Top 5 Omnichannel Experiences in Retail Today

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Posted Apr 18, 2017, 7:00:00 AM by Stan Jaworski & filed under mobile enterprise

Some people talk about omnichannel retail experiences. Some people deliver omnichannel retail experiences. Here are five retailers getting creative with their on- and offline integrations to provide smooth, personalized shopping experiences for customers. 

1. Nordstrom

The 116-year old upscale department store has always had a stellar reputation for customer service through its emphasis on empowered sales associates. They've also been on the leading edge of creating an omnichannel shopping experience. They implemented WiFi networks in 2010 so shoppers could do their online comparison shopping while in stores.

The next year, the store launched its first mobile app. Subsequent iterations of the app enabled shoppers to text with sales associates to get personalized recommendations and purchase via text, take photos to do visual searches, and scan tags in store or in the catalogue to learn more about a product.

During the 2016 holiday period, the store piloted services like reserving items online to try on instore, and chatbots accessible via Facebook Messenger and Kik that asked shopper questions to make gift suggestions. Other social media initiatives include their Instagram shop and analyzing engagement on the Pinterest boards to influence instore displays.

In 2012, they rolled out mobile POS devices to their sales associates so they could check inventory and checkout customers without having to wait at a register. They also digitized their famous personal book, holder of all client information. Sales associates can access a client's full order history, recorded preferences, and employee notes. They use the CRM to make personalized recommendations in store or send personal emails letting clients know when new items they'd be interested in have arrived or old favorites are going on sale.

For a retailer that's always emphasized putting the customer at the center of its operations, surrounding the customer with an integrated off- and online experience has been a natural evolution.

2. Bed Bath & Beyond (BB&B)

BB&B does some omnichannel basics very well. Shoppers can return any purchase, made instore, desktop or mobile, at any of its stores. They can also check inventory at their preferred store online, reserve online and buy instore, or buy instore and have shipped home.

Customer accounts and preferences are equally accessible on their website and via their mobile app. Some coupons are available for online purchases only, but shoppers can also use other digital coupons, accessible via the store's native app, either online or instore. The app can also be used to scan items in store or in the catalogue to get more product information.

So now that BB&B has the basics, it's moving, shall we say, beyond.  The home goods and furniture retailer has updated its app to allow shoppers to add items to their online registry by scanning items in their hard copy or digital wedding registry catalogue, Howbook. Customers can also use the app to schedule in-store appointments to meet with a BB&B registry consultant.  Their app also has an augmented reality function, which creates an interactive experience for customers once they scan an instore tag or online image.

The retailer is also leveraging the vast data it collects on shoppers to refine its predictive modeling to improve offline marketing campaigns and catalogues.

3. Starbucks

Anyone who's been to a Starbucks has seen the little "mobile order" sign at the pick-up counter. Knowing that some people are in a hurry to get their morning coffee, Starbucks has made ordering via mobile app for instore pick-up a smooth process. Customers can also pay via the mobile app, even when they order and remain in store.

The app is also the company's reward program. Shoppers earn points for all purchases, whether paid for by the app or through a physical loyalty card attached to the app. To boost buying opportunities, the app includes a nice, interactive map to show users all the Starbucks near to wherever they are right now. Users can also make a variety of in-app purchases of gift cards, digital offers and helpfully lets them know how many point they are away from achieving a new loyalty status. 

4. Sephora

Sephora was innovative when it first opened in France in 1970 by getting rid of the counter that barred shoppers from exploring cosmetics without having to go through gate keepers.

And the one thing about beauty products is that there's always more to explore and buy. Whether it's refilling favorites or looking for new ideas, people who love to shop for makeup love to shop for makeup

As a tactile shopping experience, Sephora's focus is on integrating the digital and offline shopping experience. They use handheld devices to scan customers' skin into a tool co-branded with Pantone Color to make specific foundation shade recommendations. Some stores have digital touchscreens offering other personalized product selection services, including the "Fragrance IQ" to help shoppers select fragrances that suit them.

The app is also full of digital helpers like its "Beauty Bag," which tracks all online and instore purchases, as well as shoppers' "Love" lists of favorite products. The app automatically generates personalized restocking lists based on past shopping history. It also provides beauty boards that let customers shop an entire look or watch a tutorial. Customers can also reserve spots for in-store classes or makeovers.

Like BB&B, Sephora has an augmented reality functionality. Its "Virtual Artist" function, available online and in its app, "applies" any of thousands of lipstick shades to a real-time image of the shopper. After selecting their lipstick, users can then sample from over 100 different false eyelashes. Last, the app lets them take pictures of different combinations so they can compare the different looks they created.

Sephora associates have been armed with mobile POS devices since 2012, which they can use to checkout customers and process returns. When a customer schedules a personal makeover, they don't have to wait in line to buy any of the products used. The sales associate who did the makeover will collect the selected items from around the store and process the sale on the spot.

5. Home Depot

The DIY giant's sales, instore and digital, are up in 2016, with e-commerce up at a 19% pace in Q4 2016, improving on the previous quarter's 17%. Yet the plethora of fulfillment options provided by Home Depot merge "e-commerce" with instore activity, so it's hard to draw a hard operational line between them. Customers can buy online and ship to store or home, pickup instore if the item is in stock, and return instore.

They also have straight from local store delivery for in stock items targeting their B2B market. The delivery fee ranges between $59- $79, which makes it an unlikely option for the DIY'ers. But construction managers at job sites can buy online for same day delivery, or select 2-hour or 4-hour delivery windows with an extra charge.

Home Depot utilizes real time data analysis to modify marketing campaigns and instore merchandising. They also analyze shopping data to identify typical up-sale and cross-sale behavior around which they build personalized retargeting campaigns.


Two themes emerge when looking at exactly what these omnichannel champions have in common. First, their conceptual focus is squarely on the shopper – what will make their shopping experience easier and how can the retailer provide added value to the shopper's experience. Starbuck's easy mobile pick up, Sephora's augmented reality tutorials, and Home Depot's same day construction site delivery are all examples of this. 

The second theme is that building a meaningful omnichannel experience for shoppers is an ongoing experience for the retailers themselves. As retailers gain access to new technologies and more data, they're continually rolling out new ways to erase lines separating different channels. These retailers aren't standing still. Are you?

Retail Technology

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