Technology: The Great Enabler
I recently stood in a line at Macy's with about ten people ahead of me, when a sales associate came down the line and said, "Who has debit or credit?" "I have debit," I said. "Great, come with me." And just like that, she took me aside and immediately began ringing me up on what looked like a suped-up iPod touch. Card swiped, discounts applied, receipt emailed and checked for accuracy on my iPhone 5, and within 3 minutes, I was out the door. No, my experience was not earth shattering in the grand scheme of the tech world, but it is part of a growing trend brand marketers need to take notice of: omnichannel retail. And it is causing a fundamental shift in marketing, consumer experience, and sales for retailers.
Rise of the Olympic Brand Experience
First, lets clarify omnichannel. It’s not to be confused with multi-channel retail. Think of omnichannel as a truly integrated digital and physical consumer experience. It's the optimization of every touch-point with your consumer from the brand experience- be it a physical location, website, smartphone, social media, augmented reality, smart TV, etc. Your consumer fluidly migrates from one platform to the next. As a brand, and more importantly, a marketer- you need to approach omnichannel like an Olympian in a relay lap. Every hand-off is an opportunity to achieve greatness (continued consumer loyalty) or fall flat on your face.
Revolving Around Your Evolving Consumer
I should note, omnichannel is not big brother. It's an enhancement to the overall consumer experience and ultimately an increase in revenue. It's up-skilling your consumer and offering genuine engagement at all access-points along the purchasing decision. It's wherever, whenever, however. It's revolving around your evolving consumer.
One benefit of working at a digital marketing and technology agency has been watching this paradigm shift for retail clients. Technology plays a critical role in the creation and delivery of a truly integrated customer experience, and brands that are successfully adapting understand that digital and social are leveling the playing field and recreating the customer experience, not to mention the meaning of their brand promise.
Yes, technology drives consumer purchasing decisions. But, it is still in its infancy. A few months ago I sat down with a Social Media Manager for the world's the largest toy retailer. I was surprised to learn how siloed their approach truly was. Their struggle? If a consumer is prompted with a coupon from the Facebook page, and purchases the product in store - who gets the credit? And if they buy online and return it to a store- who takes the hit? How can they use data to drive mobile couponing around geo-trend driven in-store products? And how the heck do you track that?!? Yet, at the end of the day, their focus was simple: How can we create an integrated interaction for the consumer to continuously cultivate loyalty. After all, they know if they miss the hand-off they run the risk of becoming irrelevant and losing their consumer to a local Kmart, Wal-Mart, Target, or Amazon.
Marketing in a Digital World Where all Things are "Known"
Speak with r2i CEO Matt Goddard for a bit, and you will likely transition to a conversation he is passionate about: how brands can successfully market in a world where all things about a product are "known." Think about it- I have an idea of a product I want, I search for it, visit the site, vet it out on Facebook with my inherent trusted social network, hop from there on my iPhone to compare prices, read a few reviews, and ultimately purchase the product (in the store or from my phone). So marketers, you have to ask yourself... at what point was the baton hand-off important for me when dealing with your brand? The answer is all of them. But have you truly figured out how intersect your brand/product message to me during that time?
Let Go of the Brand & Embrace the Buyer
I am not saying omnichannel is easy. It’s breaking down silos. It means the C-suite, specifically IT and Marketing, are more than playing nice in the sandbox- they own the sandbox. It’s a change in the budget. It’s a change in the org chart. It's about letting go of the brand and embracing the buyer and supporting an infrastructure crafted for success- data integration and migration, social CRM, security, etc.. It takes getting the right people to the table with one goal in mind: creating an integrated consumer-centric experience.
I’m really curious- have you seen this shift in your business? How are you accounting for it?