Are Retailers Ready for the Omni-Channel Revolution?

Brands are starting to realise that the key to success is to think like their customers and create seamless omni-channel shopping experiences that keeps customers engaged at all stages as they drift from phone, tablet, laptop and desktop PC without even giving it a second thought.

Every year there is a new industry buzzword which has previously consisted of offerings such as the Internet of Things, Big Data or Dark Social for example, but the majority of consumers are unaware that the hottest trend in retail at the moment is a strategy known as “omnichannel” and in simple terms just means giving customers the ability to shop anywhere and receive goods in the quickest most convenient way possible.

A few years ago, there was a concern that frugal shoppers and the art of “showrooming” would spell the end of the high street where consumers would test an item in a physical store, obtain advice and then leave to buy cheaper online.

However, the current trend of “webrooming” is the complete opposite, as customers are researching items online and then purchasing them in-store, thus the best method of retailers taking advantage of this is via omni-channel marketing.

This strategy is affecting all savvy businesses that not only see’s bricks and mortar stores increasing their online and social presence but much more interesting to see behemoths such as Amazon opening their first physical store which has coined the cringe-worthy phrase ‘digical’ (digital first and physical second)

Amazon is also reportedly in discussions to buy hundreds of retail stores across the US to showcase its products, such as the Kindle tablet and Fire smartphone, and act as delivery points for online orders.

Walmart President and CEO Michael T. Duke was clearly ahead of the curve when he advised shareholders in their annual report back in 2013 that “By bringing together best-in-class online, mobile and social capabilities and our over 10,700 stores, we are building what no other retailer – online or otherwise – can,”

We can offer customers a truly seamless experience that empowers them to shop in the way most convenient to them – anytime and anywhere. Over the past year, we have made significant investments in talent and technology to accelerate progress toward that vision.

The best example of an Omni-channel strategy paying dividends is UK department store John Lewis department store when their sales rose by 4.5% to £68.8m despite some areas of the country being hit by snow.

John Lewis director of selling, North and new formats, Maggie Porteous went on to advise:

The first week of the new financial year dawned cold across the country, with snow hitting a number of regions over the course of the week, causing minor disruption to trade in some of our shops. But that is where the strength of our omnichannel trade comes to the fore.

With technology moving along at a blistering pace and even train companies looking at utilising this strategy to help passengers during travel disruptions, equally there are many in the retail industry asking the question, how many stores are ready for this next wave of IT change, but there are a handful of tech start-up’s that are happy to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Although there is a significant proportion of customers that are purchasing through digital channels, it is also clear that we are not abandoning traditional ones either and this is a massive wake-up call for retailers to ensure they ignore the needs of today’s connected customers at their peril.

Big data might help stores have a greater understanding of their customers, but the biggest challenge is for the retail industry to deliver the best customer experience regardless of channel or platform and although efficiency online can be attributed to the one-click method of purchasing, maybe more focus needs to go on improving the customer experience in physical stores which doesn’t necessarily need to involve any technology at all on the shop floor.

What do you think are the biggest challenges ahead for businesses adapting to the Omni-Channel Retailing strategy?

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