It’s time to get rid of the Omnichannel band-aid and rethink retail
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We have to admit that omnichannel was a trendy buzzword 10 years back. Being “omnichannel” won’t bridge the gap between leaders and laggards in the future with the rapid acceleration of disruption.
Nordstrom is an example of a forward-thinking retailer. Nordstrom was pioneering omnichannel technology ten years ago when I worked there. I was able to see inventory from all stores and to access products via e-commerce distribution centres, which allowed me to sell more directly to customers and ensure that guests don’t leave empty-handed.
We are now in 2018, so omnichannel must be a priority. Retailers must reconsider retail in today’s market by focusing on the things that make a lasting impression with customers. This will allow them to provide a seamless, seamless experience online and offline. The physical retail space is where retailers can really step up and make a difference.
- 0.1 The Killer of Complacency in the Physical Store Environment
- 0.2 But how do you get there?
- 1 Why retail is and will remain a human-driven experience
The Killer of Complacency in the Physical Store Environment
No, retail isn’t dead. The truth is, most in-store experiences are not great. The physical and digital worlds are increasingly blurring. But retailers can’t just buy some new tech and call it quits. They must look at the whole customer journey as a whole to redesign the in-store experience. They should ask themselves, “Where is this kind of tech innovation possible?” Is it adding value to customers’ interactions with my company?
Many conversions are not possible in-store today because of the complex path to purchase. Retailers are still the No. Sales per square foot is the metric that defines physical success. The future of retail is changing rapidly and “the way we have always done it” will not suffice. It is time to change the way we think about key performance indicators and to instead look at brick-and mortar data to redefine how success in retail stores can be measured.
Retailers who understand the stakes are focused on creating brand advocates and converts based upon the in-store experience.
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But how do you get there?
Although today’s physical spaces are often lacking in quality, there are ways to transform them through exceptional customer experience (CX). These are some tips to create experiential retail environments by combining the digital and physical worlds.
1. Recognize CX is an issue.
Omnichannel enabled retailers to transform legacy systems and integrate data across all sales channels. This is important but it’s not enough. 55 per cent of retailers make optimizing CX their top priority.
Customers care less about whether you can access cloud data or how much IT investment you make in next-generation network architectures. You cannot ignore the strategic importance of live, tangible experiences in your store.
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2. You can sell experiences, not just widgets.
CX is a powerful tool for creating competitive advantages. Retail environments should provide a memorable and lasting customer experience. Retailers must be able to approach customers holistically in order to ensure the future success of the industry. Complexity can lead to uncertainty. However, physical locations can be re-engineered for a different purpose that can dramatically impact sales.
The announcement of Nordstrom Local last year, which is a store that has no inventory, made Nordstrom headlines. This smaller location will be devoted to services and experiences, such as personal styling, manicures and tailoring. Nordstrom’s senior vice-president of customer experience said that shopping does not necessarily mean visiting a store to look at large quantities of merchandise. Instead, retailers should be creating unique experiences in-store that increase engagement.
3. Take a look at which technologies are most useful.
Retailers should not deploy tech just for the sake of it. Instead, they must evaluate how it can improve customer experience and create immersive experiences. Remember that in-store tech deployments don’t have to be customer-facing. Optimizing the employee experience is also important.
Lowe’s Hardware and Home Improvement has launched a number of technology tools that will enhance the customer and employee experience. “View in Your Space” is an augmented reality app that allows users to place “lifesize” items from Lowe’s spring catalogue in their outdoor living spaces. Shoppers can also visit the Lowe’s Holoroom to experience a virtual reality experience. This includes haptic feedback and help with DIY skills. Lowe’s also introduced a mobile application that allows employees to upload photos and alert the management of any in-store issues which can be resolved quickly.
4. Create “Instagrammable” moments.
Retailers should take into account all sensory touches when imagining the store they want to be. It should be Instagram-worthy, that is, it should inspire customer exploration. This is where all elements of store design, from tech to lighting to smell to fixtures, are combined to create a captivating environment.
Retailers can bring the brand to life and create memorable moments with customers. This will increase engagement, deepen relationships and bridge offline and digital worlds through authentic user-generated content.
Omnichannel is gone. Or at least, it was not the only thing that matters in retail. You can reimagine brick-and-mortar shops in a new era. In-store shopping is an experience that customers can enjoy in a unique and immersive way. This brings back the days of when shopping in town on Saturdays was social. This is the time to bring it back.
Why retail is and will remain a human-driven experience
Is physical retail dying? According to statistics, up to 80 percent of all retail sales still occur in brick-and-mortar shops. Although online and mobile shopping is convenient, physical retail still delivers on its promise of providing human-centered experiences. Humans are the ultimate business tool. Technology can only amplify that fact.
Use technology for its intended purpose
While technology can enhance any experience, it is also important to realize that it can also make it worse. Some tasks are better suited to robots than others, so don’t just use technology for its sake.
In-store technology is most effective when it enhances the shopping experience for both the customer and employee. This is the guiding principle that Apple Senior Vice President of Retail Angela Ahrendts used to guide her efforts in redesigning its stores.
The experience is driven by the ability to track in-store behavior and serve it to employees so they can help customers shop. The offering of unique, compelling product demos is another way to improve the experience. Physical retail can also use technology to invent and attract key audiences through human connections thanks to the drop culture scarcity model sparked by youth brands and cultural brands.
Similar story: Rethinking Retail is Time to Get Rid of the Omnichannel Band-Aid.
Encourage human interaction
Recent reports show that 77 per cent of Gen Z prefer brick-and mortar stores, while 53 per cent of millennials prefer physical shops. It’s simple. Physical retail is inherently social and people are naturally social.
E-commerce cannot replicate the physical retail browsing experience because of its social construct. It is both inspirational and aspirational, because a person’s unique sense of style comes from the way they interpret what they see in the social world. This is not about fashion, it’s about creating your personal identity myth. It’s not just about a seamless transaction and fulfillment that delivers to your house. It is a fundamental social imperative that spans the digital and physical worlds.
Retailers are on the move
Physical experiences are only possible through human interaction. Retailers need to continue providing a place where brands and products can co-exist digitally. This space is not conducive to hard selling or persuasion. Instead, people will buy immersive experiences that are compelling and engaging. This experience can be provided by retailers, who tell meaningful stories and draw people in with cultural touchpoints.