The omni channel retail market is an intersection between the desires of the retailer to sell merchandise and the desires of the consumer to simplify and improve the shopping experience.  Let’s be honest about these objectives because they are in some ways at odds with each other and they converge with the sale.  This is important to understand because while the success on either side of the equation ends with the sale, the objectives and steps leading to the sale come about through different a different execution model.  There is a constant battle between the retailer and the consumer in the objectives and steps that lead to the sale.  The retailers that succeed in the future will be the ones that embrace the consumer model.

Retailers throughout history have strived to identify and deliver products that the consumer desires in a manner that is cost efficient.  The challenge of the retailer is to identify the products that the consumer desires and in order to do this they create products based on one of two methods; designers who produce the products and then market these products to generate consumer desire; produce and deliver consumable products that consumers require to live and maintain their lifestyles.  As you can see these two methods really don’t take into account the consumer desires.  They do however respond to the consumer feedback through the actual sales figures.  In this model retailers are constantly chasing the sale through actual sales and the forecast of the future sales based on complicated algorithms.

Next you take into account the interaction with the consumer who is reacting to the products offered by the retailers.  Historically the interaction between the consumer and the retailer has been through the consumer purchases, as I mention above.  Technology and social networking provide a means now for the retailer to interact more directly with the consumer to develop products and provide more efficient delivery of consumables.  These technology capabilities also provide a means for the consumer to cut through the middleman of the retailer to deal directly with the manufacturer. This interaction with the manufacturers provides an opportunity for mass customization of the products that is cost effective and can be efficiently executed.

The promise of omni channel social capabilities is focused on the consumer taking more control over their product selection and purchasing methods.  This can provide a direct interaction between the retailer and the consumer that was not available prior to the advances in technology.  The interesting thing about these implementation of these capabilities is that they have been embraced by the small merchants and artisans and farmers to gain access to the consumer that they could not easily achieve prior to these advances.

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?