Omnichannel Is Dead — Just Ask Your Customer

Author

Michael Jones, Contributor

December 17, 2015

Marc Rosen, the executive vice president and president of global e-commerce for Levi Strauss & Co., recently told an audience of retailers: “The word ‘omnichannel’ will go away. Consumers don’t know and don’t care about these concepts.”

He couldn’t be more right. The omnichannel approach that retailers once took is dead. Just ask your customers. They likely have little clue—or interest in—what the term means or how your business silos function accordingly. All they want to know is how they can easily browse for and buy products when they want, how they want. And they’d like to decide if they can pick them up in the store or have them delivered (with free shipping, of course).

The term “omnichannel” has been a buzzword in the retail industry for the last several years, and with good reason. Retailers came to the table with a strategy that allowed them to connect with shoppers across channels and follow them along their path to purchase, ensuring higher probability of a sale, online or off. But today, if your brand is still thinking in those same terms, then you’re about to be left behind (or you already have been).

Online, offline, mobile. E-commerce, m-commerce, brick and mortar. These things are beginning to blur more and more, because, really, only one thing matters: Your customers, and your customers are digital. It doesn’t matter if they’re in your store with phone in hand or browsing on a tablet from their couch. They want one seamless experience, and they don’t care what you call it.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend and speak at several industry conferences, including the WWD Digital Forum and the Shop.org Digital Summit, in New York City and Philadelphia, respectively. Retailers were, of course, buzzing about smartphone and mobile and their impact on the shopper’s journey. Where does this channel fit into the marketing dollar mix? How does it affect what we’re doing on our website or in our stores? Most retailers had answers to these questions, but two, in particular, stood out to me: Walgreens and Target.

Both of these brands are breaking down the separate channels and putting their customer in control of the shopping experience. It’s my belief that where we see the walls of these channel silos coming down, we typically see success. 

At the corner of browse and buy

Walgreens’ omnichannel strategy is described as the 3W’s: “Whatever. Wherever. Whenever.” With this approach, the brand sees omnichannel customers spending up to six times more than customers who only shop in its stores. That’s definitely what I would consider a return on investment. It’s certainly what keeps driving the brand to lead with the customer, not the channel.

David Sturrus, the director of digital and marketing strategy at Walgreens, said at the Shop.org Digital Summit that “customers don’t see us as e-commerce and stores; they see us as Walgreens. We need to be a consistent brand and offer a consistent experience to customers.”

I feel very confident that that is exactly how their customers view them, as “Walgreens.”

With 75 percent of Americans within a 5-mile radius of a Walgreens location, the brand uses its mobile app to tap into customers’ moments of need and drive them to stores. And by using mobile dynamic content, Walgreens is able to serve up timely, relevant offer content that is personalized for the user based on his or her location and needs.

Having an app doesn’t make sense for every retailer—something I’ve written about before—but Walgreens has been able to use its app in a way that provides a more convenient experience both online and off. It doesn’t end there, though.

Beyond offer content and location information, the retailer’s app can connect with a shopper’s third-party fitness tracker. Walgreens offers Balance Rewards in exchange for making healthy choices and keeping track of them on the app. It’s a win-win for the brand and the consumer and yet another way that the brand is merging its digital and physical worlds, blurring the lines between channels.

“No” to silos, “yes” to experimentation

At the WWD Digital Forum in September, Christopher Walton, vice president and merchandise manager at Target.com and Target, spoke on the importance of enterprise sales for the brand. Looking at online sales versus offline sales is becoming a thing of the past for the retail giant.

He urged the audience to “stop with the channel obsession” because it doesn’t matter to consumers. It’s time to break down those paradigms.

In a push to be more channel agnostic and try things differently, Target began to test new approaches to

embrace the much feared showrooming phenomenon rather than combat it—again giving consumers what they want.

“Our customer doesn’t care what type of sale it is. Experiences are coming together and creating almost a new channel unto itself. It’s not omnichannel, it’s on-demand. No one channel and no one experience reigns supreme,” Walton added.

In order to prove this, the brand pushed the idea of showrooming for its online patio furniture. Testing the concept in Denver, the retailer found a way to bring shoppers in store to view items, and then pushed them online to complete the purchase.

The brand used this experience to learn and was able to work out any kinks prior to scaling its efforts. Ultimately the risk was worth the reward. Target’s journey to removing the barriers for shoppers resulted in four key takeaways:

  • Be guest obsessed, not channel obsessed.
  • Reinvent, reinvent, reinvent.
  • Say “yes.”
  • And, finally, embrace change.

So, how do we begin this process and alter our way of thinking? Retailers, it’s time to turn your focus from mobile-first to consumer-first. This doesn’t mean you have to abandon mobile or online or even your brick-and-mortar stores. Rather, it implies that you use these avenues seamlessly and in line with the consumer. I believe that in order to do this, the values must start at the top.

We should aim to remove siloed channel teams and instead focus on a more holistic ecosystem for our businesses. Remember: Consumers don’t shop “omnichannel.” They simply just shop.

Follow Michael Jones on Twitter @mdjonesy or LinkedIn.

This article was written by Michael Jones from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

There is 1 comment

  • Why we need to move beyond “Omni-channel Marketing” – The WebAge - 08/28/2016 17:57
    […] is described as the 3W’s: “Whatever. Wherever. Whenever.” With this approach, the brand sees omnichannel customers spending up to six times more than customers who only shop in its stores. With 75 percent of Americans within a 5-mile radius of a Walgreens […]

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