The word “Omni-channel” has rapidly become a common buzzword amongst the retail community, and rightfully so. It’s a powerful way for retailers to connect with their customers on a deeper level, and deliver a shopping experience that’s custom-tailored specifically around their personal tastes and preferences. But, keep in mind that being a “true” Omni-channel retailer is subjective by nature, and can be interpreted differently depending on which retail sub-vertical you operate in. The ultimate goal of any true Omni-channel strategy is, and always should be, centered on exceeding your customers’ expectations. If you invest in your customers, then they’ll invest in you.
Take Best Buy for example, they were losing market share, year-over-year, to retailers that operate purely online – Amazon being the obvious example. Consumers were able to find the same products that Best Buy carries, online, for far cheaper than Best Buy’s physical stores were able to offer. This eventually lead to a large population of consumers using Best Buy as a showroom; to test products out and make sure that’s what they want before buying it online. In response, Best Buy now offers consumers a price match guarantee, a robust customer loyalty program, and also started selling open box / refurbished items (both online and in-store).
They also provided their customers with more options, in terms of how they choose to shop / purchase their products online, as well as at their brick and mortar locations. Offering customers the ability to shop online and ship to a store of their preference, shop a specific store(s) inventory online, and even return online purchases in store. So why is this so important? It’s important because they connected ecommerce shopping with brick & mortar locations, which is the epitome of Omni-channel retailing.
Best Buy adapted to the changing tastes and preferences of todays tech savvy and price conscious retail customer (at least for the time-being). And that is what it takes to remain competitive against retailers that operate purely online. You have to give your customers a shopping experience that simply can’t be offered solely online.
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that Amazon is in a league of its own, but when it comes to strictly online retailers versus click and mortar retailers I look at physical store locations as a competitive advantage more than a burden. And, yes, I know that physical store locations can be quite costly. But if you can find a creative way to connect your physical retail channel(s) with your ecommerce channel(s), while offering an in-store experience that can’t be replicated online, then your brick and mortar locations can become more than just an overhead expense.