Retailing has changed dramatically over the last few years and this change has been driven by the fact that today’s customers are omnichannel customers. An omni channel customer is one who sometimes buy online and sometimes buy things in the store. The expectations of omnichannel customers are different. Few years back when someone was buying something that they saw on TV, he wouldn’t walk to the TV studio and try to touch and feel the product before buying. Also when someone was buying something from a catalog 15 years ago there was no expectation of receiving the item the next day. But these are things that customers today expect to receive from retailers and this is a dramatic change. The omnichannel customer has been enabled by a number of different technologies that the customers start using. Let’s see how a omnichannel customer behaves. A customer can order five different pants of different sizes and color online, try them at home and then return four of them the next day at the brick-and-mortar store of that retailer. Or a customer can actually receive a Facebook message that says that that dress that she was looking for last week is now available in the store. A customer may buy a pair of jeans from Delhi, go to hometown Pune and would go to the store of same chain return it as he has not liked it. So labeling customers in online or brick and mortar customers is not the right way to think about them anymore. We need to break the buckets of online and brick and mortar and start thinking of customers as omni-channel customers.
A retailer that want to adapt to these new omni-channel customers’ needs to rethink their operations, their systems and the way to interact with customers. The goal is for the customers to have a seamless experience a frictionless experience when they interact with the retailer regardless of the fact that they’re visiting the online store or the brick-and-mortar store.
Dr Rajlaxmi Pujara
Assistant Professor, ISBS