Peter Guidi's Blog

What is the Omni-Channel?

In Uncategorized on July 2, 2012 at 2:21 pm

At some point the way the world works changed; we went from seeking information, to information seeking us. Today’s consumers are always connected. The maturation of infrastructure like wireless networks combined with the capability of mobile devices and the adoption of social media tools has given the consumer more control to make educated purchasing decisions. Today’s connected consumer expects highly relevant and dynamic information at their fingertips within a moment’s notice. How Retailers communicate with their “always connected” customers is the key succeeding in the new competitive retail environment.

The most significant opportunity in this connected world is the ability to communicate to the consumer through the “Omni-channel” or “Multi-Channel”.  Lately there has been a lot written about this concept, yet I’ve noticed that many retailers are still trying to grasp what it means; what is the Omni Channel?

The simplest explanation is that the Omni-channel represents the convergence of multiple business silos into one interdependent activity. For retailers, this means that multiple business silos; catalogs, online or retail, are now one sales channel that is converging with marketing and advertising in a real time one-to-one relationship with the consumer. The way the Omni-Channel plays out is easy to see. A consumer sees a TV advertisement during their favorite show.  He thinks; “perhaps will I buy this new TV”. The first step is to research prices and service reports about the TV’s online. Armed with this research the consumer posts a question about the TV on Facebook and 25 “friends” provide comments offering their experiences with TV’s. Having made the decision to purchase he visits the store for a “hands-on” look and while at the store the consumer scans the UPC or QR to compare prices. Finally choosing to purchase, our consumer finds a better deal from Amazon having just received a push discount based on his price check, along with an offer for free shipping. For today’s retailer the question is; where was the consumer shopping? at home, in the store? The answer is; in the Omni Channel. Winning that TV sale requires a new more robust capability to compete within the Omni-Channel. MediaPost news reports that “According to a new study from Deloitte, the “mobile influence factor” (or effect of smartphones on in-store sales) on retail purchases will increase to $689 billion (or 19% of total store sales) by 2016, up from the current influence factor of $159 billion (or 5.1% of sales). (Mobile sales, meanwhile, are only expected to be $30 billion at that time.) Further evidence suggests smartphone shoppers are 14% more likely to make a purchase in the store than non-smartphone users.” Understanding and leveraging this maturing consumer behavior is the primary challenge retailer’s face when leveraging the Omni-Channel.

A few weeks back, I was delivering a presentation where we were discussing the evolution of the communication and what it means to the retailer/customer paradigm when I made this observation. There were six of us at the conference table, each with their tablets, PCs and Smart phones in front of us. I said; “I’ll bet right now each of us has some actionable event occurring in real time on our phones”. I pointed out that while we engaged in this conversation, “each of us is actually engaged in multiple real-time conversations”. The group around the table seemed to have an epiphany, because they realized this was true. Like their customers, all of us are now connected and information is constantly seeking us. And so there it is; the Omni-Channel is not just about our customers it’s about our lives. What is your plan?

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