Is This the Year of Omni-channel Retailing?

First there was multi-channel, pioneered by leading retailers including Macy’s and Neiman Marcus, but today ‘omnichannel’ is one of fastest growing trends in retail. In its most simplistic definition, omnichannel is creating a seamless approach across every brand experience for the consumer including mobile, brick and mortar, online, television, catalogue and more. The driving force behind omni-channel is today’s ‘connected consumer’ and the retailers’ need to deliver a seamless experience across all brands, all stores, and all mediums.

It’s estimated that there will be 140 million smartphones in the hands of U.S. consumers by the end of this year and, according to the e-tailing group, approximately 80 percent of merchants are planning on investing in mobile technologies. While mobile is certainly critical for omnichannel, it’s not the only key to success. Omni-channel is about engaging customers regardless of where they are or what technology they are using, offering a consistent experience, and leveraging technologies like geo-location, mobile apps and personalized, real-time offers to stimulate a sale. And, the point-of-sale (POS) integration is critical as well, as it sits at the hub of both the shopping experience and the data and analytics.  

Today’s consumer has an expectation of immediacy, value and convenience and the traditional retail model is not scalable in its current form to meet these demands. New strategies, new organizational structures and new investments will and must be made.

Is this the year of omnichannel? Only time will tell. The agility of larger retailers, the ongoing consumer adoption of mobile payments, the innovation of leading POS developers, and the convergence of a myriad of strategies and technologies will be required. But, if it’s not this year, it’s certainly in the very near future.