We used to have ‘multi-channel’, which more or less referred to customers having access to brands and companies with different checkpoints. Customers were still in silos at that point… we didn’t have great vision when it came to brick/mortar versus mobile, etc. Then we had ‘cross-channel retail’ wherein customers started to see the brand in different ways because of new touch points (tablets, QR codes, location-based services) but there was still a lingering silo effect. We knew our brick/mortar customers and we knew our mobile customers but it was often hard to make the connection between the two even though they were (and remain) one and the same.
Enter “Omni-Channel Retail”, also referred to as OCR or IR (Integrated Retail). The barrier of siloed customers is a thing of the past in Omni-Channel. Even though its not really quite here yet and for most organizations it will take a lot of heaving lifting and infrastructure rethinking, it’s not going away.
OCR is definitely integrated- retailers have wish lists or ‘suggested items’ for that pair of shoes you just put in your cart, they can notify you of deals when you check in to a physical store location, they love to see you ‘tweet’ about your shoes and might respond to you if you do. They’re happy to send you a short survey asking how your shopping experience was after finishing that sale via the mobile POS tablet on the sales floor… and don’t forget that coupon you’ll get in the mail for your next purchase. Didn’t have a sales person? Maybe you actually just purchased an item at an in-store kiosk and had it shipped home? Yep, you’re in the world of OCR.
It’s topic that warrants a lot more of your attention than we can garner today so we’re hoping you’ll check in on this space often. But suffice it to say there are a few critical tools to becoming an OCR retailer or a brand that works with people in the integrated space. These include:
– A strong mobile strategy to enhance your existing customer data.
– Having a proven search (and retargeting) strategy to strengthen the link to potential customers and existing customers.
– Developing feedback mechanisms (social media email or surveys) to continue communication
– Developing an In-Store pickup program, to save everyone shipping costs and cut lead time for a customer’s item delivery.
– Reframing the Point of Sale and transaction “interaction”. Can you or should you empower staff to conduct transitions via tablet or mobile device on the floor? What about kiosks?
Gartner analyst Chris Fletcher made a great point we ran across recently, citing the e-commerce distinction as a dated term. It’s effectively all e-commerce now. Or maybe “just commerce”.
“Getting into data, analytics, or mobile isn’t even a decision anymore, so we should stop calling it e-commerce and call it just commerce, or maybe pervasive commerce… It’s happening and you have to deal with it. But companies are just getting used to the idea that it’s all one experience.”