You can’t talk about retailing today without the term “omnichannel” being mentioned.  This means offering all the various methods of shopping available to consumers today in one integrated operation.  In reality, however, there are really only two viable options: online and in-store sales.  So you need to decide at some point if you want your store to be “bricks and clicks” or just plain old “bricks and mortar.”

A recent article by Jennifer Gilbert in HFN (Home Furnishings News) states that while a significant portion of retailers in the home furnishings market feel that e-commerce “will become a must,” very few have actively made the move to an e-commerce-enabled site.  Why is that?

For starters, setting up a truly integrated omnichannel operation is extremely expensive. Offering up-to-date product data to consumers who are looking at products online is a lot trickier than stocking shelves. If an item is out of stock in a store, we can suggest another item.  If a consumer puts an item in an online shopping cart and can’t get it, that sale is not so easy to save.

The shipping and handling aspect an active online presence is also tricky.  Ideally your web site is set up to process the credit card or Paypal payment and generate a packing list and label.  But who will pick and pack the order? Do you have a box to fit every item you carry?  Can you get shipping rates from UPS, FedEx or the Post Office that will compete with those offered by the online giants?

However the last, and to my mind the most important reason that most of us are not multichannel is that we don’t really want to make that move. Some love processing Internet orders and make good money doing so, but most of us didn’t go into retailing in order to handle faceless orders received by phone, or online.  We became shopkeepers because we love interacting with customers, creating new displays, handling the merchandise and being a part of our local community.  If being a mono channel outlet means that our sales will decline due to Internet competition, we will have to adjust our expectations — and budget — to accommodate that. 

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder 

PS Today’s illustration is from