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?