Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Retailers - How Can You Survive and Thrive in Today’s Omni-channel World?

Today, brick-and-mortar is being challenged by online channels and consumers want a seamless blend of both. As a graduate student in the Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) program at Medill, Northwestern University, I am dedicated towards shopper marketing insights and digital analytics. During my research on omni-channel retailing, I identified the following two articles that will help clear retailers’ concerns about the negative outlook on the future of the retail stores and provide valuable tips on the success of today’s retailers.  
Marci Weisler, COO at EachScape Inc. and an influential strategist in digital and online businesses, discusses The Future of Onmi-channel Retail. In her article, she argues that onmi-channel in fact presents a huge opportunity for retailers although challenges accompany. She believes that retailers should leverage the multi-device landscape, integrate CRM information system and adopt other strategies such as Geofencing in order to provide customers with consistent delightful experience. However, developing seamless customer experience requires high level of cooperation and consistent planning across divisions of the company, which remains a challenge for a lot of retailers.

In ATKearney’s recent report of Recasting the Retail Store in Today's Omnichannel World, evidence suggests that consumers value the retail store experience on multiple levels and continue to make the vast majority of their purchases in stores. However, the shift to an omnichannel shopping experience means the value of physical stores' traditional role has changed. Stores, on their own, have become less productive and profitable. In order to remain retail stores at the heart of the customer relationship, retailers need to reconsider a retail store’s new role to address evolving needs and behavior by making the retail store a place for discovery, entertainment and personalized experience development.
Based on my analysis of the above two articles and other retail-related research that I have completed,  here are the three action items that retailers need to consider in order to thrive, not only survive, in today’s omni-channel world.

1.      Integrate multi-device landscape and stay consistent across channels - By connecting the customer across web, mobile, and in-store, more purchases will be driven through ease of use. Tactics such as staying consistent across channels as well as coordinated cross-channel promotions will help consumers stay loyal to a brand, and stores will gain higher customer satisfaction rates.
2.      Leverage store formats - By developing a strategic portfolio of store formats, the future of the retail stores should be able to include the discovery and entertainment elements, facilitate well-executed transactions, build strong customer relationship, and provide efficient fulfilment of online purchases.
3.      Improve retail operations system – By implementing omni-channel solutions, such as ship-from-store, in-store pickup and in-store associate ordering will give consumers the type of retail service they expect both online and offline, and help retailers to drive sales in-store.
Remember, customers have redefined commerce, requiring retailers to respond with more choices, convenience and seamless shopping experience.  Get ready and thrive in this onmi-channel world.

Christy He is pursuing her Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) at Northwestern University, with an emphasis on marketing analytics, shopper marketing insights and digital marketing. She previously provided retail measurement and developed retail strategies for major CPG and retail companies at Nielsen. She hopes to continue her professional career post-graduation to focus on data analytics and shopper marketing in the fields of retail, CPG and e-commerce.
Follow her on Twitter @christy_he or contact her via LinkedIn

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