Omnichannel – It’s actually working for some retailers
By now, we’re well acquainted with many of the difficulties of implementing a working omnichannel strategy at retail. Perhaps the biggest are structure and technology that keep employees and inventory silo’d. Even with the best of intentions, it is difficult for many chain retailers to provide a seamless shopping experience across brick and mortar and digital.
So, it was refreshing to hear, at a recent panel discussion at NRF moderated by Tom Cole, a partner at Kurt Salmon, that three big name retailers are having omnichannel success. The participants in the panel included Diane Ellis, president & CEO of The Limited; Robert "RB" Harrison, chief omnichannel officer, Macy’s; and Brent Kirby, chief omnichannel officer, Lowe’s.
Mr. Cole noted that the ultimate goal of omnichannel is a seamless experience with products, engagement and levels of service. But, he cautioned, while much current focus is on mobile, and the mobile industry is driving shopping changes and growing rapidly, the percentage of transactions actually completed on mobile devices is still low.
The mobile challenge, Cole said in a follow up interview with RetailWire, is for retailers to implement change while still using legacy systems. Retailers are in a race to keep up with change and help consumers use their smartphones for everything leading up to the transaction, but not always for the transaction itself.
Ms. Ellis of The Limited said that omnichannel is a tactic for them, not necessarily a strategy. The Limited’s target is the sophisticated professional, so they stay laser focused on them. They find many customers reserve items online but come to the store to try the items on and buy them. Associates help their customers purchase the items they have reserved and ideally upsell them into complete outfits while in-store. For The Limited, associates are seen as trusted advisors, and use technology and social media to extend the relationship with customers beyond the store.
Mr. Harrison said for Macy’s customers, BOPIS (by online, pick up in-store) is being adopted rapidly. Mobile is a driving force, making it essential that digital blends with in-store activities. Harrison also said that mobile is now viewed as "primary" for tech development, that it is critical to have a single view of online and in-store inventory, and that interactive fitting rooms are the way of the future.
Lowe’s Kirby noted his customers are more educated and deal-seeking than in the past, so pricing transparency across channels is key. Lowe’s uses their website to provide "how to" videos, along with product specs and reviews. Mr. Kirby noted that many customers are now using their smartphones even while talking with associates. For him it is all about how you do more, faster — there is a need for speed, convenience and a good price. He also touted a single supply chain view in order to "unlock" the true value of inventory.
- Omni-channel Leaders Talk Strategy and 2015 Goals at Kurt Salmon’s NRF Panel – Kurt Salmon
- Execs From Macy’s, Lowe’s And The Limited Dissect Omnichannel Strategies – Retail Touchpoints
- Operationalizing Omnichannel: Lessons and Insights from Industry Leaders – Kurt Salmon
- Highlights from Optimizing Omnichannel: Lessons and Insights from Industry Leaders – NRF/YouTube
Do you think omnichannel is becoming a reality for chain retailers? What do you see as the key(s) to omnichannel success?