Omni-Channel Retail – it’s not just technology

December 2014

Retailers today are besieged by technology providers offering advice and products for them to bring all their sales channels together in order to better serve customers. Termed Omni-channel in the retail industry, much of this approach includes the use of new and powerful technology, some in-store and some in the smartphones and homes of these customers.

There is no doubt that offering these new ways of buying provides an enhanced shopping experience, while offering the retailer deeper information about their customers and their shopping habits. This data, not previously easily available, offers retailers the potential to be highly specific about the offers and products they can provide.

However – this brave new world was brought into sharp focus for me recently, when a retailer said to me: “That’s all very well, but it’s Tuesday. If I go to any of my stores, I will find a selection of shoppers, mostly 55+, higher spenders, with no smartphone or indeed understanding of how this new shopping paradigm could help them. So what’s in in it for us?”

I could see his point. We can very easily get carried away with the bright shiny toys that we all use daily, forgetting that there is a world of shoppers who are unsure, nervous and in some cases downright distrustful of this new technology.

So how to proceed? Perhaps a look at their local bank might help. Although not loved by everyone, the Barclays Digital Eagles project has sought to address these very issues. Helping customers to use the new technology, in a comforting and appropriate environment, assists the Bank and its customers in coping with the massive changes that our high street banks are undergoing.

If retailers offered similar programmes, aimed at helping their customers find their way around the new Omni-channel world, they would be able to introduce them at their own pace to the advantages on offer. When self-checkouts first arrived on the market, the retailers who offered training, and more training, and even more training to their shoppers reaped massive benefits from the technology, while those who just plonked the units in the store very soon started to wonder why they had bothered.

It is a similar scenario with the new journeys offered by Omni-channel – and some of the retailers may even get to sell their customers additional new technology!

David Lowrence

Posted by St. Marlowe

Semi-retired IT Consultant in the retail sector. Currently Chair of the Saints Supporters' Club, and purveyor of Fine Olde Websites to the County. Come On You Saints

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