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Who would have thought 15 years ago, that the future of retail would take place on our phones, social platforms and tablets? But this is exactly what is happening today. Retail shopping has become far more involved than the bricks and mortar stores of the past.

Today we are seeing physical stores shifting from a single-channel approach to an omni-channel approach. In order to capitalise on the growing number of people who are going digital with their shopping habits.

So what are the differences between single and omni-channel retailing? Let’s dive in.

Single-Channel Retailing

A single-channel retailing structure is when a seller has a single platform to sell their product. A small local supermarket or an online-only clothing store are examples of single-channel retailers. Typically, single-channel retail strategies are common for startup and small retail enterprises, because they are less capital intensive to set up than an omni-channel retail strategy.

A single-channel approach has its benefits.  A single-channel approach is cheaper, easier to execute and allows you to test the viability of your product. However, many experts believe physical single-channel stores are dying and will no longer be viable heading into the 2020’s. New retail business owners are backing this trend as more continue to open online stores. 8000 new Aussie online stores have opened since March this year. (IBIS World 2018)

Omni-Channel Retailing

Hubspot defines Omni-Channel Retail as “the ability to deliver a seamless and consistent experience across channels, while factoring in the different devices that consumers are using to interact with your business.” In other words, the goal of Omni-Channel retailing to create a cohesive user experience for customers at every touchpoint. Omni-Channel retailing is a concept which still being adopted in its early stages in here Australia. However, in China the role that Omni-Channel retail plays is more evident.

Alibaba the world’s biggest online marketplace has embraced this change through its “new retail” approach. “New Retail” aims to blur the lines between traditional retail and digital retail. For example, if you go to a store and try on a pair of jeans and they don’t have your size you can go Alibaba’s virtual kiosk order your correct size and by the time you get home from the store, your jeans will be on your doorstep. This is just one of a plethora of examples of how omni-channel retailing is shaping one of the biggest retail markets in the world. China. Click here to view Alibaba’s New Retail video.

Why Omni-Channel Retailing

Omni-channel retailing is an extension from brick and mortar locations to mobile browsing, e-commerce marketplaces, onsite storefronts, social media, retargeting and everything in between. The core of an omni-channel strategy is to be everywhere your customers are. While at the same time providing a consistent and unique brand experience. This is why an omni-channel strategy eclipses the single-channel approach of old. With each day that passes our habits become more reliant on technology. Retail stores need to accept this change and capitalise on the amount of time consumers spend in front of their screens.

The Future

Traditional retail is not dying it’s evolving. It’s not about being either online or offline but the two together. In the future every major retail store will be online and offline. Physical stores will become more like showrooms for you to buy from. Supermarkets will provide tablets and QR codes so you can get as much information about a product before buying it. The ability to buy anything from anywhere and for it to arrive at your doorstep in a matter of hours will be a reality sooner then you think.

A prediction from Shopify. “Five years from now, single-channel retail, marketing, and merchandising will be as obsolete as the video store or one hour photo is now, and we won’t give it a second thought.”

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