With the increase this year in the omni channel sales numbers when compared to the in store sales I think it is important to call out the difference between omni channel shopping and omni channel purchasing.  Omni channel purchasing is simply the final execution of the purchase and acceptance of the product.  Omni channel shopping is the search for products and the price comparisons involved prior to the final selection and purchase.  The shopping portion of the equation has seen the largest shift from in store shopping to mobile shopping due to the increased consumer acceptance of the mobile platform.  The twist this year though is in the manner in which the consumer has embraced the mobile platform, or channel, in their shopping.

 

This is where the mobile channel gets very interesting, and rather speculative, because this is where the consumer is utilizing the technology while in the store.  I see that there was no major drop in consumers in the malls and stores this holiday season and especially during the initial Black Friday / Cyber Monday weekend and yet the store sales were off by a large percentage.  This drop in store sales though was shifted to online sales to deliver an overall increase for this kick-off weekend.  This is an important piece of information because when combined with the increase in use and acceptance of smartphones I come to the conclusion that people have blurred the shopping line between in store and online via the smartphone.

 

I previously discussed the potential for consumer use of mobile technology in their shopping and blending the social media capabilities provided by their smartphone with the in store shopping to enhance and improve their overall shopping experience and capabilities.  This past holiday shopping experience seems to provide an initial proof of this concept and it would be a good idea for retailers to heed this as a sign of the next holiday shopping season. 

 

Retailers do not have much time to implement improvements, though and must begin immediately with the low hanging fruit type of improvements.  As one example, I think retailers need to improve their in-store wifi network capabilities and access to encourage consumers to connect and this also provides the retailer with the ability to push information to the consumer upon connecting to the network.  This requires a little simplification to the access though, rather than a review and acceptance of term to access the store wifi, why not present a welcome splash page is pop-up sales?  Another example is encouraging consumer use of smartphones to match products and look up sale prices using their smartphone.  This will allow the retailer to provide BOGO type specials via the smart phone.  Macy’s as an example does a great job offering e-coupons that can be used online or in the store.

 

This year consumers are blending the purchase between in-store and online using mobile technology and the supply chain has delivered on the promise.  Consumers will demand building on this practice and retailers must be ready, and flexible, to meet these demands.  This means increased supply chain collaboration and standardization to allow and support the flexibility required to support these future demands.

 

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?