Retailers worldwide are refining go-to-market strategies as they navigate the aftermath of the pandemic and adopt an omnichannel model. Industry analysts predict that e-commerce will become an increasingly important component of business-to-business relationships, and anticipate that by 2027, B2B online sales will outpace business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce sales. For businesses looking to gain and retain customers, streamlining the online shopping process becomes critical.
One study released in 2019 found 77% of B2B buyers describing their most recent transaction as "extremely complex" or "difficult." Current supply chain issues, combined with a shift in buyer expectations triggered by the pandemic, have prompted the development of digital-based systems that will cause a significant shift in the marketplace. Retailers that implement customized digital solutions, efficient purchasing processes and omnichannel fulfillment strategies will be well-positioned to meet future demands.
Omnichannel retail can take on various meanings, but in its simplest form it’s the practice of marketing, selling and responding to client needs in a unified fashion. The goal is to cover all client touchpoints in a consistent manner, whether via the company’s website, social media accounts or physical storefronts.
According to the Harvard Business Review, a cohesive retail strategy enables business owners to provide a seamless customer experience across all platforms. In addition to providing a one-of-a-kind shopping experience, the model provides sellers with a competitive advantage over online-only competitors by utilizing physical store merchandise.
As business owners seek to create an integrated and seamless consumer experience, the concept of omnichannel retail is gaining traction across the retail sector. Vendors, factories, contractors, agents, auditors and third-party quality inspectors are focusing on automating the entire sourcing process from start to finish. They’re turning to systems that integrate operations, channels, customers, partner ecosystems and industry-standard advanced analytics into their omnichannel strategy.
The need for improved integration and collaboration through digital transformation is increasingly evident. In particular, businesses today are looking to deploy advanced artificial intelligence technologies. AI has the potential to generate a global economic impact of $10-15 trillion across industrial segments. AI-enabled optimization scenarios for the retail and consumer packaged goods industries can correct stock levels and optimize inventory, tailor product offerings and personalize prices and advertisements to maximize markups and margins.
For smarter omnichannel strategies to be successful, machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence, is becoming increasingly important. Successful organizations are incorporating such capabilities into their business applications, generating predictive insights and reducing customer response times. For B2B buyers in particular, the technology provides a means to improve omnichannel enablement, saving valuable time and money over the long term.
While the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a rapid shift in industry best practices, one thing is certain: E-commerce usage will only grow in the future. By 2024, it’s predicted that e-commerce revenue will triple, reaching $35 billion. In response, retailers will seek to embed supply chain resilience, multi-channel visibility throughout product lifecycles, warehouse automation and customized selling platforms within their operations in the coming year and beyond.
A McKinsey study estimates that live commerce-initiated sales will account for 10% to 20% of all e-commerce sales by 2026. To provide customized buying experiences based on customer trust and engagement, service providers will need tools that enable them to reduce time to value, and combine live stream and real-time shopping capabilities with existing retail systems.
Platforms that combine entertainment and on-the-go shopping allow e-commerce stores to increase conversion rates by 50%. Companies implementing this type of software report a 30% increase in their conversion rate — 10 times higher than that produced by traditional e-commerce companies.
There’s always room for improvement as omnichannel retailers seek out more efficient online purchasing and selling methods. To remain competitive, they should set their sights on generating greater consumer interest and profit in a relatively short period.
Rauf Ahmed is vice president of supply chain solutions at Visionet, a full-service IT product, consulting and services company serving global brands.
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