Stretch Retail IT for Omni-Channel Shoppers

May 19, 2010

When our sister website F3 covered the new breed of ‘omni-channel’ shoppers who are tech

When our sister website F3 covered the new breed of ‘omni-channel’ shoppers who are tech-savvy and spend more than others, we described their preference to access all retail channels – the physical store, catalog call center, Web and mobile – simultaneously. (Click here for Facts, Figures & the Future archives)

These are people with smartphones or text capability on their cells, and the dogged nature to, say, photograph a product’s bar code at the shelf in order to compare prices instantly online, and hop onto a social network for opinions.  

They make retailers long for the good old days when customer complaints focused on narrow store aisles or out-of-stocks. Today it is easy to spot inconsistencies in pricing and product information between store shelves and websites, and consumers don’t take kindly to lame explanations that such differences occur on purpose. The Lempert Report feels strongly that retailers need every drop of credibility they can get when stores sell pretty much the same goods. How to build it? Use technology to create consistencies in in-store marketing, circulars, websites, mobile messages and more. 

This approach is key to satisfying omni-channel shoppers, as well as others who aren’t as advanced with their gadgets. Brian Kilcourse, managing partner of Retail Systems Research, wrote in an e-mailed column this month, “The problem for many retailers now is that their information architectures don’t mirror today’s shopping experiences.”

Clearly, retailers cannot afford to treat different channels as independent silos. They may have to rethink and restructure IT in order to present consistently, but it seems to us this is the best way to successfully serve the growing consumer trend of research and comparisons on the fly.

Indeed, RSR’s Kilcourse cited findings of its 2009 study citing seven technology-enabled initiatives that drive customer satisfaction. Far and away, the #1 tactic was “ensuring product information and pricing is up to date and consistent across all channels.” Some 85% of respondents said that has had impact. No other measure exceeded 35%, and that one was “enabling cross-channel fulfillment.”

Omni-channel shoppers may be the spur to IT stretches today. After all, these people spend 15% to 30% more than ‘multi-channel’ shoppers, who in turn spend 15% to 30% more than ‘single-channel’ shoppers, Leslie Hand, research director, IDC Retail insights, told F3 last autumn.

The smartest retailers already sense that omni-channel shoppers – however important they may be – are harbingers of change that taxes the marketplace and creates opportunities for those who are best prepared.