The omnichannel era is over: arise the ecosystem

Like all buzzwords, omnichannel has had its time. The omnichannel era is over.

The ‘channel’, per se, is an anachronism now, aided and abetted by historical templates of thinking including hierarchal organisation structures and their deployment, but nevertheless, in such a fast paced changing retail sector, a memento of thinking.

Now we refer to the ‘ecosystem’ that a retailer develops for brand and its deployment – that is everything that exists in a particular environment.

We see this in today’s retail ‘fit’ businesses from the likes of Sneakerboy to Shoes of Prey; their mantra is to build and develop a community footprint with an ecosystem of virtual, digital and physical expressions of their brand.

Building a loyal community of evangelists and loyalists fuelled by deep personality-driven, motivated reasons to join this ecosystem, moving and communicating seamlessly through the channels in any which direction – that is the increasingly preferred customer journey. The result is positive word of mouth and organic growth, leading to sustainable revenue growth. Every retailer’s number one goal.


Communicated correctly, through all the major online and offline channels that your audience may use on their journey to purchase, ecosystems of the ‘fittest’ retailers manage to progressively spread brand message, not only nationally, but globally.

US beauty retailer, Benefit, is in the final month of a five-month pop-up concept in London. The fun and experimental retailer holds a strong personality at its core, and its retail movements evolve naturally from this. From this, we say, all aboard ‘The Good Ship Benefit’ as their latest physical expression of the brand comes in the form of a ‘pop-up’ Benefit boat on the river Thames in London. Who says retail has to stick to the high street or shopping centre?

This is not the first experiential initiative from the brand, which has staged events including “Curl’s Best Friend” for the launch of Roller Lash last year and the pop-up “Curl and Cocktail Bar” in 2014.

With five rooms to visit on board, this isn’t just a quick stop shop. From blow-dry’s to burlesque, the unique pop-up store has been hosting a series of events over the past couple of months including yoga, comedy nights, afternoon teas and more, as well as a never-ending list of beauty treatments.


Rooms on the boat include the ‘Professional Vault’ room and ‘Brow Lounge’ focusing on treatments for the skin. Inspired by Hawaii, the Hoola deck features tiki huts and cabana-style beds, while hula girls — and boys —serve cocktails. The main deck bar houses the ‘Pinkerton Parlour’ lounge for guests to enjoy a coffee or cocktail. The ‘Lashitude’ restaurant pays homage to Benefit’s San Francisco roots with northern Californian cuisine.

During the five months this pop-up shop has been open, Benefit has also been spreading its feel-good approach to beauty by offering guests the opportunity to donate to charities Look Good Feel Better and Refuge, both of which help women and girls facing times of adversity.

Benefit is an example of a ‘fit’ retailer utilising the ecosystem thinking and recognising the importance of selling experience over selling units. Having confidence in your ecosystem in this way is certainly a risk, but when done well, combined with a strong brand personality and/or point of difference, retailers can expect to see growth in customer loyalty, brand awareness and significant impact on future sales.

“We do a lot of experiential things on the road as well. Our products will always do as much as possible for the customer — multifunctional “fix its” and “fake its” is part of our ethos, so that naturally spills into our experiential activity. We provide spaces and experiences for women to discover our products in a fun and inclusive way,” said Hannah Webley-Smith, Benefit Cosmetics marketing director for the UK and Ireland.

While a US-based retailer, Benefit’s fun and unique ecosystem approach with innovative, culturally sensitive physical expressions of the brand has allowed the retailer to naturally grow and evolve with the UK market.

Speaking to WWD Maggie Ford, global beauty ambassador of Benefit said, “I think the UK customer actually gets the humour of our brand a little bit maybe more so than the American customers. Right now Benefit is the number one make-up brand in the UK. It’s incredible. In a lot of ways, it feels like it’s a homegrown UK brand, but it’s actually an American brand, and it’s so well into the type of personality of the UK customer.”

While ecosystem thinking seems simple enough to discuss, implementing such thinking in an efficient and profitable manner requires deep business insights and strategy development to ensure the business is aligned to one personality or way of thinking. With this foundation to a retail ecosystem, the virtual, digital and physical expressions of the brand are guaranteed to be truly unique, authentic and well received by your desired audience.

Brian Walker is founder and CEO of Retail Doctor Group and can be contacted on (02) 9460 2882 or [email protected]. Vikki Weston, co-author of this column, is part of Retail Doctor Group’s Retail Insights team and can be contacted via email at [email protected].


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