At a time of massive digitalisation, retail is taking another U-turn by creating a unique space where sales and communication channels interact to offer a full, seamless and customised user experience. Welcome to omni-commerce.
Consumers are increasingly connected and better informed, taking on new consumption habits and shopping experiences. They can simply use an application to flash an item of clothing in a magazine and receive more information about the product, buy it and receive it at home. “Showroomers” are a new type of consumer who browse the shops, try on new clothes, handle objects and ultimately buy everything online from home.
From multichannel to omni-channel
To stay in tune with these new usages, brands are changing their marketing approach and are focusing on consumer experience. Most of them make good use of multi-channel retail, i.e. developing new points of sale contact with clients: physical store, website, apps etc. In this first stage of online retail, channels are used in parallel yet independently from one another.
For its part, cross-channel goes a little further by offering consumers a certain continuity in their purchase experience, which can start on one channel and end on another. In this scenario, channels help one another. They are complementary and facilitate the consumer experience, offering an increasing number of purchasing opportunities. This may, for instance, take the form of a text message or barcode received on the consumer’s mobile device to search for a product at a point of sale or book a flight.
Omni-channel is the latest development in Digital retail, which concentrates on offering consumers a smooth experience that is customised and seamless from one channel to the next. Consumers in a physical store can find out more about a product by scanning the barcode with their smartphone, have a snapshot of available stocks and ask for home delivery. French sports brand Decathlon has launched a “shop window” concept, where consumers only come to see and try the products, before ordering online and receiving the product at home. In omni-channel, retail channels communicate with one another, offering retailers a 360° vision of the consumer and thus establish a real long-term retail relationship.
Increasing traffic in physical retail stores
For retailers, omni-channel and omni-retail are wonderful opportunities to attract consumers in-store, where the conversion rate is 20 times higher than that of online retail. Combining the respective strengths of online retail and physical points of sale gives rise to connected stores (also known as "web-to-store" or "store-to-web"). Brands like Adidas or Burberry are modernising at high speed. Huge interactive instore screens display the brand’s entire catalogue and communicate with sales assistants’ tablets, who in turn can order an item that is not available in store.
More generally, points of sale are putting in place new features and services with a view to omni-commerce. Using the brand’s smartphone app, QR codes enable shoppers to obtain more information about an item and check availability in other stores. The "click-and-collect" option means consumers can purchase their product using their digital device and then come to pick it up in store, a very handy solution to return the item directly if it does not fit or meet to the consumer’s taste.
Viewed from the right angle, digital transformation strengthens physical proximity with consumers
Digital technologies help create new purchase experiences, and may reverse the “showrooming” phenomenon by fostering online research and in-store purchase, also known as ROPO (Research Online, Purchase Offline). Thanks to labels fitted with RFID chips, the items can deliver enriched content to consumers in search of further information about the product in question, pushing for purchase and thereby increasing the transformation rate.
Also of note are: augmented reality for virtual changing rooms and windows in the clothing sector; connected and smart shopping caddies that foster in-store recommendations at the point of sale; geofencing tools that send alerts to mobiles depending on the consumer’s location; payments in-store using a mobile device only, simply by scanning an item’s barcode. When viewed from the right angle, digitisation clearly strengthens a brand’s physical proximity with their consumers.
Although companies are increasing the number of sales and interaction channels, they are not necessarily integrated with one another. With omni-commerce, unity is the rule of thumb. Consumers must be able to find identical offers, with the same prices, the same discounts, the same codes, regardless of the sales channel used, be it in-store, online or on an app. It is a question of comparing all information from all interaction channels in order to recognise consumers at any given time, and thus uphold the link with them. Any interaction or transaction started on one channel can be picked up and continued, sometimes concluded, on another. The experience is not only much smoother for the consumer; it also offers many opportunities to retailers in terms of cross-selling, offer customisation and targeting.
Gaining a better understanding of the behaviour and usages of consumers to give them a relevant and customised experience are the two cornerstones of connected retail. Having omni-channel consumer recognition must be at the heart of any brand’s ecosystem. A high level of consumer qualification is therefore necessary, through the collation of data, the pooling of information structures and the mapping of client experience and key performance indicators.
Gfi works with its clients to implement omni-channel strategies
Integrating the various interaction and sales channels is essential in implementing an omni-channel strategy. This requires changes to the heart of corporate ISs. Gfi has real expertise in IT for retail, heightened by the acquisition of 3 Suisses International’s information system division. We work with clients throughout their transition, from modelling the user experience and making consumer experience recommendations in line with client needs and the brand’s objectives (using consulting resources), to the IT implementation (facilitated by a pre-existing omni-channel IS and offered in SaaS mode), the value-added hosting or the technical optimisation of all channels (through a Content Delivery Network offer, combined with measurement and optimisation tools).
One of the greatest challenges for brands is to reconcile the proximity of physical points of sale and distance selling around “no distance” retail that places consumers at the heart of the system. Thanks to our monitoring of new technologies and new usages, we can help our clients better understand the future 3.0 consumer and his or her needs.