5 omnichannel lessons for fashion enterprises
Nowadays, most shoppers are omnichannel customers, be it in the fashion market or another industry. The rapid development of the internet, the rise of smartphones and the avalanche of information have pushed us towards a mentality in which we expect our most beloved brands to be present wherever (and whenever) we want.
If we’re visiting a shopping mall, we expect our brands to have stores there; if we’re on Instagram checking our favorite brand’s profile, we want to be able to buy directly from the mobile app; if we prefer to talk to someone, we go to the WhatsApp Business profile of our brand, start asking questions and demand to be able to not only be informed but to also buy in that medium.
Each of these daily life cases show us that customers are already there, they’re already omnichannel. Thus, one must ask themselves why brands and retailers are not thinking in an omnichannel way. Indeed, there’s still a long way to go if we take into account that only 47% of retailers think omnichannel is very important in their strategies and customer journeys.
Implementing fashion omnichannel
A few years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to be part of one of the most important fashion companies in Colombia. I was asked to be the Ecommerce and Digital Marketing Manager, with a huge challenge: to build this area from scratch. I was both nervous and excited and highly aware there was going to be a lot of work. What I wasn’t yet aware of was that it was going to be the most fulfilling experience and the best school I could have ever asked for.
From brick-and-mortar to omnichannel
This brand, as most fashion brands, was born and bred through its physical stores. This company in particular had more than 250 stores around the country, and was present on the market for more than 30 years, having successful results and thus being able to grow internationally, as well.
But, at the same time, it started to face the new digital reality: in order to bring new clients, and to make current clients more valuable, it needed to create a robust online presence. Most of its main competitors were already there and it realized ecommerce wasn’t just a trend, but that this new digital opportunity allowed the business to keep growing at a different pace, one in which the huge investments that brick-and-mortar normally have to make for physical stores were no longer needed.
Instead, in a really short period of time and with less than a quarter of the investment, the brand could start a new sales channel with national (and even international) coverage. Most importantly, it was going to appeal to the new generation the fashion retailer was so desperate to conquer.
The mindset behind an omnichannel approach
Once I started in my role, the first thing I did was to talk to every single operational area and to every single person responsible for all the processes of the company. Why? My personal conviction is that ecommerce is not an end; it’s a method.
Ecommerce is the best digital transformer that any company could possibly have, with the real end being omnichannel. Therefore, I needed to know how everyone worked, what worked, what didn’t, in order to make sure that the online store was going to be another channel that was not only going to be there for itself but to push the growth of all the other sales channels.
Lessons for fashion companies going omnichannel
Here are some key takeaways that I want to share with you from my omnichannel experience.
1. Ecommerce shouldn’t be a competitor for physical stores
In order to avoid this so-called “cannibalization”, you have to create an ecommerce store that doesn’t only use brick-and-mortar stores as return facilitators, but as actual sellers of your orders.
A great way to make this possible is to integrate your physical stores as fulfillment centers of your online operation, using pick-up in-store and/or ship-from-store. This way, stores are able to multiply their inventory (one of their main headaches), secure more orders, obtain more store traffic and score more upsells. Ultimately, they will gain more chances to not only reach their goals, but to surpass them.
According to Aberdeen Group, companies selling products and services with extremely strong omnichannel customer engagement see a 9.5% year-over-year increase in annual revenue, compared to 3.4% for weak omnichannel companies. Similarly, strong omnichannel companies see a 7.5% year-over-year decrease in cost per contact, compared to a 0.2% year-over-year decrease for weak companies.
2. All areas, without exceptions, must be involved in this digital transformation process
For an omnichannel operation that permeates the brand experience, all areas of the company have to be involved:
- Ecommerce – to be the catalyst for this change and drive it forward;
- Logistics – to create one-to-one delivery options;
- Finance – to devise this channel strategy and guarantee a healthy P&L;
- Legal – to support all terms and policies for these sales;
- Accounting – to help you manage new means of payment;
- Marketing – to promote the new shopping experience and run omnichannel marketing;
- Quality – to provide the best guarantee and return policies;
- Customer service – to not only receive new contacts, client service channels and tools, but also to help you in obtaining more satisfied and loyal clients.
3. Understand your company’s reality before deciding how to perform the implementation
Before searching for the right project partners, here is a checklist of questions you should ask yourself:
- Does your company have photos of every SKU in your catalog?
- Does your company have a complete description of your products?
- Does your company have direct-to-consumer logistics ready?
- Does your company have a knowledgeable team to manage these new sales channels?
- Does your company have the budget to set up the best online store possible?
- Which systems need to be integrated into your store in order to have the best automated and online processes?
4. Gain C-level support
In order for the ecommerce channel (and the digital transformation in general) to be successful, we need the complete support from CEO / Owners and all main stakeholders. This is not just another store, this is a game-changing strategy that will bring all the enterprise to a new level. Thus, you need to involve every single person in the company.
5. Choose the best allies
Once you have checked all previous steps, you now need to look for those allies that will make this omnichannel strategy possible. Allies are all parties involved in seeing this vision through: the ecommerce platform, the payment gateway, the 3PL, the ERP, the WMS, the CRM, the digital agency, the ecommerce team, the customer service and the list goes on.
Bottomline, however, you must make sure that all those allies support your company’s vision, and not the other way around.
The true path of retail
Once your company has adopted these actions for the long term, the sky will be the limit. On top of creating your B2C ecommerce, you can be present in marketplaces or even become a marketplace; globalize your ecommerce; set up your own brand’s mobile apps; monetize your social media; vastly improve the customer experience of your operation; digitize your online stores and even your B2B channels!
But remember: there’s no magic formula, and the recommendations above are not quite a step-by-step guide, because they can’t possibly cover all aspects that need to be taken into account. Nonetheless, I hope that this brief story will at least make you wonder on the subject and push you towards the true path of retail – the one of omnichannel.