Let’s start with a short recap of my previous ‘point of view’ piece; “Preparing yourself for an omni-channel world: What’s it all about and how can you get there?”
The difference between online and offline channels is a current hot topic in retail markets. Why are we talking about ‘the difference’? Because in most cases, online and offline are still considered to be totally separate entities. Although consumers already think, handle and buy in an integrated way, retailers persist in approaching them in different ways with different messages. If a retailer’s online and offline channels are not aligned, they may as well be competing against each other.
By explaining the different stages of channeling, I encouraged you to look at where you are in the process. Now, let’s look at how you can evolve step-by-step toward an optimal omni-channel approach. Still not convinced by the reality of omni-channel? You will be soon…
OMNI-CHANNELING IS TOMORROW’S UNAVOIDABLE REALITY
The main reason why omni-channel is becoming ubiquitous is that consumer thinking and behavior has already accepted it. In the past – when priorities were different and technological possibilities were less advanced – consumers selected a shop, browsed the products on offer and possibly bought one or more of them. At that time, shops held more value than products and AIDA-principles (a marketing model which describes how you get consumer Attention, Interest and Desire in order to influence consumer Action) dominated the marketing domain. However, today’s consumers think about the product they want, research it thoroughly and look at how to obtain it before buying. Some people research the product online and then buy it offline (ROBO: research online, buy offline); others may do some offline ‘showrooming’ before buying the product online. Often, it is only having done their research that consumers choose whether they will buy a product online or offline. As a result, products are becoming far more important than shops. That’s why I think we need to seriously prepare for an omni-channel future.
Despite this, I understand why you might still have doubts about omni-channeling. Is real-time data really necessary? Do consumers care about contextual relevance? Let’s take a quick trip into the future using real-life cases (such as WE Fashion and Hunkemöller) as examples to offer more convincing evidence.
It’s a sunny day so I decide to walk down the high street. Within 100 meters of my favorite store, I receive a push message to go in and benefit from a promotion. In the shop window, I am already met with holograms showing items of women’s clothing; I’m definitely going to try on that black dress. Once in the shop, I scan my personal QR code and the screen visuals change to match my preferences and show personalized offers. I then receive a push message from another clothing store in the same street saying that I can take advantage of a good offer if I visit the shop in the next 15 minutes – unfortunately for them, I’m already taken with the black dress. When I find it, I scan the corresponding QR code and indicate my size. The app tells me to go to fitting room 4 where the dress in my size is already waiting for me. Trying on the dress activates the RFID tag which prompts the screens around me to show details of the designer, the production process and accessories that match. I love the dress, but I’m not sure my friends would agree it’s right for me, so I take a picture using the digital mirror in front of me and share it on Facebook to seek their opinion. A salesperson approaches me and indicates via a tablet which of my previous purchases would go well with the dress. Before buying the dress here, I use an app to compare prices in different stores. The app advises me that the best price is in the store I’m currently in. I don’t like lugging bags around so I choose for home delivery. Now I simply scan the QR code into the payment system and that’s it, all paid. On the train on my way home I start thinking about a necklace I saw on the in-store screens. Actually, it really would go well with the dress. I log in to the e-shop, ‘try’ the necklace on using augmented reality-technology, which shows exactly what the necklace would look like around my neck. Sold!
This story many be fictional, but it’s based on what is already possible and shows how quickly things evolve. Innovation is moving faster than ever; today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s reality. Gurus put forward that ‘the Internet’ made place for a connection with everything at every time. Kotler even predicted the end of traditional retail. Marketers need to be more than just aware of the omni-channel future; they have to start constructing that future now. We know from experience that it will take a while before everything is completely in place.
Some people argue that consumers will never give up that degree of privacy, and I understand that. Marketing’s aim is to be more relevant within the chaos of communications. Relevance means making things personal. As social media ads increasingly evolve into direct marketing tools that rely on personal and geographical information, and as mobile ads are more commonly used, consumers are predicted to be familiar with omni-channeling by 2020. Think about supermarket price promotions based on past purchases: considered a risk to privacy in the past, an expectation today. Consumer thinking and behavior generally evolve more quickly than markets. Have I convinced you yet that you need to start making your organization future-proof? Admittedly, it’s easier said than done…
A PRACTICAL APPROACH TO OMNI-CHANNELING
Consumers expect simplicity in the complex ‘phygital’ – a combination between physical and digital – world; which means retailers and marketers are confronted with a serious challenge. Retailers have to catch up with consumers and offer the best of both worlds at every touch point. How can you begin? Our FACTS approach can certainly help you bridge the knowing-doing gap.
FOCUS: How can you maintain focus on omni-channeling?
1) Have clearly defined omni-channel goals
2) Have a dedicated omni-channel manager with a motivated project team
3) Have a shared mindset within the company.
It is essential that you have a clear vision about what sort of omni-channel organization you want to be. Think outside current company boundaries. As already noted in my previous point of view, 90% of all decisions are based on what is possible within the organization, this is a problem, it creates silos. You need to set clear and realistic objectives. Remember, changing everything at once is not possible; omni-channeling is a step-by-step process. You should also set up an omni-channel project team and appoint an omni-channel manager. This team should include marketers and sales representatives to ensure that communication is in line with the current context as well as corporate objectives. Effective omni-channeling allows dialogue to start at any point and continue anywhere else; it has to be consistent and linked at all times. The board, omni-channel manager and project team are responsible for disseminating the omni-channel vision throughout the company. This is important to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Employees who are not informed about and evaluated on the success of other, non-store channels have little incentive to collaborate (i.e. they maintain their ‘store-first’ mentality).
AGILITY: Brainstorming sessions can help capture current and future market evolutions. In order to stand up to competition, you need to not only implement change now, but also be ready to react quickly when changes occur in the future.
CREATIVITY: Interactivity will be the standard; you need to create added value with original, out-of-the-box ideas. ‘Surprise me’ will be the consumer norm. A qualitative briefing will enable your creative department or agency to make the most out of it.
TANGIBILITY: Validate your plan and make sure it’s tangible. What are the best and worst case scenarios for your omni-channel approach? What will the return on investment be in the short and long terms? You also need to determine how you can access real-time omni-channel metrics. Data is the fuel of any omni-channel strategy.
SUSTAINABILITY: You need to find a way – as a team – to maintain your omni-channel vision – in favor of profit, but also people and the planet. Preparing and validating the plan will take a while, but don’t forget to allow for continuous staff training and support to ensure your omni-channel approach remains agile and sustainable.
Using our FACTS approach, you can outline the omni-channel challenge within your company. Once defined, you can start with gradual implementation. Bear in mind that omni-channeling is based for a large part on logical thinking – that’s one of the reasons why I believe that every company can make it a reality. Take charge and prepare for an omni-channel future!