A specific strength of the omni channel shopping culture is the social networking capabilities that the channel and practices support.  Omni channel was born of technology and can be utilized to embrace the social networking capabilities of technology to enhance the consumer shopping experience.  This capability will also enhance the relationship between the consumer and the retailer to encourage repeat shopping and also word of mouth promotion.  I find that the most interesting aspect of the omni channel customer experience is the ability of the technology to humanize the shopping experience.  The social trend and impact is expanding into the commercial aspect of the consumer and market by demand of the consumer and this is changing shopping habits along with the retail direct to consumer channel.

Technology is having an interesting impact on the retail and social market as a culture enhancer and expander.  What I mean by this is that technology is being used by people as consumers and also in relationship building and management as a means to enhance the social interaction.  Rather than technology de-humanizing relationships it is being used by the public and consumers for the exact opposite capability to humanize the relationship.  This can be both encouraging and intimidating to the retailer.  It is encouraging because the consumer is using the social networking capabilities to help in their shopping which will reduce the sales clerk (human) interaction from the retailer. It is intimidating because the technology allows the customer to take more control in their shopping and increases the external influences on the consumer shopping that is outside the control of the retailer.

As I’ve discussed previously, the best course of action for the retailer is to embrace these extensions of technology and the related modifications to the consumer shopping practices.  Embracing these practices will in turn increase the consumer loyalty and sales.  On the other hand though, fighting these practices will cause a backlash from the consumers and will not change the practices.  Take for instance the practice of window shopping where the consumer goes to a store to look at and try a product and then purchases the product from another outlet for less cost.  Retailers were at war against this practice and reacted through various means and tactics.  The result is that consumers are still practicing window shopping and the retailers with brick and mortar outlets have only upset the consumers with this fight and caused them to shop at other outlets.

My advice is to embrace and encourage the new practices because it will in the end increase the customer loyalty and repeat purchases.  I would argue that Amazon’s strategy to forgo the drive for profits early in its life was ingenious because the practice created a whole generation of consumers loyal to the brand and a whole generation of repeat customers.

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?