The Omni Channel Imperative

Here’s one of the best articles I have read detailing the need for traditional retailers to evolve to an omni channel retailing future.  This quote:

“Yet the historical vagaries of how companies have applied technology to the customer relationship has meant that solutions have long been channel-centric, instead of customer-centric. While the majority of companies certainly do have modern call centers, social media marketing plans, e-mail campaigns, a mobile app strategy, an SEO policy, and so on, they are frequently unsynchronized and siloed.”

summarizes quite nicely the issues most traditional retailers face as well the solution which is better integration between sales channels so that they complement one another in more effectively serving their customers.

Amazon is more than content to use retailers struggles here to continue to develop and hone its advantage.  And Amazon’s move to same day delivery amps up the pressure on all retailers.  eBay is also moving aggressively as well.  Amazon and eBay both are effectively flipping the bird to all traditional retailers and daring them to keep up.  And neither has any plans to slow their pace.

While Walmart, Best BuyTarget and others are finally starting to shows signs of life, is it too little too late?  Who, if anyone, can slow Amazon’s and eBay’s march towards retail domination?  And can a traditional retailer(s) stand up to them, and if so, who?  While its still early in the game, online sales are still only ~5.5% of all retail sales, traditional retailers need to stop ceding ground here and start more effectively managing cross channel interactions with their customers.

3 thoughts on “The Omni Channel Imperative

  1. Christopher S. Rollyson [csrollyson]

    @Bill, I like what you’re doing here. I am just launching the Ecommerce Competency Center within the Chief Digital Office, and I’ve been doing a lot of due diligence though which I found

    You seem to be saying that “traditional” retail (offline) is in deep trouble. Since you’re more of a retail guru than I, can you expand on that idea? In my experience as a management consultant with disruptive tech, use cases are key because adoption is always uneven. Therefore, the question I have is, “In what product categories do offline retail have the advantage?” My general observation is that non-standardized products like apparel, non-packaged food, unique styled items, etc. come to mind because customers like to “touch” them before buying.

    In case you haven’t seen it, IBM IBV’s paper on omni-channel adoption was so good I wrote a long riff on it. See:

    1. Bill Davis Post author

      My perspective is traditional brick and mortar retailing is being heavily challenged by the emergence of eCommerce, in 15+ years ~5.5% of retail sales in the US have migrated online, this is exponential, not linear, growth and the signs point to this accelerating. There aren’t any traditional brick and mortar retailers who can keep up with Amazon and eBay online and they won’t slow down until someone forces them to. And at least where I live, greater Seattle, there isn’t a shopping complex that I drive by that doesn’t have at least one empty storefront.

      The only suggestion I can make is for retailers to embrace omni channel retailing as they need to keep up with consumers’ demands/wants and as its early there is no one right/wrong way to manage this. Zappos, part of Amazon, and Warby Parker are blowing a hole in the myth that non standard products can’t be sold via the web and advances in technology are only going to improve that experience. And more traditional retailers like L.L. Bean and Nordstrom are showing that apparel sells just fine online. In fact, in 2010 L.L. Bean’s eCommerce sales exceeded its phone orders for the first time and they haven’t looked back since.

      Brick and mortar retailing isn’t going away, but it will continue to cede ground until the traditional brick and mortar retailers start to find ways to combat Amazon and eBay. Whereas shipping was a significant issue on large and odd sized items, Amazon has eliminated that with Amazon Prime. And Amazon is now targeting nationwide grocery delivery.

      While for the most part more traditional retailers have been embracing eCommerce for the last 10+ years, following the companies breaking new ground isn’t going to re-establish their leadership position. Omni channel retailing focuses on finding ways for companies sales channels to support and complement one another so all I am suggesting is that if retailers want to get out in front on the next chapter in retailing, embracing OCR is their best bet in my opinion.

      Thanks for sharing your post as its a useful and enlightening read.

      1. Christopher S. Rollyson [csrollyson]

        Bill, thanks for clarifying your point of view. Although not a retail specialist, I have experience in various aspects of digital technology consulting since ’95 that corroborates your point of view. I’m working on a couple of visionary “retail” ideas that will post on BTW, although you probably know them, I just encountered, which aims to further break down the advantage that physical stores now have with “high touch” goods like apparel. I’ll predict that such technologies, combined with increasing portions of populations that are accustomed to “immersive” online experiences will kill retail faster than anyone thinks—unless it reimagines itself as entertainment or some other immersive experience.


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