Omnichannel is the way forward for non-essential retail

Omnichannel is the way forward for non-essential retail

Retailers whose livelihoods are dependent on physical stores are feeling the heat due to the coronavirus pandemic. Footfalls have gone down, the future looks bleak, especially if you are selling non-essential goods. 

But, the only light at the end of the tunnel is that the boundary between offline and online has blurred. This has made retailers invest in an omnichannel customer experience. It is no longer a good to have, it is now a need to have. 

Omnichannel Fulfillment: Transforming Retail Supply Chain

What is an omnichannel approach in non-essential retail?

An omnichannel approach provides a seamless shopping experience to customers whether they shop  through mobile, desktop, telephone, or at the brick-and-mortar store. 

It unifies all communication channels and shares data amongst them so that customers can connect whenever and however they want. 

For instance, consumers can shop online, pick-up products from brick-and-mortar stores, and provide their reviews through telephonic calls. 

Why are retailers of non-essential products turning towards omnichannel? 

45% of consumers said they had purchased non-essential items since they were being impacted by coronavirus.- IZEA study of US Consumption Trends, April 22, 2020. 

  • Inventory piling up: The sale of non-essential products have either been suspended or people have considerably reduced their spending on such items. In such a scenario, managing and clearing the present inventory will be quite challenging. Hence, retailers have turned towards the omnichannel approach. 
    This omnichannel approach helps retailers balance their store  and online inventory. 
  • Employee safety and consumer safety: Keeping the present COVID-19 pandemic in mind, retailers of non-essential items are investing more in the omnichannel approach. They are working on storing the inventory readily, and following safe practices to meet the online demand. Also, this omnichannel setup for non-essential products helps them stop the piling up of unnecessary inventory. 

New approaches retailers are attempting to sell non-essential products online

non-essential retailers - online shopping

Forrester Research Incorporation Survey, April 2020

21% of consumers buy more online than usual

60% of consumers say that they purchase the same online as they used to buy in stores 

18% of consumers buy fewer things online 

The majority of states in the USA are skeptical about opening up retail operations of non-essential goods. Some state governments in the US, like New Jersey, Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina, have allowed the opening up of non-essential retail services that avoid person-to-person contact. 

With these limitations, non-essential retailers are following three approaches to manage inventory flow in their stores and online.   

Buy Now and Deliver Later

There is some uncertainty on the reopening of non-essential retail outlets. So, retailers of non-essentials are taking up online orders, but aren’t promising  shipments until the stores are reopened. This approach has a positive and negative side to it. 

The negative side is consumers get maximum time to change their minds and cancel the orders that they have placed. The positive side is that retailers can at least sell non-essential items and promise their store inventory with some confidence. 

Moving products from store inventory to the distribution center (DC)

Many retailers pack high-demand non-essential items and send them to the E-commerce distribution centers. They employ this approach to minimize their in-store staff and move inventory to a place where it can be fulfilled. 

Buy Online and Pick-up in Store (BOPIS)

Many retailers are using local stores to fulfil their non-essentials deliveries. A few of them prefer following the BOPIS (Buy Online and Pick-up in Store) model. 

Challenges ahead for newbies in Omnichannel Retailing

Challenges ahead for newbies in Omnichannel Retailing

Retailers of non-essential products are trying their best to ensure business continuity in these times of extreme disruption. But there are some challenges that lie ahead for newbies adopting the omnichannel retailing setup. 

Lesser number of retailers adopting Omnichannel retail

Logistics experts cite that only a few retailers have adopted an omnichannel setup for their non-essential retail. Those utilizing this omnichannel retailing setup find inventory accuracy and forecasting as their primary challenge. 

Managing the aggregate inventory 

Inventory visibility is an essential prerequisite for successful omnichannel operations. Retailers may lose their aggregate inventory if systems are not in place to track inventory levels and locations as orders are fulfilled through multiple channels. Experts suggest retailers of non-essential products to invest even in staff training. 


Foot traffic in retail stores is unlikely to return quickly as the coronavirus outbreak has not been eliminated. 

But the pandemic has triggered the demand for rapid movement of goods from customer fulfillment centers. Locus’ Parcel or shipment sorting software helps retailers manage their non-essential products in customer fulfillment centers and succeed in their last-mile delivery operations.

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