Who would have thought just 20 years later that Amazon would be worth nearly $250 billion, becoming the most valuable retail outlet in the world.
Since those early days of Amazon, online shopping has grown substantially, especially when considering the market over the last 10 years. With more than 100,000 online retail outlets now operating, sales in the ecommerce industry have grown by nearly $830 billion since 2010, now reaching revenues of more than $1.4 trillion in 2015.
Even though Amazon is now exploring more physical presence in the consumer market, the company along with its e-commerce competitors, are happy to see those growth statistics continue to rise.
But, where does that leave retail operations that only have a presence in the traditional brick-and-mortar store? And what can they do to increase their relevance? It means it’s time to adapt.
For many business owners, the idea of changing their operation model can be a daunting thought, but adapting to a constantly changing business climate is a reality every entrepreneur must face. And, if done correctly reshaping a business could catapult it to a new level of prosperity and give it the resurrection it needs.
One of the most effective ways to do that is through omni-channel retailing.
In the most basic definition, omni-channel retailing is a business model that uses all physical retail channels (brick-and-mortar stores) and combines them with all digital channels to offer a seamless and unified customer experience across the collection of retail platforms.
The omni-channel retailing process is a relatively new practice — mainly gaining popularity in the last five years — and is proving to be a critical tool for traditional retailers to embrace the changing business climate. And it’s giving small, medium and even large businesses the ability to compete with online retail titans like Amazon.
At The KASE, an international retail franchise specializing in mobile phone and tablet accessories, executive leaders embraced omni-channel retailing from the company’s inception in 2012. Now the company bolsters more than 150 units worldwide in key markets like France, United States, Germany, Singapore and India.
But, one of the biggest examples of effective omni-channel retailing is Walmart’s recent foray into the business strategy. Forbes.com detailed the marketing strategy and explained the company hopes to improve store productivity by implementing the omni-channel approach. Gone is Walmart’s “low-price guarantee” marketing strategy, which has fallen second to the company’s effort to improve customer service and enhance the overall customer experience, which Forbes forecasts will be a key driver in Walmart’s growth future.
Of course, Walmart’s multi-billion dollar success is attributed to a number of things and is an unrealistic target for many businesses, its marketing strategies can and should be embraced by companies of all sizes.
This is especially true in today’s climate as more and more consumers start to embrace a multi-channel approach to shopping. Retail industry experts are even recognizing that shoppers are at time going as far as browsing online shopping platforms while within the confines of the actual retail store. These shifts are great for the consumer, offering a level of convenience that’s never been available to them before, but it is also changing their expectations while shopping.
That’s why now is the time to embrace omni-channel retailing, before it becomes the gold standard and loses its competitive advantage. It’s all about staying ahead of the curve in retail, and that begins by developing a highly-focused business strategy.
For a genuine transformation, one of the best actions a company can take is to simply ask their customers want. Of course, there needs to be a systematic approach to canvassing a highly diverse group of people and a little finesse can go a long way.
It’s a good idea to start with a Voice of the Customer analysis to understand which retail channels are preferred for what scenarios. Gathering, categorizing and prioritizing consumer needs will provide an opportunity for the company to understand rational, emotional preferences and habits of the average customer. Also, remember that consumers are not identical and not every channel will be appropriate for each scenario.
When adopting a customer-centric strategy, it’s also important for everyone involved in the company to buy into the system. Without total buy in from every company representative, whether it’s the customer service associate or the C-level executive, the marketing structure may become compromised. It’s as simple as getting everyone on the same page, heading in the same direction for the betterment of the company.
From there, it’s time to implement the strategy. Make sure to deliver consistent experiences from platform to platform, effectively creating a seamless customer journey through the new multi-channel engagement. This will help in branding and optimizing the strengths of each channel, and facilitate the consumers desire to engage their favorite brands and products.
The bottom line is, consumers have hundreds of retail options literally at their fingertips, so it’s important to stand out among the crowd. Omni-channel retailing is just one option for companies to consider, but as online and mobile shopping platforms continue to grow in popularity, it won’t be long before it becomes the exclusive option. It’s time to embrace it and get ahead of the curve.
Steve Rosenblum is Co-founder of The KASE, an international multi-channel retail franchise specializing in fashionable and customized mobile phone and tablet accessories, with more than 140 locations worldwide. Because of his broad experience in e-commerce and investor relations, Rosenblum has spent more than a decade developing and opening unique startup companies with his family. He has served on the board of several organizations including Deezer, MySocialBook, Le Palais de Tokyo and Dixons Retail. He also co-founded the Pixmania Group.