By John Kenney, Stella Nova Technologies, Inc. (www.sntinc.com)
Five years from now, the least likely place a transaction will be completed is at the cash wrap. In the past, customers and retailers have experienced a single channel touch point via the brick-and-mortar store. Today, this single channel touch point has evolved into a complex and multi-channel experience — where customers interact via multiple, independent touch points that function through retailers in technical silos, including e-commerce, catalog, and brick-and-mortar. Building off the multi-channel approach, retailers are scrambling to deploy a high-function, high-touch cross-channel approach where customers view multiple touch points across one brand, and retailers have one single view of the customer as they still operate out of technical silos. But the future, and what some are calling the “nirvana” of retail, will be the age of the omni-channel. Omni-channel entails customers enjoying a seamless brand experience independent of channel, as opposed to channels within brands, and retailers use strategic ways that leverage their single view of the customer.
A survey by Lightspeed Research in April 2011 reports that 59% of today’s customers are the omni-channel customers of the future. Lightspeed broke that 59% down into three categories, including: value-focused followers, data-hungry tech enthusiasts and tech-savvy social shoppers. Retailers must ask themselves two questions in order to empower this 59% of customers as well as enhance the customer experience and enable store associates. The first is: How will new and emerging mobile technologies affect customers? The second: How will the retailer be able to support these initiatives?Read more