This excerpt is from an article by Chris Petersen, CEO of Integrated Marketing Solutions, originally posted on Retailcustomerexperience.com. We've selected some points you may find relevant. After you read the excerpt, check out the full article for more details about the ways other retailers incorporate technological innovation into their retail strategies.
Every once in a while you need to step back from the daily grind of retail and look at the bigger picture. There are a lot of retailers talking and posturing about "omni-channel." Does omni-channel simply mean more than one place to buy? Retailers think in terms of channels — consumers don't. Omni-channel is best used to describe how today's consumers shop, anytime and everywhere. Retail success will require strategies for how to engage consumers on their terms. If retail stores are to survive and thrive, they must give shoppers something that they can't get online … personalization plus experience.
Omni-channel is how consumers shop, not a retail strategy
One only needs to peruse the retail headlines to see how frequent the topic of omni-channel comes up. To really appreciate how pervasive the term omni-channel is, just scan through retailer annual reports to see their statements about the future and how they will be addressing omni-channel as part of their strategy.
But, omni-channel is about how today's consumers shop … it is NOT a retail strategy!
Omni-channel is about consumers and their behavior. Today consumers armed with smartphones literally shop anytime and everywhere. Shopping includes much more than the purchase itself — it is all about discovering new things, deciding what is relevant, researching options, gathering feedback on best options, deciding the best solution for their lifestyle, and finally making the purchase. This purchase journey involves not only websites and stores, but information gathering from social media and networks.
A retailer can NOT be part of every phase and facet of a consumer's omni-channel behavior. Effective retail strategy is about where and how a retailer can effectively engage consumers at experience touch points in the journey.
To lure shoppers back in stores will require a differentiated experience
If it is only about finding a product and purchasing it at the lowest price, online e-commerce sites win hands down. Consumers are moving their purchases to e-commerce because of increased choice, flexibility and services available. The net result is that store traffic is steadily dropping.
If retail stores want to lure consumers back, they have to do more than display products and run price promotions. They have to do much more. Today's omni-channel shoppers are expecting much more from stores than products with signs and fact tags. To get shoppers in store and keep them coming back, successful retail stores must create something that consumers can't get online — engagement plus personalized experience.
The ultimate "P" in store personalization you can't get online
There is, and always has been, a secret weapon for stores that create a unique, powerful personal experience you can't get online: PEOPLE! Somewhere along the way of creating big-box retailing focused on assortments and merchandising, retailers forgot about the power of people. The big box stores are increasingly costly to operate, so many stores are cutting staff to control SGA operating expenses.
The thing you absolutely can't get online is a knowledgeable person who takes an interested in helping you find exactly what you need. What you absolutely can't get online is someone going out of their way to show you a better solution you had never thought of. Perhaps the greatest use of technology (e.g., tablets) in retail stores will be to enable associates to engage omni-channel consumers in ways they shop, and provide unprecedented levels of personalized experience that can never be delivered online.