Competing in the age of omnichannel
This guest post is by Kees de Vos, chief customer officer at Hybris.
Online and mobile commerce continue to grow in Australia for both online and traditional retailers. According to NAB Australians bought approximately $1.27 billion worth of products from online retailers in December 2013, up from about $1.19 billion in December 2012. This figure is equivalent to 6.5% of Australia’s spending in traditional bricks and mortar shops.
Marketers are increasingly aware that with everyone’s increasingly busy lives shopping can be seen as a chore. Customers can research online faster than they can walk or drive from store to store. Online reviews and price comparisons also enable customers to feel more confident in their buying decisions, there is more free shipping available and returns are becoming easier.
The in-store experience is transforming into much more than being about the transaction – it’s becoming more about brand experience. From virtual changing rooms, to touch-screens and mobile apps, retail marketers are embracing new technology to create immersive shopping experiences.
Multi-channel comes of age
Multi/omni-channel has come of age. ‘Click and collect’ is more a standard feature now, and is part and parcel of the shopping experience – both online and offline. In-store, we now find ‘collection points’ for items reserved or bought online, and outside the store you’ll find dedicated parking spots in front of the main entrance for ‘collect’ customers, or even a collection drive throughs.
Social enters commerce
Social is finding its place in the commerce space as well. After the initial (over)hype that ‘social’ was going to be at the centre of everything, transactional features have taken a back seat, for now, and social has matured as an integral way to find the products you need, sharing ideas and opinions about products either before, during or after your purchase, regardless of your location (on or off-line).
Fundamental to this optimisation will be data. Although product data management is a challenge that many have already tackled, and creating a ‘single view of the customer’ is on top of all marketer’s agendas, an overview of the product inventory and orders across the entire enterprise will be an important differentiator going forward. Getting it right will enable you to optimise merchandising, pricing and fulfilment strategies, and reduce costs whilst maximising customer satisfaction.
The store is integral
The role of the store will continue to evolve, with it now being an integral part of the multi-channel journey, rather than existing alongside the ‘traditional’ digital channels. This will be reflected by the ongoing digitisation of the in-store experience and an overall change to a more ‘experience based’ in-store journey. However, it is not just technology that will drive this transformation; the store staff will also need be on board. Their role needs to be re-calibrated to be more service focused as they are being equipped with the tools to do so.
Barriers between ‘channels’ will continue to be lowered, with the concept of the channel ultimately disappearing and the shopping experience becoming completely seamless. With points to buy, inform or interact are woven into our lives, into the devices that we use – our mobile devices, our TVs, the day to day electronic items we use, even our clothes – the decision to buy will be made easier and simpler. Better, personalised information will help us make our decisions and sometimes our decisions will even be made for us with machine-to-machine communication, the newest channel on the block.
Whether you call it cross-channel, multi-channel, omni-channel, it’s no longer an option for marketers, it is a must. It is no longer a competitive advantage; no longer would you start any company, supplying goods or service, in any other way. It is the only way to do business and the only way for brands to survive in 2014.
Kees de Vos is chief customer officer at Hybris.