Omnichannel is a concept that is becoming more and more important in the e-commerce industry. Specialists are still wondering about the exact definition of this expression, and the phenomenon itself is already present in business.
What is omnichannel?
Omnichannel is the ability to select, buy and deliver products using several channels, and they come in different combinations. The consumer looks at the product online and picks it up in a stationary store. In fact, there can be many more combinations - purchasing a product online and returning it in a traditional store, searching for an item using the phone and purchasing it in a retail outlet. Seeing the product on the shelf, buying it online and returning it in a stationary store is also considered omnichannel. Therefore, it combines strategies based on being in stationary and digital space. This concept appeared at the beginning of the current millennium during the competition between American trade consortiums and is present in many areas. A model example of multi-channel assumes the implementation of multiple sales channels in such a way that the consumer does not notice a significant difference between online and stationary purchases, while maintaining the complementary approach of stationary and e-commerce. This is an important issue because it should not lead to sales anthropophagy. An example of an omnichannel approach may be the lack of difference in product prices when comparing the offer in an online store and in a stationary store. The consumer browses the offer on the Internet, goes to the store and has the impression that he never left it, even though he physically moved there.
Omnichannel in practice
Predictions regarding the increase in retail sales in Poland and in the CCE countries are optimistic both in terms of e-commerce and stationary trade. It should be noted, however, that online sales will exceed traditional sales in the coming years. Customers will alternately choose online and traditional stores. The main tasks of retail chains should be to carefully observe the selection made by consumers, look for ways to combine e-commerce offers with stationary ones, as well as guarantee proficient service in the field of order logistics - regardless of which plane the customer has chosen. The traditional supply chain organization model is quite simple compared to the one used in omnichannel. In the first one, the scheme looks as follows - from the importer and manufacturer, the product goes to the regional distribution center. From there it is sent to a local warehouse, from which it then goes to a store where customers come. The organization of the supply chain in the omnichannel model is much more extensive - it uses the old scheme, but has been expanded to include the shipment of products to new places. From the importer, the goods may go to an e-commerce warehouse, from which they are sent directly to the store, also if the customer, when purchasing online, chooses to collect the product in the store. From the returns warehouse, the product may, for example, go to a place where e-commerce products are stored or to a courier sorting center, and then to a PUDO point from which the ordering party will collect their purchases. From the local warehouse, shipments in the discussed model can be delivered to the e-commerce warehouse. Consumers who have chosen to collect their goods at home can also receive their parcel from the returns warehouse. As you can see, this supply chain organization is very extensive. Combining online and traditional sales can be carried out on several levels. The first is click & collect points. This scheme involves the consumer making a purchase picking it up in the store and "incidentally" purchasing other products in that store or elsewhere in the shopping mall. Making a purchase in the same store translates into deepening the customer's attachment to maki. The second level is to treat traditional stores as showrooms, where consumers get acquainted with the products, but buy them online. This is the reverse ROPO effect. The third method of combining traditional and online sales is the possibility of purchasing products in a stationary store, but with home delivery. This situation may occur when the product is not available "on site", but the seller orders the order to be delivered to the consumer's home. Another area that connects the two types of sales are stores where the number of goods available on the shelves has been reduced and the products on display have been replaced with modern monitors that display the store's available assortment. This solution allows for more storage space and an expansion of the store's offer. The fifth method of cooperation between two forms of sales is q-commerce (quick commerce) deliveries, which can be completed in up to 15 minutes. They are based on the so-called "dark stores" network, from which orders are supplemented and delivered by couriers. Companies that offer such solutions or cooperate with retail chains have begun to appear in Warsaw and other large cities in Poland. The popularization of sales in the omnichannel model resulted in a modification in the concept of order handling at the warehouse and logistics level. These changes are related to the increased volume of orders processed within one day and the completion of e-commerce orders, which are carried out on the level of individual pieces of products, not pallets with cartons. The expected order fulfillment time has also changed, which is one day, but the real challenge was the need to divide the warehouse flow for stationary stores and e-commerce. Proper planning of the logistics area in the warehouse is the main challenge in planning the supply chain in the omnichannel model.
Online trade in Poland
Considering the demand for online purchases (in terms of place of residence), it shows that in the Masovian, Lower Silesian and Warmian-Masurian Voivodeships, over 67% of people purchased products and services online for private use. The lowest rate was recorded in the Opole Voivodeship - 51.4%. For the entire country, this indicator is 61.2%. The value of the e-commerce market in Poland over the last two years was directly related to the possibility of shopping in traditional stores, the availability of which was severely limited due to the number of cases during the pandemic. In April and November 2020, as well as in April and winter 2021, online sales achieved the highest share in relation to total sales. This trend is related to trade restrictions imposed during the pandemic. Trade in traditional stores recorded an increase when stationary stores reopened. From the beginning of 2022 to the end of June, online sales, in relation to total trade, are experiencing declines in value. It should be noted that online trade is seasonal and its highest value is usually recorded at the end of the year. The most popular products (receiving a 22% market share) that Poles ordered online in June 2022, according to the Central Statistical Office, were newspapers, books, and other trade in specialized stores. In second place were textiles, clothing and footwear, with the percentage difference between the two categories being only 0.3%. The third place in the product popularity ranking is taken by furniture, electronics and household appliances. Just behind the podium were pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and orthopedic equipment. Their market share is 5.3%. Food, beverages and tobacco products constitute a marginal share of online sales, but this sector has potential, which slowed down in 2022 due to inflation. According to CRBE, there are 28 reasons influencing the development of the e-commerce market. They are divided into four categories - "demography", "usage", "payment preferences" and "infrastructure". The first category takes into account the population living in cities, population density and employment in the service industry. The second category includes factors such as: digital skills in society, the use of the Internet, participation in e-commerce using a telephone, the "dominant e-commerce player". In the third category, we can find such factors as: the use of payment cards, online payments, paying accounts via the Internet, as well as using e-wallet. The last category, "infrastructure", contains information about broadband Internet subscriptions and logistics facilities. CRBE selected the six most important factors from among the 28 reasons discussed above, which have the greatest impact on e-commerce in Poland. This is the population living in cities, "mobile online sales", making payments with payment cards, digitization of citizens, "the dominant e-commerce player", the number of Internet subscribers.
Structuring warehouses in e-commerce
Activities undertaken in the area of e-commerce are related to new challenges in logistics, and more specifically in warehousing. So far, a large part of the operations (taking goods from the shelf, packing and transporting them home) was performed by consumers. Assigning these responsibilities to e-commerce warehouses that handle online orders creates the need to employ a very large number of people, and this must go hand in hand with the process of automation and even robotization in order to organize work. E-commerce warehouses generally need more usable space, which is related to their dimensions and a larger number of individual shipments. According to CRBE calculations, an increase in the value of the e-commerce market by USD 1 billion will result in the need to obtain approximately 93,000 square meters of logistics space. In relation to Poland, this value may be three times higher, due to serving the Western market in combination with the domestic one. The expected increase in e-commerce sales in Poland by 2026 is approximately USD 12 billion. As you can easily calculate, the demand for additional warehouse space is 3.3 million square meters. This is a lot and the e-commerce industry will have to face this challenge in the near future.