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?