3 Ways Mobile is Enabling Omnichannel Retail
POSTED : June 10, 2013
BY : Martin Mehalchin

Concentrix Catalyst’s Retail Management & Customer Experience Practice Lead, Martin Mehalchin, was featured in a guest blog on the Solution Providers for Retail website regarding mobile’s impact on the retail omnichannel experience. Tell us what you think of Mehalchin’s guest blog or read more on Solution Provides for Retail’s website.

Multichannel and, more recently, omnichannel have been buzzwords for a while, but most of that time it was mostly about the growth of e-commerce. The physical retail experience, where 92 percent of transactions still occur, remained pretty much the same. Now, mobile is starting to change that.

While mobile sales are expected to grow rapidly, mobile will not replace the diverse omnichannel experience that consumers expect. Instead, it is the key enabler. Customers want the ability to shop and engage with their favorite brands anytime, and they want these experiences to be seamless whether they be online or in-store. Mobile gives retailers the ability to stay connected to the consumer through all points on the customer journey: discovery, choosing, buying, using. The best retailers are doing this while they also use mobile to obtain insights into their own operations and customer experience.

Three key ways that mobile is enabling omnichannel are:

Meeting the consumers where they are

Call it location-based marketing or just call it better shopping, but retailers are starting to use mobile to meet the increased expectations of the omnichannel consumer. In one example, grocery stores are using mobile technology to allow loyalty card members to use an app to construct their shopping lists and then move efficiently through the store to find the items they need. The bonus for the store and the brands on the shelves is that they can send offers to the consumer as they are standing at the shelf, raising the likelihood that the consumer will purchase more of the item or add a complementary one. Tesco is even combining its delivery service with virtual storefronts in heavily trafficked locations like subway stations and airports in order to offer consumers the convenience of arriving home to a fully stocked fridge without taking the time to stop at a traditional store.

Enabling the associate as well as the consumer

With the emergence of the iPhone, traditional retailers started to have problems with “information asymmetry,” where a smartphone-equipped consumer often had better information on pricing, product specs, and online inventory than an associate who only had access to the terminal at the cash wrap. Smart retailers have addressed this: At REI, the same team that develops functionality for the e-commerce site also builds functionality for use by associates in stores; and Nordstrom associates can now view multi-channel inventory on iPads.

Using mobile to obtain insight

Although it’s sometimes controversial, mobility, through WiFi tracking and similar technologies, gives retailers an unprecedented opportunity to track the performance of individual stores as never before. Aspects of the experience that can now be measured or measured more accurately include: window conversion, visit duration, and visit frequency. Retailers can also precisely track the consumer’s path through their stores, and they can track social media sentiment and tie it to a specific store location.

For a long time, omnichannel has been positioned as a response to a threat from Amazon. Now, with mobile as the enabler, I think retailers should look at omnichannel as an opportunity to elevate their customers’ experience and their understanding of their own businesses.

About the Author

A picture of Martin MehalchinMartin Mehalchin is a Partner at Concentrix Catalyst where he leads the relationship with some of the firm’s largest clients and helps drive the growth of our Customer Experience Services. He has dedicated his career to working with executives and managers to help them define their strategies and then translate those strategies into results. Martin is a Brain Trust panel member on Retailwire.com and is a sought after seminar leader and speaker at conferences and on webinars. Among the clients Martin has worked with are Nike, Atlantic Records, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Expedia, Victoria’s Secret, Adidas and DuPont. Martin is a Board member and Chair of the Marketing Committee for the North Cascades Institute.

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