Omnichannel may have a people problem. Mobile is the foundation for success today and moving forward. The businesses that embrace mobile will thrive; those that reject it will stumble. In my career, however, I’ve found there are two core issues that prevent retailers from exploring and succeeding in omnichannel — neither of which are mobile-related, contrary to popular belief.
Mastering the art of omnichannel retailing is undoubtedly at the top of every brands’ to-do lists, but many companies are encountering similar organizational roadblocks and upper management-driven resistance to new digital projects. To overcome these challenges, start by identifying your brand’s primary pain points. Contextualizing and developing your omnichannel strategy around solving those issues will help your organization understand just how valuable mobile really is—and how it’s much more of a simplification channel than a complication.
Organizational issues and breaking through silos are two of the trickiest areas to navigate for omnichannel retailers. Once silos are in place, they bolster the core of the company, and new technologies may be interpreted as threats to those. Retailers haven’t quite figured out how to remove silos, but this is a great example of where mobile comes in. For example, the scanning function within a shopping app can help customers learn more about a product on the shelf, and bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds.
Similarly, the need to allocate more R&D for omnichannel strategies will affect a retailer’s budget—this can be a potentially daunting aspect of the project for an organization’s management team to swallow. Most companies are sizing their digital investments based on specific contributions of digital to their overall retail numbers. The problem is that they should not be thinking about this as a different channel—it belongs to the overarching umbrella of retail. When a customer visits a store, he or she has already checked out a product on a smartphone 80 percent of the time. Therefore, what do you attribute as an in-store sale?
We are living in a mobile-first world. It’s how consumers engage and shop with their favorite retailers. For brands, this provides them with a tremendous amount of opportunity to connect with their customers. Empowering store associates with mobile technology solutions, like clienteling, that puts essential customer, product and inventory information at their fingertips helps deliver a better shopping experience. Further, the face of the bricks-and-mortar store is changing and becoming replaced by stores featuring smart mirrors, NFC-enabled checkout, and timed mobile offers, among other things. Retailers can learn a lot from the retail leaders in this space— like Sephora, Home Depot, Burberry, and Apple, which has even gone as far as removing the word “store” from “Apple store” because they don’t want you to think about separate channels anymore. They want you to think of it as a brand experience.
Ultimately, mobile is the connective tissue that removes complexity. You don’t have to swap out existing systems, but you must integrate with what’s in the hands of your consumers now. Mobile is a great way to feel the connections between many disparate pieces that have been in a schism with each other until now. Creating a winning omnichannel retail strategy requires an end-to-end solution that delivers an incredible shopping experience for consumers, not just assembling 25 providers of different digital technologies and services. It means you may need to rethink many aspects of your organization in order to maintain a holistic approach. After all, every dimension must be considered, from digitally-connected sales associates to a native app experience.
My advice for retail brands is to start small. Choose one store as a testing zone, select several willing sales associates, and run a pilot with new technologies. Yes, your organization will likely resist change at first, but this is research that will pay for itself in the long run.