The Future is Omni-Channel, So Why Are Retailers Struggling To Adopt It?

May 25, 2015 Jessica Thiele

retail dkny store mall shopping

The days of awkwardly avoiding eye contact with hovering sales associates are slowly coming to an end. It’s video killed the radio star, rehashed: ecommerce is killing the retail star.

I for one say good riddance.

The first to fall has been the big box retailers: the Targets, and the Future Shops. While there are numerous causes that can be attributed to each folding big box store chain, those who seemed too big to fail, I’m surprised more people aren’t assigning fault to the lack of an omni-channel presence. In fact, many retailers are struggling with omni-channel. But why?

[Money is] coming out of traditional retail’s pockets, because traditional retail is awkward and bo-ring.

There are (and likely will continue to be) those who are staunchly refusing to acknowledge that times are in fact changing – and likely for good. 96% of shoppers now shop both online and in-store for any one particular retailer. In Canada, 76% of households are online, and the average Canadian spent approximately $1,210 in 2014. The projected Canadian online retail spend is $40 billion by 2019. Yet only 46% of Canadian businesses even have a business online, and only 19% of those websites are optimized for mobile (something that is increasingly important thanks to Google’s latest update).

What this all translates into is that Canadians are spending lots of money online. But we consumers aren’t necessarily making any more, which means all that money has to come from somewhere. And it’s coming out of traditional retail’s pockets, because traditional retail is awkward and bo-ring.

Omni-channel shopping is the future

But maybe I should amend my lyrical 70′s callback I began this article with: ecommerce is indeed killing the retail star… at the moment. What retail businesses online, offline, and those that have a combination of both on- and offline presences need to do is embrace the idea of omni-channel retailing.

Omni-channel promises the consumer a unified shopping experience, and one where the customer is truly king.

Different from having just a storefront and a website, omni-channel promises the consumer a unified shopping experience, and one where the customer is truly king. This is what the people want! From Retail Customers Experience:

  • 56% of consumers are comparing prices against other retailers
  • 51% are comparing prices against the same store’s online price
  • 51% are browsing reviews and recommendations

And this is all while they shop. Even worse, 78% of consumers reported to the CGI Group that they have experienced encounters with sales persons who are unaware of their own online promotions. How annoying.

The retail industry should be striving for a unified shopping experience both online and off, yet retailers are struggling to adopt omni-channel into their folds. If you’ve read the book The Retail Revival by Doug Stephens, you already know that some of these retailers are simply stuck in the past, waiting for the day where traditional retail will once again reign supreme. But I hate to break it to you: that day isn’t coming. The internet is here to stay, and people use it to shop.

Putting the ‘wow’ online

But the bricks-and-mortar store isn’t something to display in a museum just yet; it’s just that the traditional retail store model needs to die (or at least be resurrected). Especially in the clothing industry and the high value commodities sector, people are still going to want to touch, try on, and test out your products. You’ll need a place to do this, but to entice your customers into your store, you need to be awesome. You need to be able to wow your customers, and that ‘wow’ has to be a unified experience both online and in the real world.

This means no more awkwardly avoiding eye contact with customer service reps. This means creating an experiential omni-channel retail experience that your customers crave.

So why not give the customer what they want?

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