This season my family took advantage of the new shopping offering of ‘Gray Thursday’ and went to the local shopping mall at 9:00 PM to get our annual fix of frenzied Christmas shopping.  We actually missed the earliest door busters but were still able to experience the event.  This year’s event was a little surprising to me because of the basic fact that there were no new omni channel shopping opportunities.  This was surprising to me because of the potential opportunities I recognized in the last year.  I find this especially interesting because at the same time that people have been discussing the opportunities and increases in online sales it seems that not one retailer has taken the steps to increase their omni channel shopping support.

I’m disappointed that there have been so many missed opportunities to enhance the experience.  The major retailers are talking a great game about the omni channel shopping but I see that most are losing out on enhancing the experience.  There are great opportunities to cross over from eCommerce to brick and mortar however in my experience these are just lost opportunities.  This seems to have been the year for social shopping tools and third party sales tools over the Internet in the form of Groupon, LivingSocial and RetailMeNot shopping coupon type services, then you have tools such as Yelp, Urbanspoon and Where for help in locating products and rating services. 

The gaping hole in progress over the previous year is new eCommerce capabilities from retailers that cross over channels.  When I went to the mall with my family this year I expected there to be a lot of advertising in stores promoting their eCommerce capabilities.  Unfortunately there was nothing in sight, even from retailers like Best Buy Mobile and Verizon.  This year the retailers frankly seem focused on maintaining sales share through price reductions rather than gaining sales share through increased utilization of eCommerce advertising and sales capabilities.  Retailers are allowing the large retailers such as Wall Mart drive their strategy into matching the price reductions to maintain sales share which only reduces the margin and requires even greater sales increases to deliver profits.  This is a losing strategy for all retailers!

I am getting closer and closer to converting to eCommerce shopping for Christmas and birthdays simply because of the convenience.  I find the brick and mortar shopping experience to be more and more disappointing and even unnecessary for most of my needs.  Some things will always require the personal experience of seeing and touching the merchandise, however those products are becoming fewer and farther between. 

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?