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ICYMI: To Go Omnichannel Or Not? It’s Not An Option Anymore.

Lessons from eTailing India’s Conference, “Voice of Indian eCommerce”: Veteran entrepreneurs and big brands came together to discuss the importance of a business going omnichannel in the era of ecommerce as the internet offers the best chance yet to customize and serve (versus just selling) your customers better to increase your own returns.

Photo Credit : eTailing India,

Jayant Kochar, managing director, Go Fish Retail Solutions, said, “A big reason to go online for businesses is to get more in-depth information on customers and potential customers. It’s never been easier to customize with the onset of the internet era. Take for example how Amazon will show you a history of searched products and similar products other customers looked at. This is a great opportunity to get better returns by serving customers this way. However companies must respect customers’ privacy and protect information as well, ethics matter here.”

According to Pavan Peechara founder of Excellor, “If you want to be omnichannel the customer experience you offer must be consistent across devices and physical stores. To understand what customer experience to create you must recognize who your customer is consistently – Who are the repeat customers? Across which device/channel? Transaction values and preferences across channels. Profile these customers. Then you can also engage customers through reviews and these reviews can be used to influence other customers. Then you can sell to them via multiple channels.”

Bhavik Jhaveri, founder and CEO of Pretr adds, “Being omnichannel is not the end game, it’s a means to an end. Simplifying policies and processes of businesses using technology is creating an omni channel business. Take for example Nordstrom. The brand gives a seamless experience to consumers be it via facebook to instagram to their own website. Omnichannel is the intention of multichannel. It’s not an option anymore, you must be omnichannel because consumers are omnichannel.”

Speaking of Lacoste’s experiences, Sumit Sharma, COO of Lacoste said, “We are a late entrant for such a well known brand.” After deciding not to go online because ecommerce was discount driven a few years back, it wasn’t conducive to the brand. However the perception of ecommerce has changed and Lacoste is now available online to reach more customers in varied geographies and offer a customized Lacoste experience. “It’s 3-4 years back that we started speaking about omni, and it’s been rather misconstrued. Lacoste is now multichannel moving towards omnichannel.”

A key realization made was that multichannel and omnichannel is different. Multichannel is when a business is present across physical stores, a website, a mobile app, a social network page etc., which most companies in India are doing. Omni channel is more than just being present on many channels, it's about offering a seamless, integrated experience where a customer can look at a product, share this product and has the opportunity to purchase it on that very same channel. No Indian company is truly omnichannel experience as yet.

Shanu Singh, senior general manager and head of ecommerce and digital transformation at Godrej & Boyce says, “Plan a customer experience you want to deliver then set up your channels to deliver this plan. There is no truly omnichannel company in India as of now. To go omni is a large transformation, it takes time due to internal dynamics of an organization. Croma [the Indian retail chain for consumer electronics and durables] is kind of getting there.”

However it is a point of contention whether it is feasible for some categories with low profit margins here in India to actually adopt an omnichannel approach because the transformation requires a large investment.

Amit Thapliyal, head of marketing and digital initiatives at Vinculum Group says, “Omnichannel vs. multichannel. Customers don’t care. It’s more about omnipresence so customers can find you whenever, wherever they need the product. We are still getting to an omnichannel presence here in India but one important consideration in adopting an omnichannel approach is investments cost. In India at present categories like groceries for example don’t have enough profit margins, so it may not feasible to go omni as it is comparably is very costly.

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