The COVID revolution of omnichannel commerce

Author: Brice Le Blévennec

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically accelerated the digital transformation of our societies. Remote work and schooling have led to an explosion in tablet and laptop sales, and consumers have strengthened their digital umbilical cord by adapting internet and mobile subscriptions to their voracious data consumption.

This creates an opportunity for brands to upgrade their user experience. Now’s the time to convince latecomers to urgently open online boutiques. Many shopping centres and retailers are still looking for a place under the digital sun. And yet, there are now more solutions than ever…

In the long term, the challenge for brands is to combine physical and digital shops for the ultimate user experience and, above all, to remain economically viable. Consumers still want to be able to touch products, enjoy the randomness of discovery and have emotional experiences that no screen is (yet) able to offer.

The current distressing circumstances only reinforce this instinctive and vital need to move freely and enjoy our social, physical, sensory and emotional interactions to the full. In short, to live a real life.

Updating brands’ digital ecosystems

These long months of confinement have forced companies to rethink the digital journey they offer consumers. When behaviours change so radically and rapidly, the urgency of updating brands’ digital ecosystems is more obvious than ever.

Whether online, on TV, radio, via social media or any other medium, integrating advertising into a unified omnichannel business with automated marketing has become an absolute must.

Today’s increasingly affordable omnichannel commerce platforms allow physical shops to liquidate their stocks and for customers to buy online before returning the products to the shop, or the other way around. Boutique, e-commerce and mobile application thus constitute a single unified experience, to the great satisfaction of consumers.

Post-COVID commerce will be omnichannel

In addition, new Order Management System (OMS) solutions provide retailers and brands with a link between third-party trading platforms and the management of their orders, stocks and catalogues.

At the same time, and in perfect coordination with their platforms, brands and retailers of all sizes must also offer their wares on appropriate marketplaces to remain competitive (think Amazon, Instagram, TikTok and Facebook).

Confronted with the commercial and logistical power of omnichannel commerce, some brands can count on their loyal network of offline retailers to make the most of the game, instead of trying to compete with pure players on their digital turf.

Increasingly ‘phygital’ brand experiences

At Emakina, we enthusiastically embrace these new possibilities. We recently created a VR showroom, available on smartphones using a simple cardboard headset (“Cardboard VR”), to present a Korean brand’s range of air-conditioning equipment. For a Dutch fashion designer, we designed an e-commerce site where a salesperson presents product via live video straight from the shop floor.

Another application, developed by Emakina for a Swiss client, allows users to view luxury watches on their wrists in augmented reality (via their smartphones) – thanks to a simple QR code printed on paper bracelets.

Emakina also replicated the flagship outlet of a major brand in VR and 3D, inviting users to visit it and shop on their smartphone or VR headset. Emakina also replicated the flagship outlet of a major brand, in VR and 3D, inviting users to visit and shop there on a smartphone or VR helmet. In the Middle East, an entire virtual shopping centre has been created, bringing together dozens of luxury brands on the same omnichannel platform. And this is only the beginning…

Towards a mixed reality post-confinement

Technology now enables physical and digital worlds to merge, creating a mixed reality filled with more sensory and emotional experiences than ever before.

Whether on your smartphone, tablet, VR headset, AR glasses, gaming console or whatever else, this new ‘phygital’ world delivers brand experiences to consumers wherever they are – a welcome substitute in these confined times.

One thing is certain, when we resume a ‘normal life’, it will be more phygital than ever. 

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