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?