How and why omnichannel has become the new standard
So what is the new normal, anyway?
You’d have to be living under a rock to not know that retail as we used to know it has undergone tectonic changes in the last decade. We’ve seen established retail giants wither and shrink as e-commerce has come to dominate the scene.
But let’s not bury brick & mortar retail just yet. Shoppers will always want to shop in an actual store. Because for all it can do, e-commerce cannot replicate the essential social, hands-on, interpersonal experience of a shopping trip. And there are still lots of brick and mortar options for customers to choose from.
Retailers who want to thrive in the 21st century will have to take advantage of the best of both worlds, digital and brick & mortar. Reach your customers online, communicate with them, and drive them into your location(s). Let technology enable you to provide the smoothest, most enjoyable, most seamless shopping experience possible, in any venue.
That, in a nutshell, is the new normal.
What being omnichannel means for your business
Here’s something to think about. In 2016, shoppers’ expectation of delivery was 2.6 days; this year it’s 1 day (or even less!) To achieve that result requires a frictionless, fast and superior interface at each touchpoint. It takes a data strategy, a content team, discipline and a lot of work. What we learned from Jeff Bezos is that the best customer service means the customer doesn’t even need to contact the retailer because that retailer has proactively solved his question.
Today’s most forward-looking retailers aren’t thinking SEO but about ZUI — Zero User Interface. In other words, the ultimate customer convenience. Needless to say, Amazon is everyone’s prime example of the omnichannel business model. It’s certainly the biggest, but it’s not the only one. More and more businesses are jumping on the omnichannel wagon every day, and you don’t have to be huge to manage it. It’s a good bet that even your local pizza place offers online ordering and in-store pickup.
A couple of shining examples of omnichannel right now
If you want to see the ultimate in omnichannel marketing, take a look at what Samsung has done. In 2016 they opened Samsung 837 the first-of-its-kind cultural destination/digital playground/gallery/event space in the uber-hip Meatpacking District in New York City. There visitors can try out a dozen VR experiences, get some tech help for their devices, enjoy a meal, attend an event or performance, or immerse themselves in a live DJ show, all the while learning everything possible about Samsung products. Little or nothing is actually for sale at the location, but you can be pretty sure that many of the visitors to 837 will be buying Samsung products soon after.
Story — that NYC hybrid online/brick & mortar business that reads like a magazine, displays like a gallery, and sells like a store — takes a totally different approach. Each 6-8 weeks, they feature a different theme, idea or product group. Visitors to their website can read editorial content about various displays and products and then go into the store to see, try and buy.
Retail is moving forward with omnichannel — don’t get left behind
Research is showing that convenience is the main driver behind much of the upheaval in retail now. From the viewpoint of your bottom line, a sale is a sale, regardless of where it happens. Omnichannel retailing provides your customers with a total, seamless experience regardless of where they encounter your business. Without it, you just don't survive.
And if you want to do more than survive — if you want to thrive — you will have to step up your game and create a unique experience and feeling. This is where technology comes in as a tool and facilitator. And when we say unique, we mean stress-free.
In our last Shopping Tour-related post we spoke about “invisible technology.” Things like chatbots for expediting online transactions, in-store electronic kiosks to interactively engage customers, even the data you gather about your customers’ buying habits, all contribute to your ability to provide better service and products.
As we said at the top, retail is not dead, it's just transforming MASSIVELY. Going omnichannel will allow you to transform along with it.