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Retail: Omni-channel moving to maturity

Eden Estopace and Sheila Lam | Feb. 26, 2013
Once experimental options for in-store retailing, online and mobile commerce are now forcing retailers to develop seamless cross-platform shopping experiences.

Once experimental options for in-store retailing, online and mobile commerce are now forcing retailers to develop seamless cross-platform shopping experiences.

According to IDC Retail Insights, 2013 will see retailers enhancing their omni-channel strategies, as more tech-savvy consumers are demanding convenient, personalized shopping experiences.

"It's a very interesting time for the industry," said Bob Parker, group vice president of IDC Retail Insights, at a recent webinar covering key predictions for the retail sector in 2013. "In the last four years, consumers have attached value to their mobile devices--creating new buying habits."

New habits, new expectations

These new habits of shopping online and via mobile devices are changing shoppers' expectations. A recent study by market research firm GfK's found 36% of Asia Pacific customers expect shops and services to be available at all times. The global study polled over 37,500 consumers across 25 countries, with eight of them from Asia.

"Consumers expect to access goods, services and entertainment around-the-clock and on-the-go," said Jodie Roberts, Asia Pacific regional director for GfK Consumer Trends. "These services should be delivered wherever and whenever consumers dictate, in the format they prefer."

She said that the continued diffusion of smartphones, tablets and 4Gs network in 2013 will drive consumers' demand to stay in touch while on the move--and they expect product- and service-providers to keep up with their expectations.

Omni-channel strategy

To meet these new shopper expectations, retailers are not only expected to provide multiple touchpoints, but also a consistent shopping experience across the board, said IvanoOrtis, head of international at IDC Retail Insight.

"The goal is to leverage intelligence to orchestrate and execute different omni-channel moments for customers, so they can enjoy the brand experience consistently," said Ortis.

Creating consistent shopping experiences for customers is the essence of omni-channel retailing, and investment in technologies plays a significant part in realizing this. Ortis said that developing an omni-channel strategy requires precision in customizing offerings, and this precision in turn requires analytics-technologies to understand customers' needs. "In 2013," he said, "retailers will increasingly focus on big data to enhance interactions with customers."

Convergence beyond technology

Apart from technologies, the success of omni-channel strategy also relies on creating a single marketing message across different channels.

"Retailers should focus on efficient, relevant messaging to customers," said Greg Girard, program director of merchandise strategies at IDC Retail Insights, "rather than creating channel relevant marketing campaigns."

Girard said that by consolidating marketing messages, retailers can lower marketing costs and improve ROIs. Consolidation will also help retailers to raise customers' satisfaction, spending and ultimately, their loyalty.

"Retailers need to understand their customers, delight them and convert them as brand advocates," he said.

Omni-channel strategy with a single marketing message will create a marketing journey that diffuses across physical stores, Web sites, mobile and social touchpoints to create a cohesive consumer experience, Girard concluded.


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