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Retail TouchPoints

Following is Part 1 of the Retail TouchPoints series focused on Analyzing The Omnichannel Consumer. Part 2, which will offer insights into how retailers are creating compelling experiences to better connect with omnichannel shoppers, will appear in the March 12 newsletter.

New shopping channels and advanced technology solutions have greatly impacted consumers’ shopping behaviors and interactions with brands and retailers.

In fact, recent research from the IBM Institute for Business Value spotlighted the central role of technology in consumers’ new researching and decision-making process: 86% of respondents indicated that they use some type of technology when they shop.

The worldwide survey of more than 28,000 consumers, titled: Winning Over the Empowered Consumer: Why Trust Matters, also revealed that 85% believe they can save time shopping by using social media recommendations to help them make purchasing decisions.

Retail industry analysts have coined these empowered, tech-savvy shoppers as “omnichannel.” But while these consumers are using more channels than ever before, they also are using more devices during the researching, browsing and consideration phases of their buying journeys. In fact, the IBM consumer survey pinpointed that nearly 25% of shoppers use three or more technologies while shopping.

“Retailers shouldn’t just think about their customers going to web, to mobile, to social, to store,” said Larry Freed, President and CEO of ForeSee Results, in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “In order to succeed, they should think about how their consumers are using different technological devices at specific times, and for what reasons.”

To ensure customer engagement and loyalty in the age of the hyper-connected, always-on consumer, everything from inventory, to pricing, offers and messaging, must be consistent across touch points and relevant to each consumer’s unique wants and needs.

“Omnichannel consumers require seamlessness and synchronicity,” explained Jonathan Levitt, CMO of OpinionLab, a voice of the customer and feedback solution provider. “They are going to bounce back-and-forth between channels in a non-linear fashion and retailers simply have to be prepared for that.”

Transitioning To An Omnichannel Retail Organization
Best-in-class retailers are revising their organizational structures in an effort to ensure a seamless transition to omnichannel operations. Heidi Chapnick, CEO of Channalysis, shared a six-step methodology the company leverages to help retailers successfully develop and implement their strategies from the ground-up.

Chapnick’s six steps to omnichannel strategy include:

  • Obtain executive engagement: Executives need to understand the business-wide need to integrate all sales and communication channels. “If that message doesn’t come down from the CEO and trickle to other areas of the business, retailers are going to have those siloed workforces.”
  • Complete a needs assessment and receive lessons in the science of ROI. Retailers must conduct internal and external landscape analysis, followed by a full assessment of the “as is” and the “needs to be” environment from an analytic and a skill set perspective. From there, retailers can prioritize their strategies and investments.
  • IT engagement modeling, in which businesses connect with the IT team to understand top priorities for omnichannel success. “This always is key in pushing ‘omni’ objectives to the forefront and creates more disclosure between the IT side of the business and other departments.”
  • Focus on business and project planning in a phased approach. Retailers also must focus on winning employee engagement to ensure an efficient deployment in all areas of operation.
  • Develop marketing plans that reflect a holistic approach and an integrated theme across all channels.
  • Customer centricity and care, driven by a 360-degree view of each shopper.

The Current State Of Omnichannel Strategies
More retailers are acknowledging the need to analyze and address the omnichannel consumer. But overall, many organizations are not evolving their internal businesses to keep pace, according to Chapnick.

“C-level executives are saying ‘omnichannel’ and using it in their vocabulary, but they really don’t know how to truly achieve omnichannel,” Chapnick said. “They don’t realize that they need to change their infrastructure and get the right skill sets in place to obtain a single, cohesive view of all content and commerce across all channels.”

However, research uncovered by Aberdeen Group in the report, titled: 2012 Omni-Channel Retail Experience indicated that retail leaders are taking the following strategic actions to provide similar brand experiences across all channels:

  • Ensure product availability across all channels (50%);
  • Develop an omnichannel marketing and promotions plan (31%); and
  • Establish omnichannel performance metrics (25%).

Confirming the need for more consistent retail experiences, Freed added: “It is no longer efficient to leverage disparate prices, products and policies. I don’t think you can draw those lines around channels anymore because it alters the customer experience. And since consumers have more control, satisfaction with the experiences they have ultimately is going to drive the decisions they make. Having that consistency builds trust, which is so important.”

Cutting-Edge Retailers Revise The C-Suite To Address Consumer Trends
Macy’s and Saks are making omnichannel an integral part of their business strategies by creating C-level titles and entire departments specifically for their efforts.

On Jan. 28, 2013, Macy’s announced the appointment of Robert B. Harrison as Chief Omnichannel Officer. The title was created to make the former EVP for Omnichannel Strategy a key component of the C-level suite. In his new role, Harrison will manage the development of strategies that will integrate the company’s stores, online and mobile activities. Additionally, Harrison will take on responsibility for systems and technology, logistics and related operating functions, according to a company press release.

Saks Inc. also has reassigned senior managers to omnichannel titles. For example, Ron Frasch, President and Chief Merchant at Saks, now is more directly involved in overseeing the omnichannel merchandising strategy.

“We have to change how we do business,” said Stephen I. Sadove, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Saks, in an interview with WWD. “The world has been moving forward toward an omnichannel environment where customers want to shop anytime, anywhere. You want to look holistically at your business.”

The article also reported that Keith Campbell, SVP of Merchandise Planning for Saks, has been named Group SVP for Merchandise Planning and will “lead the omnichannel vision for merchandise planning and allocation to maximize inventory across channels and drive profitable volume growth.”

Macy’s and Saks are organizations that have changed their infrastructure to align with the growth of omnichannel retail. Others in the marketplace should follow suit, Chapnick advised, either by putting a leader in the C-level suite with an “omni” title, “or at the very least, all C-level executives need to be aligned and engaged from a philosophical and budgetary perspective.”

Part 2 of Analyzing The Omnichannel Consumer will appear in the March 12 newsletter.

This article can be found here.

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