The omni channel objectives are very easy to define; the ability for a customer to purchase at any time from any channel whether retail store, or via eCommerce. It also seems to me that it is at the same time very hard to create and support an omni channel perspective that supports the objectives. The omni channel perspective that I refer to is the support of shopping and sales via the retail store or eCommerce. This omni channel perspective eliminates the delineation between retail store and eCommerce and simply focuses on the shopping experience and the purchase, or sales, process whether through the store or through an eCommerce platform.
It seems to me that the key to success in supporting the omni channel perspective is the focus on the customer experience. From a sales perspective this means eliminating any difficulties in completing a purchase. This is a challenge for most retailers to support from the store perspective because the focus has always been on the physical purchase by the customer. Large retailers have committed to the omni channel framework to support consumer sales however for the most part the actual delivery of the omni channel framework does nothing to support my suggestion for the omni channel perspective. These large retailers still present a divide and even a wall between online sales and in-store sales that results in the store associates and management focused on the action of the sale from in store inventory.
This general focus on the in store sales is beginning to run at odds to the new capabilities and consumer demands supported through mobile technology and sales. Retailers would do well to embrace the mobile technology capabilities to deliver enhanced shopping and purchasing capabilities. I think this starts with changes to the assumption that the consumer wishes to purchase in the store to carry home when they are shopping, the retailer needs to assume that many of the mobile shoppers are purchasing online for two reasons;
- Price shopping where the consumer uses mobile technology to confirm the best price and product availability in the store before completing the purchase.
- Purchasing online and taking advantage of free shipping frees the consumer from carrying around their purchases while shopping.
The are both compelling reasons for the retailer to embrace mobile technology and grow the overall sales.
The results of the last holiday shopping season confirm some of my points above and especially the consumer confirms prices. It would be a leap to try to quantify the number of shoppers that purchase online while shopping in the mall to free them from carrying packages though I think it is a very realistic hypothsis that bears examination. The point though is that retailers with the store and online presence have a very great advantage over single channel retailers. Retailers should experiment with this advantage to expand their relationship with consumers to increase their sales.
And now for the audience participation portion of the show…
ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors. How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience? Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes. In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas. How can you support these continuously changing requirements?