Skip navigation
2014

The greatest potential opportunities in store for omni channel retail market lie in the collaboration potential across the entire supply chain.  At them same time though, the greatest threat to the individual retailers will be realized by ignoring the collaboration desires of the consumer.  This is a very real threat to the retailers because of the technology and tools available to the average consumer.  The consumers now have embraced technology and mobile technology is exploding in the market now.  Mobile technology will have the greatest impact in the next few years will come from consumers’ expansion and use of mobile tools and technology.


This will be an especially large hurdle for retailers to overcome due to the inertia that many established retailers fall into almost as a result of established practices.  This also is influenced by the concept of ‘if its not broken don’t fix it’ which also tends to establish inertia in retailers. We’ve all seen this and even been part of this practice, change is hard and when retailers have established a brand and identity there is a great risk to fiddling with the brand and identity.  Inertia however is probably the worst practice to fall into from a retailer’s perspective.  The challenge with inertia is that you must take steps and plan to avoid, inertia is what happens when you do nothing, so in a very real way this is a natural progression for established retailers and established companies in general.


When a retailer embraces the omni channel retail marketing and fulfillment concepts and practices the retailer is inherently embracing a continuous change, or improvement model.  Omni channel retail is driven by the consumer rather than by the desires or direction of the retailer. The consumer is directing the actions of the retailer based on their shopping needs and more importantly their shopping availability.  As I have previously discussed, the consumer shopping practices are continuously changing based on personal and professional pressures and needs.  These changes are manifested in the consumers’ use of omni channel retailing.  Remember though, the consumer does not think of the channel in which they are shopping, the consumer is simply shopping.


The growth of the omni channel market outlet will increase exponentially as the mobile technology improves and expands in acceptance.  The successful retailers will re-invent themselves on a continual basis to meet the consumers’ needs and practices.  When the retailer embraces the change model that is behind the omni channel outlet they are embracing a challenging path of continuous change and revisions.  This can be a challenge for some retailers because this model also inherently changes the project initiative model from large initiatives that in many cases require a long time to complete to an agile model of continuous smaller initiatives that deliver and revise initiatives in quick time. 


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

As social networking concepts influence and integrate with omni channel retailing practices and the omni channel retail market these concepts will change the channel to a true omni channel retail experience.  Social network practices are influencing all aspects of interaction to humanize the technology and allow the integration of human of interaction and omni channel retailing is not immune to this influence.  The challenge for retailers in this future is to embrace the social networking concepts and release their current practice of trying to control the market place.  Consumers are beginning to exert their influence in the shopping method and history has shown that fighting this movement only ends in failure.  Technology has opened a Pandora’s box of influence on the retail market and the omni channel shopping practice is the beginning of convergence between social networking and eCommerce retailing.


The early winners in this changing market will be the retailers that eliminate friction between the purchase and the delivery and acceptance of the product by the consumer.  What I mean by this is that the retailers that make it easy to not only purchase, any time and any place, but also make it easy to return unwanted purchases will be the retailers that retain and even grow their customer base.  A great example of a retailer focused on removing the friction is Amazon and the Prime service that they offer.  Amazon already provides a great return policy and the addition of the Prime service eliminates a key hurdle to eCommerce, namely the shipping charges.  In addition the implementation of the Prime service with the annual fee also increases the likelihood that the customer will return over and over for purchases to increase the overall value of the customer.


I think the greatest hurdle for retailers to accept is the concept of window shopping, where the consumer goes to a brick and mortar store to touch and try products and then orders online.  This is viewed by most retailers as a potential lost sale to a competitor.  This practice has been fought by the retailers by offering to match the cost.  I think this is the wrong approach and should be addressed from two perspectives; the cost and the convenience of immediate purchase.  A cost war between pure eCommerce and omni channel retailers is a bad idea for the omni channel retailers because of their operating cost model.  The omni channel retailers can however combat the advantages with service. 


The future of the shopping experience will require focus on the consumer needs and desires rather than the consumers adjusting to the methods and practices that benefit the retailer.  Consumers have reached a level of technical capabilities that will drive the future of shopping and the retailer must embrace these methods to succeed in this environment. Consumers will be driving and even developing these capabilities through their acceptance and experimentation with new technology.  To be successful this means that the retailer must continuously re-invent their own practices and capabilities.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

The omni channel retail market is an intersection between the desires of the retailer to sell merchandise and the desires of the consumer to simplify and improve the shopping experience.  Let’s be honest about these objectives because they are in some ways at odds with each other and they converge with the sale.  This is important to understand because while the success on either side of the equation ends with the sale, the objectives and steps leading to the sale come about through different a different execution model.  There is a constant battle between the retailer and the consumer in the objectives and steps that lead to the sale.  The retailers that succeed in the future will be the ones that embrace the consumer model.


Retailers throughout history have strived to identify and deliver products that the consumer desires in a manner that is cost efficient.  The challenge of the retailer is to identify the products that the consumer desires and in order to do this they create products based on one of two methods; designers who produce the products and then market these products to generate consumer desire; produce and deliver consumable products that consumers require to live and maintain their lifestyles.  As you can see these two methods really don’t take into account the consumer desires.  They do however respond to the consumer feedback through the actual sales figures.  In this model retailers are constantly chasing the sale through actual sales and the forecast of the future sales based on complicated algorithms.


Next you take into account the interaction with the consumer who is reacting to the products offered by the retailers.  Historically the interaction between the consumer and the retailer has been through the consumer purchases, as I mention above.  Technology and social networking provide a means now for the retailer to interact more directly with the consumer to develop products and provide more efficient delivery of consumables.  These technology capabilities also provide a means for the consumer to cut through the middleman of the retailer to deal directly with the manufacturer. This interaction with the manufacturers provides an opportunity for mass customization of the products that is cost effective and can be efficiently executed.


The promise of omni channel social capabilities is focused on the consumer taking more control over their product selection and purchasing methods.  This can provide a direct interaction between the retailer and the consumer that was not available prior to the advances in technology.  The interesting thing about these implementation of these capabilities is that they have been embraced by the small merchants and artisans and farmers to gain access to the consumer that they could not easily achieve prior to these advances.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

Social collaboration will drive the changes and shopping methods of omni channel retail market channel more than any other aspect driving this channel.  Omni channel market shopping is at its basis a collaboration between the retailer and the consumer.  This channel is driven by the combination of technology and social collaboration to provide a shopping outlet that supports the consumers’ changing shopping habits.  In fact you might think of the omni channel market outlet as shopping at the speed of life. 


This channel allows the consumer to immediately interact with the retailer in driving sales and new methods for shopping.  On the other hand though, in order for the retailer and the market to adjust to the reactions of the consumers requires an investment in collaborative methods and technology.  More than anything else, the reaction speed and even acceptance of new capabilities can be a little overwhelming to the retailer.  This reaction must be fought though in order for the retailer to succeed in the changing environment of the omni channel market.  This is where sharing and collaboration come into play.


Collaboration between the consumer, retailer, manufacturers and delivery carriers is critical to the continued success of every participant in the channel.  This collaboration model relies not only on the participation but also the feedback and reaction and finally the changes that will result in the collaboration.  Collaboration also requires a two way interaction with the partners.  This is a big change in the relationship of many retailers with their customers.  Amazon has been a leader in collaboration with their customers, from providing an opportunity to rate both the products and the merchants to providing links to additional merchants that sell the same products, Amazon has shown a respect and level of collaboration that was unheard of before the broke on the market.  Collaboration will change the market shopping practices across all channels and the successful retailers will be the ones that embrace this practice and collaborate with their customers to meet the needs of their customers.


A second change to the market that will need to be recognized and accepted is a level of patience and even experimentation with tools and practices to meet the changing needs of the consumer.  This requirement was highlighted this past Christmas season with the demise of at least the sustainable growth in Black Friday sales.  This season highlighted the results of the retailers practice of continuous sales and also to a certain level the same products offered by many retailers.  This highlighted the result of the retailers’ focus on price to draw customers and sales.  Consumers have now been conditioned to wait for the sale and then when the sale does break they then shop for the retailer with the inventory and the lowest price.  This practice starts a cycle of destructive sales that must be changed for the benefit of all involved.  This is where collaborative practices come to the rescue and provide the differentiating factor to draw customers. 


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

A specific strength of the omni channel shopping culture is the social networking capabilities that the channel and practices support.  Omni channel was born of technology and can be utilized to embrace the social networking capabilities of technology to enhance the consumer shopping experience.  This capability will also enhance the relationship between the consumer and the retailer to encourage repeat shopping and also word of mouth promotion.  I find that the most interesting aspect of the omni channel customer experience is the ability of the technology to humanize the shopping experience.  The social trend and impact is expanding into the commercial aspect of the consumer and market by demand of the consumer and this is changing shopping habits along with the retail direct to consumer channel.


Technology is having an interesting impact on the retail and social market as a culture enhancer and expander.  What I mean by this is that technology is being used by people as consumers and also in relationship building and management as a means to enhance the social interaction.  Rather than technology de-humanizing relationships it is being used by the public and consumers for the exact opposite capability to humanize the relationship.  This can be both encouraging and intimidating to the retailer.  It is encouraging because the consumer is using the social networking capabilities to help in their shopping which will reduce the sales clerk (human) interaction from the retailer. It is intimidating because the technology allows the customer to take more control in their shopping and increases the external influences on the consumer shopping that is outside the control of the retailer.


As I’ve discussed previously, the best course of action for the retailer is to embrace these extensions of technology and the related modifications to the consumer shopping practices.  Embracing these practices will in turn increase the consumer loyalty and sales.  On the other hand though, fighting these practices will cause a backlash from the consumers and will not change the practices.  Take for instance the practice of window shopping where the consumer goes to a store to look at and try a product and then purchases the product from another outlet for less cost.  Retailers were at war against this practice and reacted through various means and tactics.  The result is that consumers are still practicing window shopping and the retailers with brick and mortar outlets have only upset the consumers with this fight and caused them to shop at other outlets.


My advice is to embrace and encourage the new practices because it will in the end increase the customer loyalty and repeat purchases.  I would argue that Amazon’s strategy to forgo the drive for profits early in its life was ingenious because the practice created a whole generation of consumers loyal to the brand and a whole generation of repeat customers.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

tbrouill

Omni Channel Priorities

Posted by tbrouill Dec 21, 2014

I was shopping in at Verizon Wireless in the last week and experienced a very positive example of the potential for omni channel shopping that was really quite impressive.  There are many retailers right now that are utilizing multiple channels for marketing and sales that while they may be utilizing multiple channels, they are not supporting truly omni channel shopping and marketing.  I have been saying this for a while now in my discussions because it is a truly important factor in the omni channel discussion; omni channel shopping is not just utilizing multiple channels, omni channel shopping is actually linking the channels, and supply chain across multiple channels to create a truly seamless and single experience to the consumer.


The results of the omni channel shopping implementation can be dramatic to the consumer; both positive and negative.  Execution is critical in fostering the omni channel experience and this is why Retailers must be focus on the execution and developing the seamless shopping experience.  I think that it may be better to not enter into a channel until you have validated and proven you ability to execute in that channel.  In this case I strongly believe in the old adage that you can only make a first impression once.  The consumer experience is very much influenced by that first impression and must be nurtured to ensure a positive experience.  If you as a retailer start to develop your capabilities in omni channel shopping simple to reduce costs or because you are following the market you will have a very high likelihood of failure. 


Consumers as a group have dramatically increased their sophistication and utilization of technology in their shopping habits.  The age of the Internet is not just a catchy phrase but a concept that describes embracing the technology in all areas of day to day life.  Because of the advanced technology available to consumers in the form of both hardware like smartphones and tablets combined with advanced software capabilities delivered by third party and Internet leaders consumers have come to expect a level of capability in their life which crosses over all aspects and especially shopping.  For this reason it is important for the retailer to flawlessly execute these capabilities to ensure the repeat business from consumers and also the word of mouth promotion of their capabilities to other consumers.


Another benefit of the age of the Internet is in the social capabilities and potential capabilities delivered through technology.  The interesting point here is that as the world and access expands through technology and the Internet, the social applications provided via the Internet are at the same time expanding the consumer interaction.  What this means is that everyone can provide immediate reviews and reaction which will influence their sphere of contacts.  This provides an electronic party line that can drive consumers to a retailer and just as easily and quickly drive consumers away from the retailer.  This is why execution is critical to the success of the retailer.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

tbrouill

Omni Channel Impact

Posted by tbrouill Dec 20, 2014

As I previously discussed, I believe that Amazon and Google are poised to change the consumer shopping experience and they will not wait for any retailer to catch up.  I explained through example my reasons for coming to this conclusion based on technology and Internet impact on other markets.  These types of scenarios that are brought about when a new player enters the market with game changing new services, products or delivery methods is not new to advances in technology.  However technology can and does have a major impact on the potential velocity and discontinuous nature of these game changing services, products or delivery methods.


Let me start with another perspective on omni channel retailing; this is not a new concept however the services and delivery methods have been dramatically impacted by advances in technology.  One hundred years ago retailers, Sears, Montgomery Wards and Spiegel entered the retail scene and forever changed the market with the new catalog technology.  As a result of their new concept in retailing, and the initial omni channel retail market, these retailers changed the marketplace and as a result drove many competitors out of business.  The new technology in this example was a paper product catalog mailed to customers and sales through consumer orders sent through the mail.  In other words, the new service was the catalog and the new delivery methods were paper based orders and the US Postal Service.


In today’s market the new technology is the Internet for the catalog and then the consumer interacts with the catalog for purchases via a computer and mobile smartphone technology.  The current leaders driving these new game changing services and methods are major players such as Amazon and Google as the giant slayers.  This current environment has changed in another key manner from the advances in technology and that is the cost of entry and the tools to present services and products to the consumer.  In this market the technology has allowed small retailers to compete effectively.  This expansion of competition really increases the velocity of change and speeds the market impact.


In the current market, the impact of herd shopping habits is even greater and the technology embraced by consumers increases the speed and impact of this habit.  This is where it ties again back to the impact of culture where the consumer has less leisure time available and therefore is more selective in how they spend this leisure time.  Why should a consumer spend hours and days shopping for a product and then potentially spending even more time searching for availability of the product?  You  can spend short bursts of time researching and searching via the Internet at any time that you please, saving time and money you would spend commuting from store to store in your search.  The winners will embrace this practice to support the consumers’ and build the repeat business through technology.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

tbrouill

Omni Channel Culture

Posted by tbrouill Dec 17, 2014

I believe that omni channel retail should be viewed as a reflection of the consumer’s culture.  Afterall in the United States shopping in malls and outlets is a social event and for many people a form of entertainment. The retailers have always thrived on this practice to the extent of adding entertainment outlets such as theater and event amusement parks in the malls and outlets.  This practice however may be coming into conflict with another cultural change, the increase in the amount of time spent focused on careers and jobs in general.  This second event of increased professional, or work, focus and a seeming decrease in amusement focus may be starting to impact the retail consumer and changing the way the consumer purchases.


There have always been catalogs; they started with the paper variety from Sears for instance or Spiegel.  The catalogs have evolved now into electronic media as eCommerce online sites that provide more timely and dynamic listings.  The basic foundational concepts of direct to consumer sales channel apply, however with the customer order entry revised.  Consumers have become much more comfortable with eCommerce shopping now to the point where it is really making in-roads in the retail sales totals and become a major channel that is expanding each year.


This all ties back to the decrease in leisure time and the current and future impact on the shopping experience.  I see a change beginning in the retail channel that is shifting the importance of eCommerce and this I believe is due to a few factors, one of which is the decrease in leisure time that then translates into a reduction in consumer brick and mortar shopping.  eCommerce shopping provides the convenience of shopping any time for anything and allows the consumer to focus their limited leisure time on activities that bring additional value to their life, such as family activities.


This change in the consumer shopping habits may take some time to evolve and settle, however in this time of ever increasing discontinuous change I think it would be wise for retailers to increase their utilization of technology to provide the consumer the types of convenience and ease of shopping that will make them return to the retailer for more of their shopping needs.  Retailers should promote a strategy of ‘Try Everything’ to encourage the consumer to think of them when shopping.  This strategy should include expanding collaboration with what may have been viewed as competitors in the past because the consumer certainly will.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that the retail market has much of a choice in this matter, Amazon and Google are poised to change the consumer shopping experience and they will not wait for any retailer to catch up.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

The capabilities and expansion of commerce tools will be driven by third party software developers based on experiences with other market channels like music, travel and entertainment.  This includes Google and Amazon which both already provide an eCommerce sales channel.  This prediction is based on history and human nature, all recent industries that have undergone great change have been dragged kicking and screaming into the future.


The music industry is the greatest example of this type of fight against the future taken to the extreme where they took their fight out to the people with lawsuits.  That was the perfect example of a futile fight and the industry could have spent its money and efforts on preparing for the future.  The industry really should have seen the movement with the introduction of Amazon and the Kindle on the literature industry.  Its really kind of humorous if you ask me because the people in the music industry all took advantage of the improvements delivered through technology but for some strange reason just could not give up the dying sales channel.


I see the same tendency from major brick and mortar retailers to fight the trends and the new developments embraced by customers.  The recent war against ‘window shopping’ is a great example.  Window shopping is the practice of customers to go to the store to touch and try the product and then order online to take advantage of a lower price.  The retailers initial reaction was to fight the practice and to a very large extent they are still fighting the new practices that are introduced by customers.  I have said before that the way to grow and and expand business is to encourage and embrace innovations and especially from the consumers. 


Amazon and Google are poised to change the omni channel experience by extending the services and capabilities they’ve learned through eCommerce sales and marketing.  Both have a dramatic head start in this area and it will be difficult if not impossible to overcome.  This head start was built over time with a great deal of investment in technology development and hardware.  This head start will allow both Google and Amazon to fashion the industry for a long time to come.  If the retail industry continues to fight the innovations, they will do nothing but perhaps slow them.  Instead of fighting they must embrace in order to influence and help to guide the impact of the innovations.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

tbrouill

Omni Channel Tools

Posted by tbrouill Dec 13, 2014

In previous discussions I have mentioned some apps and other tools that I find useful in my holiday shopping so I thought I would  take this time to bring together the tools that I have found most useful.  As a general strategy for incorporating tools into my shopping I find that I work best with tools that work just as well on my smartphone as a computer.  This is important to me because shopping is best I think when you have the options to see and touch some of the merchandise, I don’t require this for every purchase but I do find it works best for some products. 


All that said though I try to limit my in person shopping to short bursts, I follow a purchase method rather than shopping when I go to a store.  What I mean by this is I’ve determined what I need, I go in, purchase and then get out.  I bring this up now because it is a guiding force for the tools and my utilization of the tools.  I use the tools for two things:

  1. General shopping and narrowing the search for my purchase.
  2. Pricing comparisons to determine my method of purchase.


Frankly I find that email is one of the most valuable tools in my shopping.  I have configured my email to fill all shopping type messages into one folder.  This allows me to quickly review, and ignore, any commerce type messages without ‘junking’ up my important messages.  This practice allows me to quickly and easily review messages as necessary, during the holiday season I pay a little more attention and then during the off season I frequently just delete everything.  This also allows me to manage mail lists and create filter to manage the mail.


There are three services that I find very useful; Groupon, Crowdcut and LivingSocial.  Each of these provide great deals in both eCommerce and in person shopping.  I like these frankly for impulse type purchases rather than looking for specific products.  They are also good for gift ideas year round, I frequently find a great deal and then save the item for a future gift.  Crowdcut and LivingSocial are similar services and together all three provide great options for a wide variety of items.  These services also provide apps for your smartphone to allow easy access when you are not near your computer.


I have found a new app this year for use on my smartphone called RetailMeNot.  This is a very handy app that will alert you of sales and specials from a wide variety of retailers and you can utilize this for price comparisons and specials.  This app is more focused on eCommerce channels and specials.  I find this useful though even when shopping in malls because the direct shipment to my home is very convenient.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

The greatest potential of Omni Channel shopping may be the ability to support a virtual personal shopper and the age of Big Data is bringing great opportunities to the Omni Channel market for supporting a virtual personal shopper.  The key opportunity I believe is for a tool that will track your shopping from all retailers to help in guiding a personalized search engine.  I understand that this is a stretch opportunity right now and I think if I were to select the one thing that would generate the greatest value to both the consumer and the market this would be my choice.


There are retailers, like Lowes Building Supplies, that have introduced this type of frequent customer tracking for their customers for purchases in the store and online.  You may belong to this program, every time you make a purchase at Lowes they scan your card and the purchase is tracked.  This information can then be used later, for instance if you need another can of red paint you can look up the exact tint that you purchased for replacement.  Grocers are another good example of these frequent customer programs and they specialize offers and coupons based upon your shopping habits.  Most companies are using your purchasing information already to help in developing their marketing strategies and sales forecasts, you should be looking to take advantage of this information yourself to help in your shopping activities. 


The only retail company that crosses a broad spectrum of products that I can think of is Amazon.  Amazon has made a mission of developing the community aspect to humanize the online store through rating products, requesting customers answer other customers’ questions and then a scary-accurate product suggestion algorithm to promote new products.  Apple and Google are getting into the electronic wallet business which will give both an option to collect information about your purchasing habits. 


Samsung has partnered with BeepnGo which is an app that will store all of your frequent shopper cards and can be used to search for promotions.  I think this is a great concept also and provides some great benefits such as not carrying around all of those obnoxious cards, keeping track of sales and offers for easy search.  I see the next step in this would be to provide the customer with advanced search capabilities based on previous purchases and searches.  It could save size and color choices along with styles to refine suggestions. 


The point to retailers is that consumers have shown in the past they have no problem taking advantage of new advanced capabilities, there is really very little loyalty in the retail market.  These changes will either happen ‘to’ the retailers or ‘with’ the retailers. 


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

There can be no success in omni channel shopping without collaboration from the manufacturer to the end customer.  I think the missing link is asking and then acting on the responses from the end customer.  The shopping experience is the customers’ experience and the customer should have some say in their experience, don’t you think?  The key hurdle in this suggestion is the collaboration with the customer to define and clarify that experience.  This means that your should be both asking the questions and then confirming your response, a classic continuous improvement cycle.


Consumer shopping is not the first market that experienced the game changing impact of technology on the commonly held perceptions and practices.  Just look at the impact of the literature market and the music market as examples of the impact and resulting changes to the industry.  Amazon changed the literature market and left a trail of dead businesses in its wake.  The iPod and electronic music sharing changed the music delivery and sales industry and also left a trail of dead businesses in its wake.  The common denominator is that both of these industries refused to listen to the message there customers were giving them. 


Cyber and cloud technologies give a very impactful tool to the consumer and over the years the consumer has shown that they will use this tool in ways that may not be in line with the current and accepted practices.  By the same token, consumers are more than willing to share their preferences if the market will only listen.  This time though it seems that the retail industry may be trying to listen, although in my opinion they have slowed in their reactions and changes to the consumers’ preferences. 


This is where collaboration and a continuous improvement program will prove extremely valuable.  It is time to listen to the voice of the consumer in the shopping experience in offering new shopping options.  This is where online shopping can really show value by providing options and suggestions.  The consumer wants what they want when they want it.  They may not have a clear concept of the exact product and that is where technology can provide support with options and suggestions.  I suggest that most consumers are looking for the personal shopper experience, as an example, and this is where technology can support the desire.  In my experiences retail outlets have been reducing costs by reducing sales clerks and then without sales clerks consumers are left to wander the store looking for products.


Web sites provide something of a  personal shopper experience search engine and big data capabilities to provide suggestions and comparisons to the consumer.  I suggest that the retail outlet that combines the online capabilities with the in person experience will change the shopping experience and significantly grow their sales.  This is the type of collaboration with the consumers that will help the omni channel market grow sales and meet the consumers expectations.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

tbrouill

Omni Channel Future

Posted by tbrouill Dec 6, 2014

I have mentioned that the future of omni channel will change our shopping habits to allow us to focus on the strengths of the channel.  The strength of the brick and mortar channel is the ability to look, touch and try on, while the strength of the online channel is comparison, purchase and delivery.  In my own most recent experience on Gray Thursday and Black Friday I can say that we probably purchased more online than in the store.  The reasons for this were convenience, price and frankly, Amazon Prime; why should I purchase a vacuum cleaner in the store and haul it out to the car and then continue shopping when I can purchase it with one click and have it delivered to my door for free?


The future of omni channel is segmenting the shopping experience to take advantage of the strengths of each channel.  So for example, the store channel will provide the showroom for selection, then online will provide the sale and the delivery channel.  I realize that there will be a great deal of blurring of lines between the channels, the store will still have a great deal of sales from the impulse purchase to the customers that want to take the product home with them.  On the flip side there will also be customers that exclusively shop online.  This is just the natural habits of people based on their comfort level, or preferences with the shopping channel.  However, the shift is coming, whether the retail market is ready or not.


I remember when Amazon came onto the scene and the question then was how could it be successful when there were so many great bookstores and people wanted to touch and browse the the shelves prior to purchase?  Well there are no more questions about the success of Amazon and this is due mainly to vision and execution.  Now, Amazon is the online version of a vast super department store where you can search and purchase anything from groceries to clothing to books to any other type of merchandising.  Amazon single handedly changed the consumer shopping experience and introduced a new standing for shopping experience at the same time. 


I see the omni channel market as being in the same position as the large bookstore change from years ago,the retail brick and mortar channel has been king for so long there is no conception of a different world.  I see though in the near future a very different world where online shopping provides convenience and options that cannot be matched by the brick and mortar channel.  Will the brick and mortar channel disappear?  Absolutely not!  There will always be a place for independent stores to offer specialized and craft items.  However even these outlets will achieve greater success through embracing online potential.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

tbrouill

Omni Channel Promise

Posted by tbrouill Dec 5, 2014

Omni channel retail continues to present a great deal of promise even though this year, in my opinion, was a disappointment from the delivery perspective.  I am starting to see that maybe the greatest promise of omni channel retailing is to eliminate the channel discussion all together. I am starting to reconsider the meaning of the phrase shop anywhere, anytime and anyplace from the retail perspective and see that we may be on the brink of a great change in the shopping habits and methods.  For this perspective we should take into account the imagination and the ingenuity of the young in their use of technology for shopping.


I see as one game changing concept the Amazon Prime subscription that provide free two day shipping on their products.  Others recognize the potential of this service also because they are beginning to follow suite.  The most recent generation (what do we call it now?) we drive the acceptance through early adoption and usage.  I see this type of service as the beginning of a potential realignment of shopping habits.  The cyber capabilities and services have been driving the retail market for quite some time and as the convenience grows and the pervasive availability of tools such as smartphones and tablets and high speed access to the Internet grows the cyber shopping may become the norm for many of your customers’ shopping needs. 


Let me return to the impact of the Amazon Prime type subscription service because I feel this is one of the most important factors in shopping and the omni channel experience.  This type of service meets two objectives of the retailer;

  1. It gives the consumer a reason and an incentive to return and shop on a regular basis, repeat customers are obviously the most valuable.
  2. It encourages the customer to utilize the retailer like Amazon as their prime shopping channel because they can count on the simplicity of the purchase.

The one-click shopping is another feature that simplifies the shopping experience.  This is especially important when you think about how much time you spend waiting in the register line at a brick and mortar outlet on a busy shopping day like Black Friday.


While I did not see a great deal of improvements in from the omni channel perspective in my shopping over the Gray Thursday and Black Friday period I did come to the realization that online shopping has impacted and improved my shopping experience.  There are always things that you want to see and touch before you purchase however now you should not be limited to one channel or the other.  The omni channel may just change our shopping habits to allow us to focus our personal shopping on the things we want to touch or try on and then use the online channel for purchase and delivery.  We’re certainly a long way off from this however I see shopping moving more in that direction each year.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

tbrouill

Omni Channel Winners

Posted by tbrouill Dec 3, 2014

It is very difficult to declare a winner, or winners, in my omni channel shopping experiences this year because I have not really seen what I call true omni channel shopping capabilities.  I define omni channel shopping capabilities very simply, the ability to shop any where, any time by any device or means.  As usual when defining something the definition itself leaves a lot open for interpretation and my definition of omni channel shopping is no different.  In addition there is one addition that I think should be included in the definition - the omni channel shopping capability builds a collaborative relationship between the customer, retailer, manufacturer and even the delivery of the product or service. 


One thing you will notice is that I did not mention anything about the physical shopping outlet, whether it is brick and mortar store or online.  This omission is on purpose because I think that it clouds the issue and diverts attention from the key objective and that is the sale.  Quite frankly I have been disappointed this year with the lack of improvements from the brick and mortar retailers because in my opinion they have not done anything to blur the shopping line between outlets.  In fact I think this year was somewhat of a step back; while retailers may be offering more opportunities through the online outlet, I don’t see that they have done anything to support my definition above.


This year I think the winners in the omni channel shopping experience is Amazon and potentially Wayfair.com.  I think that both of these companies have pushed the shopping experience envelop in providing high quality products in a manner that is easy to shop and purchase.  You will notice that neither one of these companies have a brick and mortar outlet, however, as I stated earlier I left this out of my definition on purpose.


I would give a high rating to Macy’s for a retailer with a brick and mortar basis because Macy’s is one of the few retailers that is starting to blend the online with the store experience.  I think Macy’s does a great job coordinating their sales offerings and allowing customers to take advantage of sales both online and in the store for the same product.  I also like the way they provide options to use coupons either online or in the store from your smartphone.  The one thing that Macy’s is missing is a customer desk to support calling or ordering online from the store.


I would give a high rating to Best Buy this year for their push to the online channel of offerings and services.  Even this though is limited because Best Buy does not truly offer the purchase in the store from the online channel.  Even Best Buy focuses on the in store sale or the online sale and does not blend or encourage the cross over.  I have mentioned previously that in order for retailers to be truly successful omni channel retailers they must embrace the window shopping practice of their customers to see the product in person and then place the order online.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?