Omni-channel shoppers: high-tech, high-reward

October 09, 2009

Omni-channel shoppers: high-tech, high-reward

There’s a new breed of tech-savvy, high-spend shopper that will put retailers through their paces, but could well be worth the pursuit. The ‘omni-channel’ shopper prefers to access all retail channels—the physical store, catalog call center, Web and mobile—simultaneously. She might photograph a product’s bar code at the shelf, in order to compare prices immediately via the Web, and connect to her social network for opinions.

This is no exaggeration of a small population segment retailers might be tempted to ignore. The size of this market equates to the number of people with smartphones or even text capability on their cells, said Leslie Hand, research director, IDC Retail Insights, Framingham, Mass., the firm that coined the ‘omni-channel’ terminology. “They’re growing by leaps and bounds,” she noted.

These shoppers matter for three reasons: their own high spending rates, their strong loyalty to retailers who meet them on their technology terms, and their ability to influence others about where to shop. According to Ms. Hand, ‘omni-channel’ shoppers spend 15% to 30% more than ‘multi-channel’ shoppers, who in turn spend 15% to 30% more than ‘single-channel’ shoppers. These spending rate differences are evident over time, and collectively across all retail channels, regardless of format.

“If these are the people you are trying to attract to your retail stores, you have to get up with mobile marketing and social media so you are ever-present in their worlds.  Our projection is they’ll become more loyal to you, like shopping with their best friend, based on your consistent presence in their lives,” she said in her interview with Facts, Figures & The Future.

Social interaction tends to rise with customers’ interest in health and safety, as with drug store products, an observation that Ms. Hand credited to Dawn Lepore, ceo of So when F3 asked whether consumers’ concerns over food safety and food drudgery (savings first) could prompt similar interaction, she said, “Absolutely. Food retailers could improve their performance by beefing up their Web presence (more meal ideas, recipes, coupons, food safety information) and services around mobile orders {such as Meijer in Chicago). It requires infrastructure, but it makes total sense. Also engage savers and coupon clippers with messages like ‘Come to the store. See what we have for you today,’ like the old Kmart blue light specials.’” 

Another ‘omni-channel’ idea: traceability tags on fresh seafood, which consumers could scan with a phone to learn the pedigree of the product they’re buying, such as ‘wild caught in Alaska’s Yukon River.’

Should suppliers and retailers both be involved in this messaging to consumers? “I don’t think most CPG manufacturers want to own the shopping relationship with consumers. But they’d love a piece of the communications, so they could understand directly what people think of their products where and when they are shopping,” said Ms. Hand.

The IDC research identified three kinds of ‘omni-channel’ shoppers:
•    Omni/Integrated. Affluent, home-oriented, 30 to 50 years old.
•    Young Mobile. People younger than 30 who primarily text.
•    Social Networker. Primarily young, connected by the topics they’re examining.

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