Omnichannel is the clear future of retail — except, perhaps, in the one way that it isn't.
Over the past few years, retailers have expanded rapidly into new sales channels that are isolated and separate from one another, as well as from their own brick-and-mortar operations. This could ultimately be hurting retail.
As New York Business Journal pointed out in a recent article, brick-and-mortar retail’s fixation on omnichannel retail is lulling those companies into a dangerous sense of complacency.
“I’ve watched this whole transformation going on with digital, and I’m so disappointed in the industry’s reaction,” Andrea Weiss, cofounder of The O Alliance, recently told the outlet. The O Alliance recently released “Retail Transformation Underway," a new report which cites data from 150 retail executives and 100 companies.
Weiss is a retail veteran who served as chief stores officer for L Brands, as well as holding top positions at Ann Taylor and Guess jeans. However, she has also been on the digital commerce side, serving as a board member of GSI Commerce, which ultimately sold to eBay, going on to serve as an eCommerce advisor to many retailers throughout her career.
“Stop thinking about omnichannel and think about circular commerce,” Weiss told NY Business Journal, referencing the notion that each channel should feed into one another versus operate as separate silos and that teams should be integrated.
Retailers that operate a traditionally heavy brick-and-mortar “work channel” versus eCommerce tend to ignore their other sales channels, opting instead to pour their time and effort into the physical retail footprint, even if in-store business is lagging behind other digital channels.
"I see so many missteps. The first one was the adoption of 'omnichannel' as the overarching thesis," Weiss said. "When you say [anything] channel to a retailer, the first thing that comes into mind is their work channel.”
Weiss told NY Business Journal that the walls U.S. retailers in particular build between different channels are hurting them, and the results are apparent in retailers’ financial woes and store closings.