Going omnichannel: the challenge for digital brands

Going omnichannel: the challenge for digital brands

Ana Martinez

Ana Martinez

March 18, 2022

The evolution of the consumer journey has logically led to profound changes in purchasing expectations in both BtoB and BtoC sales. A study conducted by Forrester Consulting shows that while traditional BtoB journeys were predominantly offline and linear, the transition is increasingly towards a digital and omnichannel experience. 

Conversely, brands following the Direct To Consumer model that characterises DNVBs (for Digital Native Vertical Brands) seem to be migrating from a 100% digital journey to a shopping experience that includes the physical shop. This is the case of Tediber, the e-tailer specialising in mattresses, which has opened its famous 'Night Boxes'. These are physical shops, spread across the four corners of France.

Whatever your sector and sales model, the trend is to systematically put the consumer journey back at the heart of strategies, leaning towards more options and omnichannel flexibility. 

ONVBs (trading digital for omnichannel) are therefore officially the new DNVBs. 

But to become omnichannel, and take advantage of this model to boost sales and profits, brands now face a number of challenges. 

The DNVB model: victim of its own success?

The Digital Native Vertical Brands (DNVB) model has inspired thousands of entrepreneurs. And almost every product, even the most niche, has had its DNVB version. The low barriers to entry in digital commerce have been a key factor in the DNVB tsunami. But this success is also a risk to the viability of the model, generating ruthless competition on margins and acquisition costs... A competition that has been accentuated by the fact that most DNVBs focus on the same target of digital natives. 

And while their model was based on disintermediation, to increase their margins (and share them with their clients on a "fair price" basis), most DNVBs have become so dependent on online acquisition that their margins are now almost entirely captured by Google and Facebook. 

This is why more and more DNVBs are now turning to physical outlets. But just as physical distribution networks are having difficulties with e-commerce, pure players are also finding it difficult to master physical distribution...

In both cases, the reason is simple: it is a completely different business.

Omnichannel-native brands: the birth of a new model for BtoB and BtoC sales?

In this context, we are witnessing the emergence of a new brand model that is structurally omnichannel: the ONVB, for Omnichannel Native Vertical Brands. The concept of omnichannel is not new, but it is the "native" aspect of ONVBs that makes this model innovative. 

Indeed, from the outset, ONVBs are designed to use multiple distribution channels (e-commerce, points of sale, pop-up stores, retailers, etc.). Thus, the brand, the audience, the products, the margin level, the returns policy, the internal organisation, recruitment, IT processes (CRM, payment, stock management), the customer experience, logistics, communication, etc., are all designed for an omnichannel approach. 

As a result, the ONVB does not suffer from the technical or organisational debt that weighs on the historical players! 

Among the many advantages of this model, we can mention : 

  • Reduced dependence on paid acquisition. ONVBs can better adjust their acquisition efforts to market conditions;
  • A larger, international audience at their fingertips. Unlike their predecessors, ONVBs are free to deploy themselves widely on indirect channels. They therefore attract a wider audience, less sensitive to the exclusive character of their brand. Pop-up stores in shopping centres are another excellent example of an effective acquisition channel for ONVBs. They allow the brand and its products to be exposed to potential new customers at a very competitive price. It is also an opportunity to interact physically with customers (via storytelling, customer feedback, etc.). ONVBs can also use digital tools to test new distribution areas in a more cost-effective way. And then leverage their distribution partners to roll out their brand on a larger scale.

The first successes of the ONVB

The first ONVBs were developed on instinct by entrepreneurs who better analysed the limitations of the previous model. In France, the forerunner was perhaps Bobbies, launched in 2010 with a simple showroom, quickly followed by an online shop and an indirect sales strategy. This was followed by the opening of its first own physical shop in 2013. In 2014, Merci Handy simultaneously launched its coloured antibacterial gels in e-commerce and wholesale. Its network now includes nearly 3,000 retailers.

🌟👖 The example of LEPANTALON

While the transition from the DNVB model to omnichannel may seem more complex, there are many success stories. This is the case, for example, of the brand LEPANTALON, which began with Direct To Consumer, distributing its products exclusively on its own website. Then in its own shops and physical points of sale, in particular to allow customers to try on their clothes and become more familiar with the brand's sizes. 

Today, LEPANTALON's acquisition levers are fully omnichannel. In-store interactions help to increase traffic on the website, and vice versa.  

The challenges of omnichannel: a more attractive, but also more demanding strategy

The ONVBs can therefore be seen as a natural evolution, or rather an evolution of the DNVB model. Omnichannel thus takes up the main assets of the latter, with particular emphasis on the customer experience, lean launches, brand differentiation and transparent, local communication.  

However, as we have just seen, the barriers to entry remain higher. To be successful in indirect sales, the brand must be stronger and the storytelling more universal. The ONVB model also requires a much wider range of skills. It includes everything from deploying and managing dozens of outlets to hundreds of resellers. 😱 The model also takes longer to deploy. On average, it would take 2-3 years to be operational across all channels, compared to just 6 months for DNVB. 

Among the other challenges that have emerged with omnichannel, especially in BtoB selling, merchants face: 

  • Back-office integration between channels; 
  • Difficulties in sharing customer data and analysis across channels, countries or trade areas; 
  • Limiting constraints imposed by distribution partners, franchises or wholesalers; 
  • Potential conflicts between different channel organisations;
  • But also implementation difficulties (such as lack of commercial incentives). Or limited staff skills and management resistance. 

Creating a consistent online and offline sales experience: the main challenge of multi-channel (BtoB and BtoC)

In contrast to the massive wave of DNVBs, it is likely that not as many omnichannel brands will emerge. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, as this lesser competitive pressure will leave higher margins for the ONVBs that will come out on top! 👀 

To achieve this, it will start with a successful transition from a 100% digital model to opening physical shops. An exciting moment for brands, but also a colossal challenge to manage a network of shops. And above all to adapt their strategies, as digital success does not automatically translate into physical success. 

💡 Bigblue's tips

Below we share with you the 3 levers to pull to ease the path to omnichannel. 

1. Controlling your communication

The challenge of communication systematically arises in a more frontal manner when the number of physical points of sale increases dramatically. The transition from digital to physical necessarily requires tuning the violins. 🎻

Your brand must start by clearly defining its brand universe and thinking about its online and in-store translations. It must also set up communication channels adapted to its new partners. And thus, ensure a good dissemination of information through its network of shops, but also towards its retailers. 

The best way to get rid of this problem is to use a platform that allows seamless and instant communication between the shop teams, the area managers and the head office. 

2. Managing your teams in omnichannel

In-store visits also become necessary as your network grows. Having a complete overview of what is happening in your outlets is easy when there are only a few to monitor. But then again, the game changes when you are talking about dozens or even hundreds of shops!

DNVBs that are just starting to develop their physical offerings have a clean slate that can help them avoid falling into bad habits. The key is to learn from the failures of the retailers who came before them. The very ones who simply digitised their in-store management processes. Don't make that mistake, failure is guaranteed! 😵

🌟👖 LEPANTALON’s example

LEPANTALON, for example, has worked hard on the recruitment and training of its teams. The brand has worked to find ambassadors, sticking with its values. It especially values friendliness and smiles, the attitude of advicing and listening rather than an aggressive sales approach, which does not fit with its online shopping experience. 

3. Ensure brand consistency

As its presence diversifies from online to physical shops, but also to concept stores and pop-ups in department stores, the omnichannel brand must fight to keep its universe from being diluted. This is as true for BtoB sales as for BtoC.

To maintain consistency in your image and customer experience, you need to set standards. For digital native brands, who are also true pioneers of the experiential retail model, it is even more important to cultivate a good reputation by creating a unique and engaging brand experience.

🌟👖 LEPANTALON’s example

LEPANTALON once again gives us keys to prevent scaling your network from becoming an obstacle. To maintain a consistent brand identity, it is thus crucial that each channel follows the same vision. The first step is to put it on paper. Then deploy it with the same common thread that will be applied to both channels. For the in-store channel, the brand focused on the interior design, for example, in line with the DNA created online. 

In general, this goal of consistency is easier to achieve by monitoring compliance with head office guidelines using a centralised digital platform. 

The importance of an integrated SaaS for omnichannel operations in both B2B and B2C sales

Regardless of the sales model (B2B or B2C) or the industry, the key to success for brands is to offer their customers an omnichannel journey. From their point of view, it doesn't matter whether they buy online or offline. It's all about finding the most convenient and fastest channel at any given time.  

To stimulate and coordinate their omnichannel efforts, merchants need the support of technology partners. This includes a SaaS solution, such as Shopify and Bigblue, that will allow them to manage their operations (CRM, online sales, logistics, and corporate resources). Brands that choose this approach argue that it offers them a faster implementation speed and better stimulates continuous innovation. It will therefore ultimately be more cost-effective than an on-premise solution!

Discover how Bigblue can help you sell everywhere! We provide easy fulfillment for your wholesale orders, retail locations, pop-up stores, and more. The flexibility of e-commerce delivery for your BtoB sales locations.

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