Originally published in Supply Chain Dive by Jennifer McKevitt

Omnichannel offerings and the challenges behind the process are top of mind for almost every retailer, retail analyst, and industry expert this holiday season.

“The focus for omnichannel retailers this holiday season, and indeed this applies any other time of year, will be to respond to each customer in a manner he or she is expecting,” Sam Cinquegrani, CEO of ObjectWave, a digital strategy and services firm told Supply Chain Dive.

Cinquegrani goes on to describe the impact e-commerce has played in forcing brick and mortar retailers’ hands. “The online retailers have been so disruptive to retail that retailers must look for any and all different ways to satisfy the customer. In-store pickup, curbside pickup, easy return policies and methods are all different ways to satisfy what the customer is looking for,” he notes. “In a sense, this outlook takes supply chain issues — whose major component is getting the right products in front of the customer at the right time — and stretches them out to the last-mile end of the retail spectrum.”

Other industry experts focus more on the supply chain’s role in the omnichannel process. “The challenge in building out a supply chain in an omnichannel world is how to deal with all the new points of distribution, aligning the inventory at key places with demand, managing returns, dealing with smaller, more complex orders, and to do this all in a cost effective way”, Michael Dart, author of Retail’s Seismic Shift told Supply Chain Dive.

Although it may sound like a tough juggling act, retailers are determined to get it right this season.

Recent surveys reveal shoppers are most concerned with product availability and ease of returns this season, and retailers are improving their forecasting methods to meet their expectations.

The new ideal, then, is not just having omnichannel capacities, but providing them conveniently to customers all the while saving on shipping costs. If the efforts made are an indicator, they’ve got a good chance at succeeding.

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