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Omnichannel as a new challenge for logistics


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The goal of the article is to present the Omnichannel strategy in e-commerce. The article discusses the characteristic features of the e-commerce market in Poland and the influence the society has on e-trade, as well as the major challenges and problems for the logistics in the Omnichannel strategy.
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Torun Business Review 15(4) 2016 69-78
The rapid pace of the development of information technology is accompanied by simul-
taneous societal changes, both of which contribute to the growth in the e-commerce
sector. The new type of society that started to emerge in the 90’s can be described as an
information society, which possesses modern, highly developed means of communi-
cating and processing information. New ways of reaching potential customers have
resulted in a strong growth in online sales. An increasing number of companies in the
e-commerce sector are selling their products solely online, with many chain stores
choosing this form of trading as well (Bell, Gallino & Moreno, 2014). There are, however,
significant differences between e-commerce and traditional trade, which necessitate
implementation of modern methods and solutions allowing a company to stay afloat in
the ever-changing e-commerce market. As the e-commerce sector expands, so does the
demand for transportation and logistics services. Both logistics and marketing consti-
tute the foundation of any company dealing in e-trade. Just a few years ago, offering
Gdansk University, Poland
The goal of the article is to present the Omnichannel
strategy in e-commerce. The article discusses the char-
acteristic features of the e-commerce market in Poland
and the influence the society has on e-trade, as well as
the major challenges and problems for the logistics in the
Omnichannel strategy.
Available online 23 December
JEL: L15, L81, L86.
Dariusz Weiland
services and products online gave the company a competitive advantage; these days,
however, in a highly competitive, globalized world dominated by the Internet, partici-
pating in e-market has become a necessity for any corporation if it wishes to survive
and thrive (Kozlenkova et al., 2015; Verhoef et al., 2015). The result of all these changes is
that implementation of novel sales strategies, such as Multi- and Omnichannel, has
become a necessity.
The goal of this article is to present the role of the Omnichannel strategy in
e-commerce and discuss the main trend in e-trade that has started to emerge in recent
years. The article will further outline the crucial role of logistics, specifically, the logis-
tics of information in reference to the Omnichannel strategy.
Analyzing the relevant literature does not yield an unequivocal answer as to when
e-commerce came to be. Many authors point at the 90’s, identifying the beginning of
e-commerce with the rise of the commercial use of the Internet (Tian & Stewart, 2006).
However, commercialization of the Internet gave birth to the very idea of e-commerce,
which has been constantly evolving and adapting to the ensuing changes ever since its
inception. Even though not yet given its official name, e-commerce existed much earli-
er. Delving into the topic of e-trading, one is likely to notice that the terms ‘e-
commerce’ and ‘e-business’ are used interchangeably by both the authors of publications
and entrepreneurs. The situation is analogical to that of traditional trading, which is part
of business the same way electronic trading is part of electronic business or e-business
(Szpringer, 2000). The broadest term here is e-economy, which is defined as a virtual
arena of business activity, trade transactions, generation and exchange of assets, and final-
ly of establishing direct links between the participants (Gregor & Stwiszyński, 2002).
Numerous definitions of e-commerce can be found in the literature. The most
commonly mentioned features are as follows:
Executing sell/buy transactions through electronic channels.
The Internet as the primary means of making said transactions (including the
payment) and communicating among the participants.
Delivery of products and services is done either through or outside the Internet.
The multiplicity of the definitions of e-commerce can be ascribed to the pace at
which e-trading is evolving, which necessitates adjusting the existing terminology to the
current trends, globalization and the needs of the customers. What is also of importance
is the unabated, rapid advancement of new technologies.
The size of the e-commerce market is primarily defined by the growing rate of in-
formatization. An increasing number of people have Internet access, thus joining the
vast group of potential customers. In 2010, 28.7% of people worldwide had Internet ac-
cess which translates into 2,023,202,974 individuals with the access; in 2015, this per-
Torun Business Review 15(4) 2016
centage rose to a staggering 46.4% or 3,424,971,237 people with the Internet access (Fig-
ure 1) (Internet World Stats, 2015).
Figure 1. Percent population with the Internet access.
Source: Own elaboration based on
Figure 2. Value of e-commerce market in Poland.
Source: Own elaboration based on Raport Handel Elektroniczny w Polsce, 2015
In Poland, the Internet penetration rate is 76.5%, which means that 9.4 million
households have Internet access
(Raport Handel Elektroniczny w Polsce, 2015). In the
same year, the total value of e-commerce market in Poland was estimated at 31 billion
Polish zloty (Raport Handel Elektroniczny w Polsce, 2015).
According to Barometr Ecom-
merce 2016 report, the value of the e-commerce market in Poland will rise by 15%,
Dariusz Weiland
reaching a total of 35.8 billion Polish zloty (Raport Barometr Ecommerce, 2016). Polish
e-commerce market is so dynamic that it has been experiencing a double-figure annual
growth for the last 5 years. In that time, 2011 saw the most significant increase, namely,
16.2%, while the year of the smallest growth was 2013 with 13.4% (Figure 2) (Raport Han-
del Elektroniczny w Polsce, 2015). This data clearly indicates a huge potential for future
growth in this sector, which will result in increasing competitiveness.
Both globalization and the advancement of information technology have had and will
continue to have a huge impact on not only the development of e-commerce, but pri-
marily on the evolution of society (Kotler, Amstrong, Saunders & Wong, 2002).
The main
characteristic of the information society is placing a high value on information. B. Greg-
or and M. Stawiszyński report that matters relating to information are at the center of
society’s attention, taking precedence over consumption, while information infrastruc-
ture is considered a factor contributing to nation’s wealth (Gregor & Stwiszyński, 2002).
Information society depends to a large extent on knowledge, which is listed among
the most important resources that society possesses, next to land, financial capital and
work, thus becoming one of the fundamental contributors to production. However, one
has to bear in mind that it is information that generates knowledge and vice versa: by
acquiring knowledge, we become capable of producing high-quality information,
whereby information becomes a medium for transferring knowledge. Therefore, infor-
mation ought to be considered as one of the most important modulators of production
and treated as a resource. The growth and development of information society is un-
doubtedly affected by widespread access to modern technologies, which creates unlim-
ited channels of communication.
It is difficult to provide a comprehensive definition of what an information society
actually is. We can find multiple attempts at arriving at such a definition in the relevant
literature - the most commonly cited one reads as follows: “An information society is
a society that possesses highly advanced means of communicating and processing in-
formation the means of which lie at the core of generating national wealth and consti-
tute the primary source of income for the majority of the nation” (Goban-Klas & Sien-
kiewicz, 1999). What needs to be mentioned in any discussion of information society is
its key features, as distinguished and elaborated on by Z. E. Zieliński:
Production of information the information society produces, demands and uses
information in large quantities and on a large scale.
Information storage technological advancement allows for unlimited acquisition
and storage of information.
Information processing – implementation of new techniques and standards re-
garding unified description and exchange of information.
Information transfer – transferring information in a manner that is not limited by
space or time.
Information downloading – anyone interested in given information may freely
download it.
Use of information – common, open, unlimited use of information via the Internet.
Torun Business Review 15(4) 2016
What distinguishes the contemporary customer is his awareness? He is fully con-
scious of the relation between price and quality, which means that customers look for
high-quality products at a price close to the cost of production. Another important
feature of the contemporary customer is the awareness of his bargaining power high
competitiveness means that it is the customer who ultimately decides whether a given
purchase takes place or not, and the customer knows it. Likewise, it is the customer
who chooses between various delivery options and switching from one to another is of
little consequence for him. Another important feature of contemporary customers is
possessing access to highly developed means of acquiring information they use vari-
ous portals that facilitate exchange of opinions, they are part of global social networks
and smaller localized groups, where they can instantly share their insight in regard to
a specific product and its seller. The contemporary customer is also time-conscious
– he expects that the seller will promptly react to the needs and demands communicat-
ed to him. The fast pace of our lives is reflected in the expectations we have towards the
suppliers of products we purchase. Finally, the contemporary customer makes use of
modern technology – it is he who determines sales trends and the means and devices
through which purchases are made and goods are sold.
All these characteristics affect not only the way e-commerce – or e-business
looks, but also the entire economy. Information used by society of such individuals
may be turned into a competitive advantage for many companies dealing in e-trade.
In the past, when a customer wanted to purchase, let’s say, a washing machine, he had
to go either to a store or warehouse, where he would see what was offered and browse
through the functions and parameters of the products. In the 90’s, however, commer-
cialization of the Internet began, and with it came the growing awareness of the as of
yet untapped potential of websites and the increasing number of Internet users. The
first step taken by suppliers was to create websites of their stores – virtual business
cards advertising their products to a much larger audience than merely those who actu-
ally physically visited their stores. The consequence of putting up a website was an in-
crease in the number of phone calls requesting information about the availability of
products. This, in turn, led to the creation of online product catalogues. At first, these
were simple lists of the products currently on sale, but with time, they were supple-
mented with increasingly lengthy descriptions and prices, which was the beginning of
online sales market. Shortly afterwards, first HTML-based online shops began to crop
up, and their appearance plus their offering shipment resulted in the intensification of
logistics services. As the sellers became aware of the possibility of reducing the costs,
the number of online shops began to increase on a yearly basis. Going online allows the
suppliers to abandon large stores and replace them with small storage areas in the
basement or even a garage – this is how many internet shops began their journey to-
wards establishing themselves firmly in today’s market and becoming some of the most
influential and active sales platforms.
However, the rapid expansion of the Internet affected not only the sellers but also
the customers, and it was they who began to dictate the way forward (Hübner et al.
Dariusz Weiland
2016). The next step in the development of strategies of online sales was the introduc-
tion of new channels. Apart from retail and e-tail, the customer also had a third option,
namely to purchase goods by phone, which laid the groundwork for the development of
Multichannel strategy that utilizes multiple sales channels. What facilitated further
growth of this strategy was the emergence of mobile devices offering Internet access
(primarily smartphones and tablets). These allowed consumers to not only make pur-
chases but also compare the prices and seek feedback about the product while standing
in the actual retail store (Zhang, 2010). Thus, mobile devices became another important
sales channel, which only grew in popularity year by year. This particular sales channel
is described as m-commerce, which denotes selling products by means of mobile devic-
es. However, it was not just mobile devices that joined the ranks of sales channels – all
electronics, including TV, offering Internet access could be potentially used to make
a purchase in an online store or become a completely new sales channel by means of
a shopping application written specifically for a given device. Yet another sales channel
that is experiencing growth in popularity are social media, some of which allowed ven-
dors to market their products through their sites, thus becoming part of the army of
sales channels.
At the moment, customers can buy goods by means of whatever sales channel they
prefer and in whichever combination they choose; and this is exactly the idea behind
the Multichannel strategy. Over time, however, serious deficiencies in the strategy
started to emerge, the most important being lack of information flow between individu-
al channels. It is often the case that multiple channels representing the same store com-
pete with each other for customers by offering different prices, discounts, delivery
options and return policies. A solution to these problems is the Omnichannel strategy,
which places customer in the center of attention. A graphical approach to the differ-
ences between different strategies is shown in Figure 3. Such customers should be given
an option to seamlessly switch between different channels, taking the same amount of
pleasure from shopping regardless of which channels they opt for (Christopher, 2016).
Figure 3. Overview of differences between Single-, Multi- and Omnichannel
Source: Own elaboration based on Hübner et al. 2016
Torun Business Review 15(4) 2016
In order for the Omnichannel strategy to be implemented within a company, a few
conditions need to be met. First, the customer must be of utmost priority. Sales through
multiple channels should be organized in such a way as to ensure that the customer
does not feel any difference between various channels and takes an equal amount of
pleasure from buying through each of them. For example, he might make his purchase
online, but if need be, he must be given the option to return the product via different
means. Many shops do not allow this – if a product is bought through one channel, it
must be returned through the same route.
Another condition to be satisfied is adopting a processual perspective on the de-
velopment of the company and full integration of the constituent parts. One must aban-
don seeing individual channels as separate elements and view the whole company as an
integral, robust system, which - even though it is composed of a great number of sub-
processes - nonetheless comes together as a fully coordinated sum of its parts.
For the Omnichannel strategy to function properly, it also requires centralized and
integrated IT systems, which means that all the information regarding customers,
products, prices, discounts, etc., is stored in one data base. This allows realization of
a placed order through whichever channel – for example, the customer might start the
purchase in the retail shop, but finish it online, through telephone, or vice versa.
The last significant aspect of this strategy is the coordinated and fully monitored
flow of resources, including information. Both customer and specific channels have
been supplied with precise information regarding stock level and the condition and
location of the supplies. For this to happen, a well thought-out and functional infor-
mation processing system must be implemented, which will enable a specific piece of
information to reach its respective recipient at the right time, in the right place and in
well-adjusted quantity and quality. This will also allow for the cost of acquiring and
processing information to be maintained at a reasonable level.
Demand to implement the Omnichannel strategy is dictated by customers who
show most interest in it (Raport Omnichannel Retailing, 2015):
90% of respondents would like to have the option to make an online reservation of
a product that is sold in a retail store.
96% of respondents would like to have the option to return a product via different
means than the way they purchased it.
96% of respondents would like to check the availability of the products in an online
retail store.
79% of respondents say that browsing through the offer online encourages them to
visit the retail store
90% of respondents go online to look for information regarding products they have
seen in a retail store.
Such data indicates that there is high demand among the customers for all the ma-
jor services provided by Omnichannel strategy. However, implementing this strategy is
a lengthy and arduous process, which has to be subdivided into well-planned, detailed
Dariusz Weiland
From the very moment one starts to plan how to implement the Omnichannel strategy
in a given company, the potential problems and solutions need to be taken into account.
The source for many of these problems lies in the malfunctioning of logistics, including
the logistics of information in said company.
Low quality of information (in basic data). Customers are not able to handle the
excess information generated in multichannel sales. It is difficult to store the relevant
data from both the customer’s and company’s perspective, since every action taken by
either of them produces a “wave” of information. This means that it is necessary to start
viewing information as a resource, the logistics of which need to be handled appropri-
ately – information has to be delivered to the appropriate place (the appropriate recipi-
ent), at an appropriate time (delayed information loses its value), in an appropriate
quantity (information cannot be too complex or too general but as precise as possible).
It also has to be of adequate quality (that, be free of deficiencies, such as false data) and
finally, it has to come at an acceptable cost – information, just like any other resource,
has to be mined and processed, which involves certain expenses. If all these conditions
are met, adequate information resources will be delivered in order for the decision-
making processes to be performed efficiently and at a profit. The primary goal of logis-
tics, including the logistics of information, is to ensure an integrated flow of resources
in both space and time in a way that maximizes the satisfaction of the internal and ex-
ternal customer at a given level of financial investment (Chaberek, 1999). The above-
listed assumptions concerning logistics must be taken into consideration whenever
a subset of data is processed, be it in product description or information on the return
Every issue can be traced back to the effectiveness of product flow within the chain
of production and consumption. In terms of products that are purchased and returned
via different channels, the Omnichannel strategy has a problem with their adequate
integration. Such an issue arises when, for example, the product that was ordered
online cannot be picked up in a retail store even though it is available.
Another sensitive area of the Omnichannel strategy is arriving at an assessment of
the volume of shipment and the costs of its transport. One of the fundamental features
of Omnichannel is that it allows customers to make part of the purchase via one channel
and the rest via another, which makes it difficult to estimate delivery costs.
Data regarding supply status is not always up to date. This issue is connected with
information flow disruptions and the effectiveness of resource flowing along the chain.
Lack of integration and a single shared database for all channels often results in differ-
ent channels receiving conflicting data regarding supplies, which does not reflect the
actual state of affairs. It is thus necessary to create a supply monitoring system that
provides the same trustworthy information about the available supplies to all channels.
Issues relating to the effectiveness of all channels. This problem arises as a result
of the inability to view the company as an integrated system. Splitting the company into
separate channels may result in differences between their respective levels of effective-
ness, whereby optimizations in some of the channels may lead to lowering the efficiency
Torun Business Review 15(4) 2016
of others. It is therefore crucial to fully integrate all of them and adopt a holistic per-
spective of the company (Neslin et al. 2006).
The most important challenges faced by logistics include:
Full integration between the channels and the processes involved.
Utilization of multiple channels for conducting sales and making the deliveries.
Information flow and its homogenization at every step of the process (and within
each channel).
A unified customer service system affording maximum client satisfaction.
Constant supervision and monitoring of the processes.
Well-designed infrastructure of the warehouses.
Supervision of the “last mile” in the sales process.
Working out a multichannel yet integrated model governing product returns.
All of the above accompanied by maximum cost-efficiency.
Considering potential problems that might crop up while implementing the Omni-
channel strategy and the resulting logistical challenges, makes us realize how crucial it
is to plan the entire process correctly. There is no universally applicable instruction on
how to create and execute the strategy, but it is helpful to remember how important it
is to be aware of the role of logistics in such an endeavor.
As the information discussed in this article indicates, there is a demand among the
customers for the implementation of Omnichannel strategy in enterprises. This results
primarily from the growing expectations with regard to the quality of services and cus-
tomer satisfaction levels. The Omnichannel strategy requires well thought-out logistics,
which is often under-appreciated by e-commerce companies and without which it is
impossible to avoid many problems attendant on transforming a multichannel into an
Omnichannel strategy. The main challenges for logistics include in particular, improv-
ing the quality of information, problems with the efficiency of the flow of goods, deter-
mining the volume of shipments and their valuation and integration of all sales channels
into one system. Such a transformation is a very complicated and labor-intensive pro-
cess, which yields results only after a considerable amount of time. However, if the
system for the management of sales channels is planned and executed in a way that
integrates them into a larger whole and takes into account the objectives of logistics, it
will allow the company to implement successive channels while minimizing the re-
quired cost and effort. Full integration of all channels should become key in establishing
a competitive advantage.
Dariusz Weiland
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... This relevant barrier could be easily mitigated through the use of different channels, for instance, websites referring individuals to volunteering opportunities, mobile applications which alert potential volunteers about upcoming one-time events, social media feeds or traditional mass media disseminating advertisements, among others [8]. Furthermore, although the omni-channel concept emerged in the retail sector, is perfectly applicable to any type of organization trying to achieve the full integration of multiple channels in order to ensure that its main stakeholders can use them interchangeably [21], including NPO. ...
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Purpose – Online retailing changes all retail systems significantly. The growing importance of online sales requires the creation of new fulfillment models. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how retailers develop from separate multi-channel (MC) to integrated omni-channel (OC) fulfillment. OC retailing has an integrated perspective, with seamless interactions between online and bricks-andmortar channels. Design/methodology/approach – More than 60 internationally active retailers and experts from Germany participated in an exploratory survey. With a response rate of 40 percent the authors achieved the goal to adequately depict the German MC and OC retail market. It is currently the largest empirical study of MC and OC fulfillment. Findings – It is the first study to comprehensively analyze the logistical development options open to retailers for integrated fulfillment. The authors discuss the conceptual development options and formulate propositions for an advanced OC fulfillment approach. OC retailers aim to pool their organizational units for fulfillment via different channels. Retailers with multiple channels develop their warehouse systems toward channel-integrated inventory enabling flexible and demand-driven inventory allocation. Retailers with channel-integrated inventory also organize their picking procedures in one common zone. The higher the outlet density, the more it becomes beneficial for retailers to introduce pick-up services. Research limitations/implications – The research is based on insights from retailers and experts from companies based in Germany. Practical implications – The findings provide an insight into designing OC fulfillment and distribution structures. The concepts themselves, archetypes, challenges and development paths are analyzed. Identified logistics levers can be adjusted to pinpoint the steps required to advance integration. Originality/value – The authors contribute by deriving propositions and a framework for transitioning from basic MC to integrated, extended OC logistics. Because this research area is still comparatively young, the authors take a more comprehensive, exploratory view of OC fulfillment. Keywords Multi-channel, Omni-channel, Fulfilment, Retail logistics, Warehouse operations
This paper synthesizes five decades of supply chain-related research from premier managerially oriented marketing journals and provides a state-of-the-art integration and forecasting of where the field is heading. Such a review identifies where the field of supply chain management (SCM) has been, where it is, and where it is likely to go within the domain of marketing. Importantly, our paper involves a strategic discovery of the anchoring of SCM thought in marketing. A prominent feature of this paper is a set of takeaways, delineated from the cross-section of SCM literature bases (marketing channels, logistics, purchasing, and operations management) that will facilitate the development of the topic of SCM in marketing. These takeaways serve as agenda setters for future research and potential applications of SCM in marketing. Overall, we contribute to the marketing and SCM literatures by (1) reviewing the breadth of the most impactful literature on SCM that is directly connected to the field of marketing, (2) summarizing the state-of-the-art of the SCM in marketing literature, and (3) forecasting via a series of integrated takeaways what research is needed and where the SCM in marketing is likely to progress.
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to develop a holistic operations planning framework for grocery retailing. The authors aim to identify, describe and structure coherent demand and supply chain (SC) planning problems in a comprehensive architecture. Design/methodology/approach The authors reviewed key literature on retail SC management and sales planning. This built a foundation for the development of an integrated operations planning framework. The findings were evaluated through discussions with retailers and communications with retail planners, including personal interviews with 28 leading European grocery retailers and with people in related positions from the consumer goods industry and consultancies. Findings The core of this paper is the development of a coherent demand and SC planning matrix. It demonstrates planning interdependencies and defines a framework for retail operations. The grocery planning framework integrates retail specifics, as well as hierarchical and sequential aspects of decision making. That is why this planning architecture also forms the foundation for research and development of advanced decision support systems. Practical implications Planning tasks are identified in interrelated planning modules permitting coordinated and decentralised decision making, which is necessary for operational and complexity reasons. The planning framework assists retail planners in understanding their decision problem from a comprehensive perspective. Better coordination of different modules and further development of retail‐tailored analytical models will improve planning quality. Originality/value This is the first paper that structures retail demand and SC planning questions coherently in one framework, matching demand and supply from a long‐ to short‐term perspective and from supplier to customer.
How to win in an omni-channel world?
  • D R Bell
  • S Gallino
  • A Moreno
Bell, D. R., Gallino, S. & Moreno, A. (2014). How to win in an omni-channel world?, MIT Sloan Management Review, Vol. 56 No. 1, 45-55.
Logistyka-dawne i współczesne płaszczyzny praktycznego jej stosowania
  • M Chaberek
Chaberek, M. (1999). Logistyka-dawne i współczesne płaszczyzny praktycznego jej stosowania. Pieniądze i Więź, nr 3
Logistiis and Suvvly Chain Management : Edition 5. New York Pearson Education Limited
  • M Christopher
Christopher, M. (2016). Logistiis and Suvvly Chain Management : Edition 5. New York Pearson Education Limited, 66-67.
Svołeizeństwo informaiyjne: Szanse, zagrożenia, wyzwania. Kraków, Wyd
  • T Goban-Klas
  • P Sienkiewicz
Goban-Klas, T., Sienkiewicz, P. (1999). Svołeizeństwo informaiyjne: Szanse, zagrożenia, wyzwania. Kraków, Wyd. Fundacji Postępu Telekomunikacji,