Over the last year and culminating with the Gray Thursday / Black Friday holiday kick off shopping event it seems to me that there has been no major progress or extension of the omni channel shopping experience.  I have seen where the online experience has been expanded and a greater focus placed on the online experience, however there still seems to be a very solid line between the online and the brick and mortar experience.  The only crossover I’ve seen from the major retailers is to suggest to shoppers in the store that if they can’t find an item in the store the shopper should look online.  From an omni channel shopping perspective this has been a disappointing season.

I’m disappointed because there are so many little steps that could have been taken that would have really enhanced the overall customer experience across both the online and the brick and mortar shopping experiences.  I see the omni channel shopping experience as a collaborative shopping experience between the customer and the retailer, between the online and the brick and mortar outlets and even between the retailer and the manufacturer.  This to me means that you must focus on reducing or eliminating any real or imagined competition between the channels and present a seamless shopping experience that focuses on the customers’ experience.

I have seen a great many deals offered both online and in the stores this year.  This is a great opportunity for the customer but the experience is still separated between the online and the brick and mortar outlets.  A great way to start is to allow and encourage a customer to purchase in a store and ship the product to their home or final recipient destination.  It is very common now for retailers to offer the purchase online and pick up in the store option however it is not very common at all for the retailer to allow the customer to purchase in the store and ship it to their home, one retailer that supports this is Eddie Bauer.  Eddie Bauer does this with a phone desk in each store that is connected directly to their catalog call center and the shipping charges are waived for customers that place an order from the store.  This is a creative way to complete the sale and provide the ‘endless aisle’ concept that so many retailers advertise.

Another simple opportunity is variable discounts on a sale.  The majority of retailers offer these scratch and save cards either in the store or provide the card in a sale flyer for the customer to scratch and show for a discount in the store.  Why not offer this scratch and save via the mobile phone and email.  This is a feature that Red Box offers frequently to customers and its a great way to encourage purchases.  The added twist that retailers could provide is variable discounts between online and in store purchases that could be adjusted on the fly depending on the current sales and inventory availability.

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?