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Omni-Channel retailing; the inevitable future?

Aug 8th 2012, 08:04

Omni-Channel retailing; the inevitable future?

Every now and again we come across a phrase that is widely used and rather vague in its definition. “Social Retailing” is as out-there as a retailer can get, for now at least. Some would have you believe that if a retailer is not solely focused on “harnessing the power of the social network”, “working the crowd” or “fully immersed in F-commerce”, they are likely to be out of business within the next six months. While these are great catch-phrases for presentations, they are not that realistic.

Omni-Channel Retailing could also be construed as an imminent threat to “traditional retailing”. However this new age retail phenomenon has those invested in online retailing a little nervous because in the omni-channel scenario the established bricks and mortar players have the upper hand.

What does it all mean?

Single channel retailers service a specific customer through one medium, or retail type. On the other hand, multi channel retailers service specific customers through two or more channels, a store, online and perhaps a mobile platform.

Omni-channel retailing is about letting customers choose their preferred method of interaction. This can include, but is not limited to, traditional, online, mobile, self-checkout, or click & collect.

The advantage of omni-channel retailing is that once a retailer has invested in an infrastructure that enables multi-channel retailing, it is in a position to capitalise on some very real benefits, like, automated checkout. Using a smart phone with a shopping app installed, the customer can scan items when loading them into a trolley. Then, by hitting the Finished Shopping button, the system will charge a pre loaded credit card.

With omni-channel retailing, pushed marketing, voucher redemption, proximity detection, near field payments, price transparency and multiple purchase options will all become seamlessly integrated into the shopping experience.

While this technology may sound somewhat ahead of its time, there is no doubt that it opens up many attractive opportunities to reduce costs and improve in-store efficiencies. When this is the case, retailers tend to make inroads quicker than one might imagine.

Craig Ballantyne

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