The evolution of omnichannel

Omnichannel remains to be a buzz word in the shopper marketing world in 2015.  As I understand it, an omnichannel strategy is to provide a seamless shopping experience between the offline and the online world.  However, that doesn’t really make sense.  Online shopping and in-store shopping are two different experiences serving two different need states.  When I’m online, I want something quick and easy (likely late at night after work when stores are closed).  When I’m in-store, I want an experience.  I want to touch, feel, and sense the products.  The way I’d like to think about it is that the world is big enough to have different type of experiences, shopping or otherwise.  Talk entertainment, for example, I can watch a Disney movie at home or I can go to Disney world.  They both give me a Disney experience, but they are different.  Similarly, an omnichannel strategy should provide me with a comparable brand experience, whether I’m online or offline.  However, the typical definition of an omnichannel strategy is to be able to bounce shoppers from one format to another.  A QR code at shelf that bounces you to the online product detail page.  A pick up at store button to bounce you from web to store.  While a Disney movie will cross-promote going to Disney world, they don’t attempt to bounce you from one or the other.  Each experience is optimized for that particular format.  The evolution of omnichannel is to blend the offline and online world into one.  A few retailers are already testing that and transforming the shopping experience.

Walgreens tested Aisle411 in 4 stores in Chicago, New York, Seattle, and St. Louis where Aisle411 is based.  The gamified system gives shoppers a fun and easy way to explore the store while building up the basket.

Hointer in Seattle transformed jeans shopping by eliminating sales associates in stores, thus lowering costs while providing a superior shopping experience.

These innovators will define the new expectations of tomorrow’s shoppers.  Note that these innovators have been able to achieve their business goals (lower costs, building bigger basket) while providing shoppers a better experience.  A bounce between strategy is an outdated concept based on an inadequate understanding on how online and offline shopping merges.  But instead of thinking how to capitalize on the merge, the winners will be those who keep thinking how to give shoppers the best experience – wherever they shop.  And if you do that right, money follows.



Photo credit:  ptwo

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