline store along with your online e-shop would create bytes of data on the audience, their source and their behavior. These two streams of data would intertwine and support one another creating a bi-directional strategy with data in the core.

One of the early steps is to invest in business intelligence and analytics tools to understand data through visualization. Bring all streams of data into a single view enabling a consolidated picture. This data visualization can have different meaning for different person and hence it is of utmost importance to extend this data visualization into next level by creating data storytelling of your brand. This involves fixing soft contours of your brand & customer experience and marrying them too hard numbers which can be measured and improved.  Once your storytelling is in shape, it would allow you to create solid branding and marketing strategy for both your online and physical stores. This also includes a unified experience by providing programs like connected loyalty programs to complement branding experience. This would eventually transform your customers to fanatical advocates and promoters from just being loyal customers. 

Sum it up

In conclusion, Both Physical and online store have their own merits and demerits. However, a proven Omni channel strategy is one where both physical and online store should work hand in hand to generate a business outcome. There are multiple pressures from the present COVID situation, it also presents a unique opportunity to upscale businesses and expedites the process.






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