What’s happening in the omnichannel retail experience this year? How are retailers and suppliers dealing with some of the misconceptions surrounding the industry? Kiplinger's projects that consumer spending on retail will be up in 2017 by as much as 4.2%, which is a faster rate than in 2016 (3.8%). Much of this can be attributed to the cost of gasoline going up around the nation, combined with consumers taking advantage of their tax refunds. But others believe that attracting and creating a loyal customer base by consistently delivering on promises is the heart of the omnichannel experience.
Busting myths about the omnichannel retail experience
Over the course of the last two decades, the omnichannel retail experience has evolved in many unexpected ways. During its inception, omnichannel expansion rapidly turned to the internet as a new source of ready and willing consumers, eager to make their purchases from the comfort of their homes. This was a bold, yet smart move. Yet, there are still four big omnichannel retail experience myths that refuse to go away.
Myth #1 - People prefer to do their shopping in person
According to the PwC Global 2016 Total Retail Survey, of which 23,000 consumers spanning 25 countries were polled, more than half (54%) of all consumers indicated that they do their shopping online. This is not to say that the traditional brick and mortar store will ever go away completely, but it’s a sign that the average person is finding it more convenient to shop online. With the rate of stores offering free shipping and exclusive online discounts, this should not be surprising. For example, Wal-Mart decided to offer free premium shipping to all customers, much like Amazon did with its Prime program a few years ago.
This doesn’t mean that consumers will completely abandon in-person shopping. In fact, it's expected to enhance the experience for consumers who can place their orders online and have the option to wait a few days for shipping or pick things up in person on the same day. Many consumers find this convenient, to avoid spending hours searching by foot. Others take advantage of online rebate programs.
Myth #2 - Social media is just a fun pastime. It doesn’t really impact shopping.
The PwC survey revealed that 67% of consumers say social media has a huge influence over where they shop and what they purchase. Pew Research Center says that as of this year, nearly 70% of all adults have at least one social media account and they are spending increasing amounts of time here. Facebook has even set up marketplaces and social selling tools that every retailer can use to generate interest and even sell directly.
For years, the myth has existed that social media doesn’t have any bearing on purchasing decisions. But consider — how many social media advertisements target users within their news feeds and sidebars of every page? This is indeed another layer of the omnichannel retail experience. A survey from Aimia, a loyalty analytics company, shows that more than half (56%) of consumers follow their favorite brands on social networks. Around a third say they are looking for new items to buy using social browsing.
Myth #3 - People only search for stuff on their desktops
Another area of consumer behavior that has been somewhat mysterious for years is the use of mobile devices in retail. We now know that there are phones for every woman, man, and child on Earth, but what does this have to do with the omnichannel retail experience? With the advancement of smartphones and apps, consumers are leaving desktop computers in the dust and turning to their mobile devices as they go about their daily activities — including shopping.
The PwC survey indicates that one-third (34%) of consumers see their mobile devices as the primary way they will engage with retailers this year and beyond. Consumers look at their mobile phones as a purchasing tool, capable of researching, interacting with, and making purchases wherever they happen to be. From an omnichannel perspective, brands need to be doing whatever it takes to make this a seamless experience. We are talking about brands creating endless aisles, so customers can access merchandise from anywhere, at anytime, and at a variety of locations.
For example, Apple has done a great job of making mobile shopping a snap with same day pick-up at any of its stores once an online order is placed. This coordination is made possible by an interlinked network of apps, warehouses, and point-of-sale systems.
Myth #4 - Omnichannel retail is just industry lingo. It’s not really possible to pull off.
A few years ago, anyone could have said that a full-cycle, omnichannel experience in the retail world was just a pipe dream. There were far too many issues to work out, too many technology limitations, and not enough brands on board. However, now we know that this channel expansion has become a reality due to advances in retail technology such as hand-held devices and RFID merchandise tracking systems. The true heroes are the retailers who believed it could happen, and supported this evolution with their experiments using technology and continuously improving their customers' experiences.
While the omnichannel retail business is still growing with each new development, and consumer-buying behavior is the driving force behind it all, we're confident that our retail technology and solutions will continue to stay one step ahead of the trends. Leave these myths behind and step into the exciting future that’s in store (pun intended). Reach out to us, here at Decision Point, and we'll help you figure out how you can make your customers’ retail experience in 2017 a smashing success.