A Future Beyond Channels
In the 1990's, when the internet and eCommerce created a tangible link between modes of shopping that had previously been isolated (stores and catalogs), retailers struggled with how to understand, measure and connect with shoppers in multiple ways.
It was out of this confusion that the concept of “multichannel” was heralded as retail’s saving grace, and soon retailers were all abuzz with cross-channel shoppers.
Fast-forward a few years and retailers began scratching their heads wondering why their “multichannel” initiatives hadn’t delivered the stunning return on investment they were promised. Shoppers still longed for a more consistent experience, but “multichannel” just wasn’t cutting it. Thus, “omnichannel” was born.
But the real problem isn’t whether the channels are “multi” or “omni” — it’s that retailers are still focused on “channels” rather than how the shopper views the world.
What’s next? The future is beyond channels. To bridge in-store, on-the-go and at-home experiences, consider these four important steps:
1. INSPIRE TO SHOP
If you’re never providing inspiration for what is possible, you’re only selling a commodity. There’s a reason why social media platform Pinterest is so popular. People still want inspiration and ideas.
2. AID THE EXPERIENCE
Over the past few years, mobile capabilities presented a threat to retailers who feared the “showrooming” effect of price-conscious shoppers comparing prices in-store and purchasing from another retailer online. Retailers need to reposition their thinking in terms of how the digital world can aid in the shopping experience.
3. MAKE IT CONVENIENT
Retailers can win loyalty with consumers through convenience. Using digital technology to enhance the customer experience by adding an element of convenience can create a true competitive advantage for brands, when done right.
4. ESTABLISH A HISTORY
When retailers think about the ideal length of a relationship with a consumer, it isn’t always about the immediate purchase that matters. Often a consumer is exposed to a new product several times before making a final purchase, so creating rapport with the consumer and building a digital conversation within the shopping cycle is key to conversion.
THE TRUTHS OF AN OMNICHANNEL PRESENT
Retailers that can move from focusing in single channels toward a connected consumer shopping experience can remain competitive in a rapidly evolving retail landscape.
Consider these four truths of an omnichannel present:
- It’s still a store world. In 2013, 90 percent of retail transactions happened in the store. We’re still in a store world, and the proof is in the fact that brands are investing more heavily in the store.
- The shopper is large and in charge. Though 90 percent of shoppers expect consistent brand experiences across channels, just 5 percent of retailers have fully executed an omnichannel strategy.
- It’s a matter of trust. Who do shoppers trust? Fifty-two percent of shoppers said a single negative review will impact how they feel about a brand. Mistakes on quality, service or value can have a profound tangible effect on the brand.
- Mobile is only part of the answer. Eighty-four percent of smartphone shoppers use their devices to guide their in-store shopping experiences. This signifies recognition that mobile is a way to engage with the shoppers and keep them coming back.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.