The landscape of retail shopping is changing faster than ever before. Not only are customers shopping online from the comfort of their homes; now, many consumers use their smart phones to make purchases while shopping in stores.
How can retailers keep their customers coming back – whether that means online, in store, or both? Many have begun to implement Omni-Channel Retailing to attract new shoppers and maintain loyal customers. But what exactly is “omni-channel retailing”? According to Wikipedia, it is “the evolution of multi-channel retailing, but is [a more] seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, bricks-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail, catalog and so on. Retailers are meeting the new customer demands by deploying specialized supply chain strategy software.”
Today’s shoppers are mobile savvy and retailers need to exceed customer expectations. By employing omni-channel strategies, retailers give customers a consistent experience wherever they shop: in-store, online or on a mobile device or tablet.
Additionally, onmi-channeling allows retailers to collect customer data regardless of where they shop. For example, if a customer purchases a product in a local store then shops on the company website, the shopper will use the same customer account for both purchases. As a result, retailers will have more valuable analytics and can provide a more integrated experience for their customers.
CEO of General Growth Properties, Sandeep Mathrani, discussed major trends shaping how retailers are operating globally in this interview with Retail Traffic. He said, “I think they (retailers) will become a lot more [reliant on the] omni-channel [model]. They’ve learned how to be omni-channel and get to the customer. The Internet can always be viewed as a threat, but it can also be used to sell creatively.”
Here are some of the most common applications of Omni-Channel Retailing:
Allow customers to shop and purchase online and add quick pickup counters in stores.
Provide each employee with a smartphone or tablet to handle instant checkout and collect customer data.
With access to each customer’s profile and shopping habits, employees will recognize the wants and needs of repeat customers. They will be able offer personalized service rather than giving generic sales pitches.
Provide customers access to online reviews and product guides, via their smartphones, while shopping in your store. Research has proven that consumers trust reviews more than general advertising.
Utilize location-based social media like Foursquare and Facebook Places which link mobile users to their friends via “check-ins.” This instantly links the customer with their digital network of “friends”. Businesses can use this to market to local shoppers by offering coupons, sales alerts, and news on events.
These new, digital trends allow retailers to have consumers fully integrated in all of their marketing efforts. Smart retailers will connect with their customers in a whole new way, allowing consumer behavior to add value to their brands. Stores are able to give customers what they want and keep them coming back for more.