From the consumer perspective omni channel shopping provides three opportunities for collaboration; collaboration with other consumers to to search for and coordinating shopping and purchases, collaboration with the retailer to provide feedback on products and services, collaboration with third party entities and services in the consumers’ search for and coordination of shopping and purchases.  The collaboration with other consumers and the collaboration with third party entities are really tied together in one type of collaboration.  The collaboration with the retailer then is a separate and distinct opportunity. 

I will start with collaboration with other consumers and third parties to search for and coordinate shopping and purchases.  This is probably the most well formed collaboration method and capabilities to date and provide the greatest collaboration value.  These services are currently taking advantage of mobile technology to provide location based shopping suggestions and purchase offers to any consumer that subscribes to the service.  In addition to the location based suggestions and offers, some of these services also provide a means to store frequent shopper information such as frequent shopper number and even the card bar code for use in the checkout process.

I am currently using the ‘RetailMeNot’ app for location based shopping suggestions and purchase offers.  This service saved me well over $100 dollars in my holiday shopping and returns over the last three of four weeks.  There are many similar services that you can find in the app store and my advice is to try out different services.  In my experience it is important to try these services in your shopping because you can’t truly determine the value until in a real life situation such as searching for a specific product or promotional deals. 

Another great app I’ve found for searching and comparison shopping for a specific item is the Cam Scanner app.  This app will allow you to scan a barcode on an item and the service will provide a list of outlets where the product is sold and will even provide pricing for the product. I found this app by accident so again I suggest searching the app store for a product and trying in real life situations. 

These apps combined with the smartphone capabilities and services provide a means to quickly price shop and then use purchase offers, coupons and discounts based on specific stores and even locations.  These services and apps provide a great value to the consumers and do not depend on the retailer to deliver this value.  These types of apps and services also have a great growth potential because of the value that consumers can realize.  Consumers are a fickle group that are just beginning to stretch and utilize these services.  These services will grow and expand as the consumer acceptance and utilization grows.  These types of services also provide a great opportunity for retailers to embrace to expand their frequent shopper programs.

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?