Omnichannel challenges in retail

Since the E-Commerce Brasil Forum, which took place in the last week of July, I have been thinking more about a topic that was discussed a lot at the time, which is the omnichannel. This was a much-discussed topic before the pandemic, however, with the accelerated digital transformation resulting from the difficulties imposed by Covid-19, channel integration within retail has received more attention than ever, as it has become even more necessary. think about it with the new challenges ahead.

The multi-channel approach and new technologies complement each other, both providing essential inputs for all players to win.

This much-talked-about digital transformation has had a huge impact on retail, with many retailers having to go online overnight, which has helped drive e-commerce sales significantly. According to the Brazilian Electronic Commerce Association (Abcomm), in 2018 e-commerce had a share of around 5% of retail sales. In 2021, that number increased to 11.3%. That is, more than doubled in a period of four years.

If before the Internet was seen as a convenience, the pandemic made it a necessity. However, the consumer also likes the physical experience, which indicates an ambivalent process in this sense, as José Maurício Conrado, professor of advertising at Mackenzie, said in an interview with IstoÉ Dinheiro in late 2021, in which one of the trends indicated by 2022 was precisely multi-channel, in which digital and physical experiences must complement each other.

Versatility in companies

And how to implement omnichannel if every company was born in a different way? Some were conceived already in the digital age and for that purpose are the main ones. Others were created as physical stores and have begun the digitization process, often quite recently. Therefore, one of the main points to make the customer’s journey 100% multi-channel is the understanding of the context of each business and the cultural implementation of this concept. It is a structural process that requires, on many occasions, a change in mentality.

Within this scenario, I cite two examples of extremely relevant companies on the Brazilian market that stood out by integrating channels into their operations: Novo Mundo and Magalu, which had representatives in the omnichannel debate in the Ideas to Move studio, a content space within the ECBR Forum.

Practical examples on the ECBR Forum

In a conversation mediated by journalist Luiz Pacete, Novo Mundo brought a very interesting vision of a company that managed to implement omnichannel and today manages to provide a complete experience for the customer in all channels. For them, the biggest obstacle was integrating the physical store into the website, mainly due to the difficulty of making it a culture within the company. In fact, an example of this integration was the use of self-service in a store, so that a person can make a payment in the same way as they would online, but experiencing a “physical” purchase.

I also really liked what Mariana Castriota, Head of Marketplace at Magalu, brought to the discussion: using omnichannel as a way to keep the customer at the center of everything. Regardless of the channel used, it is essential that the consumer has a complete experience throughout their purchase journey. She commented that Magalu works so that the consumer has a 360° experience, whether online or physical, which makes perfect sense.

To give you an idea, 50% of what Magalu sells within e-commerce, including website and app purchases, for example, goes through the brick-and-mortar store. Either because the consumer chooses to pick up their product in store or because they deliver out of network. This also brings operational gains.

Another interesting thing that Mariana mentioned is related to the digitization of small and medium-sized retailers – a universe of six million sellers, in which only 400,000 sell online. On the other hand, the use of new technologies is increasingly discussed and reinforced at events such as the ECBR Forum itself, such as the use of digital assets, blockchain and the metaverse within the retail universe. Can progress be made on both fronts?

Coexistence of online and offline universes

I see that there are two worlds that can really coexist in the strategies of the main players. Marketplaces are good examples in this regard: they encourage digitization by entering sellers without e-commerce experience, providing the necessary structure and knowledge for small retailers in their space, the first step within the omnichannel itself, since the company also sells its products in a physical store.

In the same way, big companies are already preparing for the future that is happening today. Daniel Bottas, former creative director of Meta (Facebook), touched on an extremely relevant point in his lecture during the Brazil E-Commerce Forum, which is the expected flow of money that augmented reality and virtual reality should have in 2024: USD 300 billion.

It is worth remembering that both virtual and augmented reality are technologies related to the metaverse, but which are already widely used today, for example in Instagram filters. This type of technology is an ally of retail, making the customer experience even more vivid when shopping. With augmented reality, a furniture store, for example, allows consumers to see how that sofa looks in their living room.

For illustration, I bring data from a study cited in the lecture by Caroline Dalmolin, head of product and partnership LATAM at Meta (Facebook), also at the ECBR Forum. According to research by Facebook IQ Data, 74% of consumers want a more immersive shopping experience, such as using augmented reality to see how a product, like glasses, looks on their face. Or how the refrigerator looks in your kitchen.

The more options within retail, the better. The multi-channel approach and new technologies complement each other, both providing essential inputs for all players to win.

Also read: Multiple channels: The way to the right communication with consumers

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