Once upon a time, a person went to a store and made a purchase. Commerce was simply defined as the activity of buying and selling or social dealings between people. Move into the 21st century, and the “simple” days are over. Commerce has expanded to e-commerce (electronic commerce) and c-commerce (collaborative commerce) where the act of buying and selling no longer requires leaving a home or dealing with people. Businesses have figured out that in order to achieve customer satisfaction and loyalty, different functions such as sales & marketing, information technology, supply chain management & customer service need to communicate. The retail experience has become a collaboration across platforms working towards a unified outcome, customer satisfaction.
Omni-Channel – the “New Normal”
Omni-Channel retail is a seamless customer journey through all shopping channels – websites, gaming consoles, physical store, computers, kiosks, social media, online catalog, smart mobiles and so on.
Image Source: Practical Ecommerce
It can be called the ‘omni-channel dilemma’, how does a business bridge the online and retail worlds so that consumers can use all channels simultaneously and with ease? Businesses need to work towards a customer-centric vision with:
(1) Unified & personalized messaging
(2) Seamless organizational structure & logistics
(3) Collaborative commerce between in-store & online.
Every challenge can be an opportunity. Instead of looking at omni-channel as a dilemma, it can become an opportunity to increase sales and customer loyalty. SapientNitro conducted a four-month audit of specialty retailers to measure the degree to which retailers are successfully building links between their digital and physical stores. Key findings:
(1) Digital in-store displays are powerful tools – but too often poorly executed
(2) Poorly planned digital is worse than no digital at all
(3) It isn’t just the hardware: software & content matter
(4) The right tools generate positive ROIs
(5) Retailers should focus on supporting user tasks
(6) The omni-channel battle has begun Businesses can either adapt or risk extinction.
Examples of Companies Embracing the Omni-Channel Dilemma
FUTURE SHOP CANADA – Reserve Online Pick-Up in Store Within 20 Minutes
CVS PHARMACY – myCVS® On the Go
CVS Pharmacy launched an iPad App featuring a 3D virtual store and digital pharmacy.
myCVS® On the Go taps into the omni-channel trend offering consumers a personalized, convenient and easy to use online retail app.
SEPHORA – Leadership Across all Platforms
Sephora conducts a seamless online and in-store experience encompassing customer loyalty, social media engagement, online shopping, in-store demos, mobile app, and an online community presence. Of course no company is perfect, but Sephora is a good benchmark for comparison when looking at top performers balancing multiple channels effectively.
(1) CUSTOMER LOYALTY – Club Sephora offers members privileges that include gifts, special offers, personal service, and information.
(2) SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT – Sephora maintains a strong social presence with customer-centric material using Facebook – Fan Fridays, Pinterest – Beauty Boards, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, & Google+.
Facebook – Fan Fridays
3) ONLINE SHOPPING – Sephora’s website is easy to maneuver with online shopping capabilities, account login, clear shipping and delivery time details and an added bonus of free samples with purchase.
4) IN-STORE DEMOS – Sephora offers in-store beauty events, beauty classes and personalized beauty services like makeovers and makeup lessons. The in-store unique offerings create a need for customers to stop by the brick and mortar locations.
5) MOBILE APP - Sephora to Go iPhone App is a fast and easy to use app to increase customer interaction: Shop – mobile commerce, My Beauty Insider – loyalty program, Hot Now – latest trends and Find a Store- bricks and mortar store locator.
6) COMMUNITY – Beauty Talk is a community forum for registered Sephora users to ask for advice, chat about beauty experiences, exchange ideas, tips information and techniques.
ZAPPOS – Values First…
Zappos Family Core Values is an integral part of the company’s culture and brand identity. Their #1 Value is to “Deliver WOW through Service” meaning that they aspire to provide a seamless customer experience. On April 1, 2011 Zappos decided that it could no longer continue operating in Canada. Memo from Chris Nielson, CFO/COO:
…“We have made the difficult decision to shut down the canada.zappos.com site and stop shipping to Canada. One of our core values is to “deliver WOW through service”. That means the best selection of brands and products that can meet just about every individual’s needs as well as fast, free shipping and free returns, all at competitive pricing. Our Canadian customers know that we have not lived up to these service levels.
Product selection on canada.zappos.com is limited due to distribution agreements with the brands we sell in the United States. In addition, we have struggled with general uncertainty and unpredictability of delivering orders to our Canadian customers given customs and other logistics constraints”…
Companies should consider their brand values and make sure not to jump into omni-channel retail without the proper infrastructure in place. Sometimes it is better to step back and reassess than keep going and lose sight of core values.
2014 the Year of Omni-Channel
2014 will be the year of the “Omni-Channel Dilemma”… News and marketing media will be buzzing with this term… however, how companies choose to define and tackle it will be different because the boundaries are so wide and in theory should be strategic at all levels.