The Future of Omnichannel Retailing


A man walking in the rain in a neon-lit Japanese street.

The government is in it, your banking system is adapting it! Why not retail? Omnichannel retailing is how the large physical retailers are trying to bridge the gap between the online and physical world. Or in other words, omnichannel is cross-channel/platform business model for a retail outlet (or any entity) to stay in touch with their customers both offline and online — all integrated with one another, unlike multichannel models.

For retail outlets, this is a boon to boost their commerce significantly. Wouldn’t it be ironical if a physical store shows you digital products? Aisles would be replaced with an endless digital carousel of products and ‘digital mannequins’, displaying all the info on the product. Digital 360-degree view! Why not?

Getting a glimpse of that future, eh? Walking into a store, you find the aisles empty, no one to attend or assist you. In a corner, you see a boy, swiping left and right, picking a product, paying it with digital currency, walking out while his sack of toys is delivered already at his house. Pretty cool!

While omnichannel marketing sounds interesting, the underlying process that unifies all the channels in even a simple commerce model is so complex. With the emergence of mobile technology and machine learning, the state of omnichannel commerce heavily depends on the user more than anyone. An omnichannel service should know about their every single user all the time.

Sadly, this opens up the can of worms with privacy-related issues. Sure, a retailer or a business would want to understand the user just to provide them with a better service at the right time. But this cannot be done efficiently with an omniscient presence around the user. No human would like a constant stream of data collection and push notifications that closely relate to their daily behaviour.

But as the market strategies evolve and monopolies push them, it is likely to see a lot of omnichannel commerce popping up. Several multichannel businesses would even adapt to this model very soon.

It’s a scary thing for private persons like me anyway. I despise targeted ads. Omnichannel just gives me nightmares.

This post was first published on April 22, 2012.


Karthikeyan KC

Aeronautical engineer, dev, science fiction author, gamer, and an explorer. I am the creator of Geekswipe. I love writing about physics, aerospace, astronomy, and python. I created Swyde. Currently working on Arclind Mindspace.

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