Omnichannel – The Next Big Shopping Experience

Imagine walking into a store to buy something and being greeted by name by a sales person. Not only that, but they seem to know you had intended to buy that TV from their website, got as far as putting it in the shopping kart, but had thought you might just pop into the store to see it working before making up your mind. You really like this store; you had even praised them on social media and always get their catalogue. Now it seems that they can read your mind, know what you have researched on your tablet on the way to work and have some brilliant ideas about what TV would suit you best. Actually, you are not many years in the future, you are benefitting from Omnichannel marketing.

There have been several stages in the evolution of marketing to consumers. In the first stage potential customers were provided with ad hoc, untargeted information about potential products. In stage two the market was segmented and people received product information according to their age, occupation, geographical location etc. Then marketing got a bit more sophisticated and loyalty programmes were started such as store cards. Potential customers received product information according to their past purchasing with that specific company. Omnichannel is the latest in marketing where companies can suggest products according to purchasing across many channels and many platforms from many retailers, consolidating this information into behaviour patterns and personalising it just for you.

Omni means many and the many channel approach provides a seamless shopping experience to the customer whether they are shopping from a tablet, a computer, through social media or in person. Click or brick, telephone or by mail the customer will be provided with the same experience. The retailer has the advantage that they have a greater understanding of the customer’s needs and can present suggestions to them as they shop. Within a retail building the retailer can map the progress of the shopper through the shop, following their eye line and seeing what they touch and what is of little interest.

All of this is possible due to the other word that really should be included within the name – integration. All the back end systems are integrated. So the database from the website is integrated with the shop database. The CCTV cameras are connected to the system so that the shopper can be viewed. A Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection to their mobile phone helps track a customer. When the customer talks to the retail representative they will know everything about them and be able to make informed recommendations. The big difference from a multi channel experience is that the experience is seen from the customer’s point of view as opposed to the marketer’s view.

Omnichannel is a more organised, more joined up and more effective multi channel experience. Some say it is multichannel done right! It provides the physical interaction and personalised service that many people miss when shopping online and is a key differentiator for retail bricks and mortar retailers.

So how can Omnichannel marketing be achieved? First of all everything from everywhere needs to be measured, then that information needs to be sorted and understood. Lastly that information needs to be applied to each customer’s behaviour, wants and activities. Whilst online retailers have had the use of website analytics to understand what their customers do on the website and provide some insight into changes that can be made, until recently, a bricks and mortar retailer did not really understand the shopper’s experience in their stores. Why they bought and more importantly did not buy were not questions as readily answered for them.

In order to do this for a brick based retailer, there needs to be an appropriate technological platform and fully included and trained staff. As the name suggests everything needs to be integrated. However it also needs to be robust, upgradeable and easily understood by the non-technical who will be operating from it.

Only in the last few years that technology has been robust enough to support this kind of system. The sheer volume of structured and unstructured data that needed to be put together challenged hardware, networks and software.

Thankfully a few, innovative companies have sprung up that are able to use truly comprehensive in-store analytical platforms with a breath taking level of sophistication. These systems are able answer questions about shopping, aggregated across thousands of stores as well as the ability to drive deep down into this information. Retailers will soon be collaborating for the good of all and the customer will benefit.

Whilst it is the software that is driving Omnichannel marketing, the hardware is equally as important as it supports and enables fast processing and combines with the network to allow for fast data transfer and collection.

The technical platform needs to collate information from numerous, different data points which means an enormous amount of data being processed and collated. Surely we are in the era of Big Data! Some examples of data collection points include:

• WiFi and blue tooth enable devices

• Security cameras

• POS (Point of Sale) systems

• Payment cards

• Loyalty cards

• WiFi points

• Workforce Management Systems

• CRM (Customer Relationship Management Systems)

• Weather and timing systems

This information can then be processed, analysed and output to a number of tools, apps, reports and other software systems as well as produce real time alerts to phones and tablet. The type of information available is very wide and includes:

• Traffic measurements

• Buying profiles

• Buying behaviour

• Movements around a store

• Shopper demographic

• Poorly performing retail areas

In effect they answer the five vital questions that any retailer will ask themselves:

1. Are our shoppers engaged with us?

2. Are our promotions working?

3. Which bits of our marketing works best?

4. Where can I best use my staff?

5. The big one: What can I do better to become more profitable?

Some truly innovative companies are bringing buying power into the hands of the shopper and enabling the retailer to be very responsive to their needs. That is Omnichannel.

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