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Omni Channel Part 2: New Buying Practices

Buying from a traditional retailer is straight forward. You walk into a store, pick some items off the shelf, pay at the register and take them home. In an omni channel environment, there are new ways to make purchases and each method represents a different challenge for retailers.

See Part 1: What is Omni Channel?

Say you want to buy a new television. You start comparing brands and reading product reviews online. Next you look for the lowest price and make a purchase online. If you’re loyal to a retailer, you might automatically buy the television from their online store.

This scenario is the same as #1 except you prefer to physically see the television before buying it. You research online then pick one or more retailers in your area that carry the same television and visit their bricks and mortar store. Ideally for the retailer you buy it on the spot. It’s a real nightmare for retailers if you return home to purchase the television online from someone else at a lower price.

This is where bricks and mortar retailers have an advantage. If the consumer buys a television online and just can’t wait a few days for delivery, the retailer provides the option to pick up their order the same day at their closest store location. Ideally, the retailer has it in stock and the customer is happy. This convenience factor makes all the difference.

If you go into a bricks and mortar store looking to buy television, something entirely different might catch your attention and you buy it on the spot. It wasn’t your intention but it happens.

The same thing can happen online. You may be reading an article or blog with no intention of buying anything. That’s where smart targeting comes into play. They have your attention and now they’re going to entice you to make a purchase. It wasn’t your intention but you can’t resist sometimes.

Adopting new technologies to support omni channel doesn’t mean retailers should abandon using the telephone. When you are shopping online you may want to talk to a customer service representative before purchasing a new television. A sale is easily lost, especially for high ticket items, if there is no one available to answer your questions.

In part 3 of this series I will shift focus to the 3PLs’ perspective on omni channel.

Omni Channel Part 1: What is Omni Channel?

If you look up omni in the dictionary it has the following meaning: in all ways or places; everywhere; universal.From a retailing perspective, Omni Channel means providing a consumer with a seamless shopping experience in the method that the consumer prefers.

Consumers want products now rather than later and it’s in retailers’ best interests to fulfill that need. Whether the consumer is in a bricks and mortar store, visiting the retailer’s web site or reading a product review, the retailer should engage the consumer to make the purchase.

This diagram illustrates the omni methods a retailer should make available to consumers. Different rationale will trigger a consumer to make a purchase through one method versus another. To succeed in the omni channel world, retailers need to employ as many of these methods as possible.

Shopping cart. An online presence is mandatory for retailers to capture the attention of those who enjoy the convenience of shopping at home. New retailers that enter the marketplace already have a focus on selling online. Traditional retailers must build online stores to co-exist with their bricks and mortar stores.

Social media. Social media in itself is not a selling method, but it’s a huge influencer. It’s a form of advertising just like word of mouth. Receiving a positive product review on social media can lead to many orders being placed using one of the other methods. On the downside, a negative product review can hurt business.

Call center. Shoppers should always have the option to speak with a live person before or after a sale, especially for high value purchases. In a bricks and mortar store, a consumer can always talk to a salesperson. When selling online it should be the same. By making an 800-number available, the retailer can answer questions and take the order immediately.

Smart phone. Smart phones aren’t a selling method as much as they a medium, just like a tablet or a desktop computer. A retailer’s website and shopping cart need to be responsive which means it has to scale to the size of the consumer’s phone. If the text and images appear tiny on a smart phone, it means the retailer’s site is not responsive and consumers will get frustrated.

Other devices. Basically, anything that is connected to the Internet has the potential to trigger an order for a retailer. Gaming systems are a perfect example. If the target audience is young people who play video games, the retailer must make it easy to make purchases right from the gaming console without any hassle.

Store. Many people still like to shop in a bricks and mortar store. Traditional retailers shouldn’t close their doors and switch to only selling online. A combination of the two works well. However, a new retailer is unlikely to start leasing space in malls and will choose to sell online only.

In part 2 of this series I will describe how buying practices have changed through omni channel.

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