Omnichannel retail: What is it & why do you need a back office system?

In recent years, omnichannel has become less of a buzzword and more of a necessity within retail. As customers' demands increase to epic proportions, driven on by the likes of Amazon, retailers everywhere are realizing that omnichannel should not only form part of their sales and marketing strategies, but be the driving force.

But what exactly is omnichannel retail?

Omnichannel is the ability for a consumer to interact with businesses in the most convenient and easiest ways possible. This could be in person, via live chat or social media, by phone, email and any other way in which brands and consumers can connect. And when interacting with your brand, they receive a seamless and consistent experience in return, regardless of which platform they choose to use.

In some ways, the general idea of omnichannel can also be likened to cross-merchandising. When displaying your products in multiple places and in a variety of ways within one store, you're encouraging consumers to buy those products. Your choice of positioning is intended to capture their attention - whichever way works for your brand and customers. Omnichannel works in a similar way by making brands front and center with consumers, despite which journey (or multiple journeys) your customers use to hear about or buy from your brand.

Cathy Donovan Wager, Founder of RETAILMavens sums up omnichannel and the strategies involved in a very succinct way:

"Using as many avenues as possible to capture customer attention. You must have a plan on how to utilize as many channels as possible to get your customer’s attention. This plan needs to involve your brand message and consistency, as well as have a clear path to welcoming sales.”

For more on the underlying principles of omnichannel retail, take a look at this guide, written by Nicole from Retail Minded.

Omnichannel is exciting, but not without its challenges

We recently interviewed over 350 retail executives to find out what they thought about omnichannel and whether they're succeeding in their current strategies.

Over half of those retailers said their omnichannel approach was a "work in progress", while 19% said it's a "struggle" or a "pipedream".

In some ways, these results aren't all that surprising.

We still hear from businesses today that are either still using spreadsheets to keep track of inventory and sales, using separate accounting and bookkeeping systems, or have implemented systems that can only keep track of one part of their business. Order management perhaps, or just inventory control.

That means there's still a staggering number of processes that are in separate systems. No wonder being truly successful in omnichannel feels like a pipedream to some.

So if you're intent on exploring new channels and new ways in which to reach your customers, you need to ensure that the systems at the heart of your business are able to handle separate orders, inventories, prices, and even brands. Integration and automation, therefore, are key.

Why you need an omnichannel retail system

When your business is spread across multiple channels, all its elements - orders, inventory, shipments, customers, supplier data, and so on - still have to be managed centrally, either through huge manual efforts or with integrated back office systems like Brightpearl.

There are many benefits that a back office system like this can bring to your business, including but not limited to:

  • Gaining greater control over your data
  • Establishing accurate global inventories
  • Easily managing taxation
  • Having a centralized view of all orders
  • Establishing efficient order processing and shipments
  • Maintaining consistent branding
  • Making customers happier and gaining more positive reviews
  • Improving in-store customer service with an integrated point of sale
  • Saving time with automated workflows
  • Gaining more opportunities to expand internationally

The benefits and opportunities really are endless when you employ an omnichannel retail management system to do the hard work for you.

They save you time, prevent errors, and ultimately provide you with the control and confidence you need to thrive, no matter how many sales channels you’re using. Gone will be the days of spending your time and resource on admin, and instead, you can focus on your business growth and success.

And what this means is that, finally, we can take retailers from omnichannel being simply a "pipedream" or "work in progress", to being masters of omnichannel.


For more insights into the state of omnichannel, download our free report now.

Or, if you want to skip right ahead to find out more about how to truly excel in omnichannel, read this survival guide, which is packed with lots more information and advice.

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Andrew Busby, Retail Influencer & Analyst, urges you to get the survival guide...

"If you're a business struggling to come to terms with the modern, multichannel world of retail, then ignore this book at your peril!"

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About the Author

Justine Cross is the Content Marketing Executive at Brightpearl where she can be found writing away about all things retail and wholesale related. Previously to joining the Marketing team, Justine enjoyed helping customers with the Brightpearl system within both the Customer Support and Customer Success teams. After over 6 years with Brightpearl, she has become incredibly passionate about business success for retailers, and spends a large part of her days thinking of ideas for hot topics she thinks you'll love learning from and reading about.