A Forrester Roundtable Recap: Emerging Trends in Omnichannel

Brent Bellm, CEO of BigCommerce, Andrew Porter, Chief Product Officer of Brightpearl, and Brendan Witcher, Principal Analyst at Forrester, teamed up to discuss emerging trends in omnichannel from a front and back office perspective. Brendan Witcher offered up key statistics and trends Forrester has broadly observed in online retail, while Brent Bellm and Andrew Porter offered insight into omnichannel trends specifically in front and back office technology.

In this post we will highlight some of the key themes that spanned across the discussion and what it means for omnichannel retailers moving forward.

Importance of Omnichannel

We will briefly touch on the importance of omnichannel and how it affects shopper behavior. This could be a much longer section but as Brendan Witcher expressed: “I stopped giving presentations on ‘is omnichannel worth the investment?’ 3+ years ago.” We will also provide a few key data points from the discussion and a simple example to illustrate the importance of omnichannel:

  • 61% of online shoppers abandon their cart if they don’t have a satisfactory experience (Forrester)
  • 60% of customers surveyed expect omnichannel (Forrester)
  • Upsell rates for click and collect orders are typically 30-40% (Forrester)
  • 85% of independent retailers in a survey of 1400+ have an omnichannel strategy in place (Brightpearl)

Finally, an example provided by Brendan W. drawing an analogy to a physical retail store really helped to illustrate the importance of omnichannel and how missing one customer expectation can lead to hyper abandonment. The scenario was:

Imagine you arrive at a supermarket and there are no shopping carts available. A bit confused, you ask one of the managers where all the shopping carts are. The manager responds with “We couldn’t prove the ROI of a shopping cart.”

Think about the odds of you or another customer returning to that specific supermarket. The shopping cart example is analogous to many ecommerce features like click and collect, free shipping, published store inventory levels and more. Many online customers are at the point where if their expectations are not met by one store, they will look elsewhere at a competitor’s site or Amazon.

Online vs. Offline Retail and their Convergence to Omnichannel

Shoppers typically have specific drivers for shopping online vs. offline.

Drivers for online shopping include:

  • The best/cheapest prices are typically online
  • Better ability to research products

Whilst, the drivers for offline shopping include:

  • The product is needed immediately
  • The ability to touch and feel a product

The emergence of omnichannel workflows like click and collect has created a convergence of these drivers. Using click and collect, I can find the best price, research different brands, touch and feel the product before taking it home and obtain the product immediately. The convergence of all 4 key drivers cements omnichannel as the future of online vs. offline shopping.

Components of Omnichannel

Omnichannel experiences are a problem even the world’s largest retailers are working to solve. In order for an independent merchant to effectively and pragmatically implement omnichannel, it should be broken down into specific areas of focus and implemented in phases. Brendan W. defined the following pillars of omnichannel that can be tackled independently:

  • Customer
  • Engagement
  • Fulfillment
  • Pricing

Customer

A key step as an omnichannel merchant is to have a clear picture of your customer base. All three speakers emphasized the importance of leveraging a technology stack that allows you to see all customer sales and interactions in a single platform. Andrew Porter emphasized how Brightpearl and other integrated ERPs serve this purpose for many growing merchants.

Engagement

Overly targeted omnichannel engagement can quickly annoy or creep out customers - this video humorously gets the point across pretty well. Brendan Witcher’s advice to avoid the “creep out” factor was to be overt in data collection and covert in delivering custom information. Forrester found that 60% of customers will fill out questionnaires if they know it will lead to a better experience.

Brent Bellm also highlighted the growing importance of engaging with customers broadly across platforms like Google Shopping and Facebook to ensure the maximum potential for your products to be discovered. A strong integration to these channels with your ecommerce store like BigCommerce, can simplify this process significantly.

Fulfillment

Getting omnichannel fulfillment right can have a huge payoff but it is one of the most difficult areas to implement without the right technology. This is because it requires the orchestration and tracking of physical inventory across all physical locations and sales channels. Some key examples of omnichannel fulfillment given were:

  • Click and collect - The option for a customer to purchase online and pick up in store. This was by far the most compelling option presented based on the payoff to the merchant. Merchants can expect an immediate uplift in revenue based on impulse purchases made in store when picking up items, along with the less quantifiable benefits of building brand loyalty by bringing them into your store.
  • Ship from store/endless aisle - The ability to offer products not available at the location the customer originally visited. This helps avoid losing a customer if a product is out of stock at a particular location.
  • Online store inventory availability - The ability to lookup inventory at a given store online. 33% of millennials won’t visit a store if online inventory availability isn’t published.

These are just a few of the many possible omnichannel fulfillment options that you can offer. In order to implement these offerings, it’s imperative to have a tightly integrated ecommerce platform and back office solution.

Pricing

Brendan acknowledged that omnichannel pricing is probably the least urgent area for an independent merchant to implement. Omnichannel pricing is producing consistent pricing and promotions across all sales channels. It was pointed out that in most cases, customers are still accepting of products having different costs online vs. in store.

Hopefully these discussion points got you to think more deeply about your omnichannel strategy and which technology and workflows need to be upgraded to offer an omnichannel experience to your customers. In the next few years it is imperative for independent merchants to adopt omnichannel practices or they risk being left behind by Amazon and the big box retailers of the world.

If you'd also like to watch our Chief Product Officer's section of the omnichannel discussion, check out the video below:

Stay tuned for more omnichannel retail discussion and if you would like to discuss your own omnichannel strategy with a retail expert, book a consultation today!

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About the Author

Kenny Johnson is a Product Marketing Manager at Brightpearl, focused on producing content to help customers get the most out of Brightpearl and the broader e-commerce landscape. Prior to Brightpearl, Kenny graduated from Stanford University with a Computer Science degree and worked as a sales engineer. His combination of sales and programming experience allows him to approach product conversations and problem-solving with a business and technical mindset. Kenny understands the complex technical aspects of software, but he is also able to teach people how to use products and effectively communicate business value.