The term "omnichannel" has been around for a long time, but in a lot of cases it was just a buzzword.
We talk sometimes about omnichannel being online and in store, but in reality, it refers to all the channels that are available to your customers. That's call-in orders, customer service, catalog orders, integrations with other fulfillment partners like Amazon or eBay—those are all channels through which you sell products.
Omnichannel is about having all those channels work together. So if Joe buys something online, for instance, he should be able to return it to the physical store, and the customer service rep in the store should be able to see his updated account history, because everything should sync up.
In the early days, basic omnichannel really just meant that if the product showed on the website, it was also in the store. But these days, omnichannel is also about customizing the experience for each channel.
So if Joe is on the app, it should automatically pick his closest store. It should show him what aisle or section the item is located in and whether its in stock. On the other hand, if Joe is buying online, he doesn't care what aisle it's in, he just wants to know how long it will take to get the item shipped to him. So you have to tailor the experience to each type of channel, but the systems all need to mesh together.
What can you expect from the omnichannel experience from most platforms?
You will generally get rudimentary stock syncing. That means that whether you sell items online or in store, you will know how many you have and when you're out of stock. But even that has variations. Do you know your inventory status in real time? Every hour? Or does it only sync nightly? That can make a big difference.
With most platforms, you're not going to get features like the ability to inform the customer where the item is located in the store. Only a few retailers do that because it's very difficult and requires a lot of extra work. You need to know that data, for one thing. So even if the platform supports that, that doesn't mean that you actually track the precise location of every single product in your store.
What's different with Drupal?
With Drupal, syncing is simple because we can use the same platform for everything: we have a point of sale, we have a web platform, and we can automatically do pushes to different channels like Amazon and eBay. We have real-time stock and shipping.
Then we can add more customizations. We can allow for your customers to start an order online and finish it in store, for instance. Or if they go into the store and find it's not in stock, the clerk can put in an order—but instead of it getting shipped to the store and the customer having to come and pick it up, the clerk can simply turn it into an online order and have the item shipped to the customer. This is the kind of stuff we can mostly do out of the box, but there's usually a bit of customization work to make it a smooth flow.
What's the deal with add-ons?
Drupal is well set up for omnichannel, but keep in mind that there can be problems any time you integrate with other systems. Payment gateways are usually not a problem, but you can run into issues if you have to pass data to some warehouse fulfillment system and it can't provide real-time stock info back. So Drupal can keep track of stock, but if they knock over a pallet in the warehouse, or they get a new shipment but take a while to put it in, that can be slow to update. So the caveat here is that you can be let down by other parts of your system.
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If you'd like to how Drupal Commerce fits into your omnichannel solution, give us a shout. We're here to help.