The next technology race is on and winners could stand to capture 100s of millions if not billions of dollars in revenue over their competitors in the near term, and retain those customers in the long term with best in class retention programs. The industry? Retail. The race? Omni-Channel.
Omni-channel is the term most often used to describe the evolution of multi-channel shopping or online shopping 1.0.
Multi-channel embraced the reality that shoppers used a variety of different channels to conduct their shopping. In-store, online, ship to store, ship to home via mobile, pad, tablet, and desktop and that the consumer wanted it right now....as fast as you can get it to me......NOW. The problem however was a lack of "behind the curtain" or "back of the house" systems that could effectively support the front end user’s shopping experience. The goal to capture online shoppers outpaced the ability behind the scenes to facilitate a sale.
Customers would go to a national website on their mobile device and see a completely different inventory than if they had visited on their laptop. Inventories were different across the country. Shipping products between stores was manually tracked and a nightmare to keep up with.
The Omni Channel View
Omni Channel sees every brick and mortar store in a retail chain as an extension of the supply chain, as a mini warehouse if you will. No longer the place where only sales happen. Now when a customer orders a product online, they have the ability to pick and choose a variety of products from different stores across the country or from a central warehouse. They can have it shipped to their favorite local store, their home, or to a third party altogether. With Omni-Channel, the sale is handled, revenue is accounted for, the inventory transfer is handled automatically, shipping and local sales taxes are calculated and the transaction will go off without a hitch to the online shopper.
Macy's is one such retailer who was an early adopter of the concept. Because of that, they have a head start and have on their staff some of the top Omni Channel experts and thought leaders driving their implementation. Omni Channel talent is in high demand across the country during this "gold rush" mentality.
Keeping an eye out for what's next in Retail I.T.
You've heard of "augmented reality" shopping right? It's here.
AR technology uses devices like smartphones and tablets to overlay the virtual world on top of a physical or real-world environment. This way, the technology allows retailers to augment a physical object, (you) using a display with digital labels as well as re-calibrate the content along with the object depending on their perspective. In other words, augmented reality allows you to try on that new pair of jeans or perhaps a dress without going to the dressing room.
Retail I.T. has changed the way that we shop forever and I think for the better.