The era of omnichannel retailing and the faith of conservative brands


By Mohammed ALI

Omnichannel retailing is a retail concept that unifies all consumer touchpoints into a seamless experience. Verhoef et al. (2015) describe the concept as “the synergetic management of the various access channels and customer touchpoints, to optimize the customer experience across channels and the performance across channels”.  Due to its practical value, omnichannel research has advanced significantly in recent years, providing insights into conceptualization (Beck & Rygl, 2015), strategic implications (Buldeo Rai et al., 2019; Jocevski et al., 2019), and functional strategies that improve an organization’s omnichannel capability (Larke et al., 2019).

The omnichannel world represents a paradigm shift in how businesses engage with their customers. It involves creating a seamless and integrated customer experience across multiple channels, both online and offline. This can include physical stores, websites, mobile apps, social media, email, and more.

Customers buying both online and offline have changed the retail sector across the globe and Ghana in particular. Retailers must now provide seamless shopping experiences to customers online and offline. Increasingly informed and demanding consumers have made this one of the most dynamic and fast-paced sectors.

For instance, consumers are now able to initiate transactions, make payments, and have their products delivered to them without any physical contact with the vendor (seller). Food and beverage outlets are integrating extensively with courier service providers, online payment platforms, and other interconnected partners to facilitate the purchase and delivery of consumables etc, to clients without any direct physical engagements. Consumers are easily able to do all kinds of shopping online and offline in the comfort of their homes or offices, thanks to omnichannel systems.

In the world of omnichannel, conservative brands often face a conundrum when it comes to embracing new approaches. These brands tend to be traditional, risk-averse, and cautious about adopting new technologies and strategies. They may have a strong legacy in brick-and-mortar retail and have established a loyal customer base through these traditional channels.

Despite the benefits of omnichannel retailing, some retail brands are still reluctant to embrace this integrated approach perhaps due to other factors. Whilst some retail brands are adapting and/or adopting this trend, others still don’t see the need to leverage certain platforms, such as social media, telemarketing platforms, AI, etc., to promote their brands. To them, serving a largely conservative or niche market is their sole focus and must remain as such.

Below are some characteristics of conservative brands

Technological Hesitancy & Risk Aversion: Research has established that conservative brands may be reluctant to invest in new technologies and platforms, fearing that the costs may outweigh the benefits. They may lack the internal expertise needed to implement and manage omnichannel strategies effectively. Conservative brands are often risk-averse and may hesitate to experiment with new marketing strategies or channels. They may be concerned about the potential for negative customer feedback or public relations issues.

Resistance to Change: Some brands frequently have well-established, hard-to-change corporate structures and procedures. In such situations, restructuring and retraining may be necessary for the implementation of an omnichannel strategy, but it can be met with resistance from employees and management. Here, people are likely to prefer their old ways of doing things, even if the new approaches can produce better and greater results.

Brand Image and Tradition: Conservative brands may have a strong brand identity built on tradition and heritage. They fear that adopting new channels might dilute their brand image and alienate their core customer base.

Integration Challenges: Accordingly, creating a seamless omnichannel experience requires integrating various systems and data sources. Conservative brands may struggle with the complexity of this integration, hindering their ability to provide a consistent customer experience.

Some strategies for navigation in an ever-increasing omnichannel retail world

Taking a bold and gradual step: Conservative brands must leverage the benefits of omnichannel by testing the waters and making a gradual transition to one or two channels. This can help conservative brands learn and adapt without overwhelming their existing operations, systems, and structures. Conservative brands should be willing to experiment and learn from successes and failures. Omnichannel strategies should be adaptable, allowing for continual improvement.

Strategic Partnerships and Investment in Technology: Conservative brands must be willing to collaborate with tech-savvy partners or agencies to leverage their expertise and resources, thereby easing the transition. While being cautious, conservative brands should still invest in the necessary technology and tools to support omnichannel operations. This might involve upgrading point-of-sale systems (POS), adopting e-commerce platforms, and implementing customer relationship management systems (CRM).

Employee Training: Regular training and support to employees would help them adapt to new processes and technologies. A well-trained team can be a very knowledgeable team which is essential for a successful transition.

In summary, it is not out of place to emphasize that the rise of e-commerce, digital, and AI marketing is constantly reshaping the retail landscape, and conservative brands must adapt to stay competitive. Conservative brands face a conundrum in the omnichannel world, but they can overcome these challenges by taking a measured and strategic approach to adaptation. Embracing omnichannel strategies can help them to reach even new customers and remain competitive, since failure to adopt or adapt may pose the risk of “extinction.”

The writer is a Chartered Banker and Brand Advocate

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