You may have heard that omni-channel is the wave of the future for retail. But what is omni-channel, and why is delivery optimization the key to implementing an omni-channel strategy?

Omni-channel is all about enabling customers to complete their purchases across any channel, or across multiple channels. For instance, a truly omni-channel strategy would enable a customer to start a transaction online, move to a mobile device to complete their order, or move to yet another channel such as telephone or a brick-and-mortar retail store if they need to ask questions from a customer service representative. With omni-channel, a retailer can seamlessly serve and track a customer from start to finish, across any channel.

Why does omni-channel matter?

One reason omni-channel strategy is important is that the way customers use e-commerce and mobile commerce sites doesn’t follow a simple “search – select – purchase” trajectory. Google research indicates that two out of three customers who visited a store to find information about products they searched for online say they couldn’t find what they needed, due to the store being out of stock. 43% of those shoppers left stores frustrated. 71% of in-store retail shoppers also say they use their smartphones to research and that it’s an important part of their in-store experience.

So there’s a significant crossover between shoppers who are visiting stores and those who are shopping online. Most shoppers today are doing both, and consider a seamless omni-channel experience to be a significant factor in their shopping choices.

Another important aspect is the value of the omni-channel shopper: Shoppers who use multiple channels to shop a retail brand are demonstrating brand loyalty: that loyalty equates to 30% greater lifetime value than those who only shop a single channel, whether in-stores or online.

Delivery optimization: the key to omni-channel

Online shoppers tend to be more demanding than those who only visit brick-and-mortar stores. Omni-channel and online customers expect to be able to get what they want, when they want it. Most have had significant experience with online retailers like Amazon that have “trained” consumers to expect items to be in stock and shipped to their doors in two days or less. Whether by drone, van, or truck, customers don’t really care how the shipment gets to them, only that it gets there as quickly as possible, with little or no cost to them and at the time that is most convenient.

Retailers that want to be competitive in omni-channel need to meet these expectations by being able to leverage multiple shipping modes, carriers, and delivery options to meet customer expectations.

Delivery optimization offers many of these services that customers value. Delivery optimization allows retail brands to:

  • Reduce shipping costs by comparing costs of different modes and carriers to select the one that best meets the customer’s needs. Shipments can be consolidated and routing optimized to reduce costs even further.
  • Gather data to support company-wide rates and shipping policies.
  • Improve performance by increasing delivery accuracy with verification by address to ensure packages arrive at the correct location every time.
  • Enhance reliability across different modes, routes, and carriers with the ability to better track packages as they travel to customers.

In a sense, “omni-channel” doesn’t just refer to the shopping experience, it also refers to the delivery approach. Retailers that want to be successful in omni-channel need to be able to leverage multiple options to meet customer expectations around delivery.

How important is delivery?

According to a recent survey by Deloitte of omni-channel and e-commerce retail customers, 69% of customers reported that the availability of delivery options was important to them—only 17% of retailers reported this as important, indicating that there is a significant discrepancy between customer expectations and retailers’ ability to deliver on those expectations. Speed is also critical—56% of customers involved in the study reported that it was important to receive their orders within three days.
Omni-channel is the wave of the retail future, but to ride that wave with online and mobile commerce, retailers must be able to match levels of customer satisfaction around delivery optimization with those achieved by companies that excel in those channels. Optimizing deliveries ensures customer satisfaction and makes omni-channel excellence possible for retailers.