Omnichannel Behaviour Is Not The Future, It’s The Present!

Its The Present

“Omnichannel behaviour is not the future, it’s the present”, seemed to be the consensus in a recent Retailers’ conference in Mumbai organized by NASSCOM. Omnichannel retail occupied centre-stage in discussions among delegates, from the retail world and from the technology companies alike.

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While retailers largely acknowledge that offline purchases are influenced by online reviews (according to a survey by Dimensional Research, 90% of customers admit to that), and therefore advocate strong social media marketing, there are considerations other than product research (and, price of course!!) that merit attention on the part of the retailers and the technology providers alike.

What Constitutes Omnichannel Behavior

So, what constitutes omni channel behaviour and how do retailers respond to that, profitably? Some thought leaders assert that omni-channel behaviour is about discovery first, delivery later. Certain others see omni-channel realities as nothing more than a convergence of empowerment across channels.  Perhaps a more encompassing definition comes from a recent Sales Force whitepaper: “Mobile devices, ubiquitous connectivity, and social media have created empowered customers who are no longer loyal to a retail brand but to an experience across channels”

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So How Do Retailers Engage With The New Present

Some retailers are approaching it holistically. A creative and yet tactical response has been to tweak the POS system at the retailer’s end and calibrate it as a unified transaction platform. This allows the retailer to retain the customer within the brand, if not within the store. While this is indeed a novel use of technology, quantifiable success stories are yet to emerge out of these initiatives.

This Is Where Analytics Comes In

According to a RAI trade brief, Shoppers Stop has earmarked Rs 60-crore investment for tech push to become a seamless omni-channel retail store by end of 2016. Other retailers are expected to respond on similar lines. A strong tech layer is a must have as it is the primary enabler of the omni-channel behaviour itself. However, the critical success factor would be to derive insights from the data being generated with these multi-channel, multi-period & multi-tool customer – retailer interactions.

The Key Imperative For Retailers

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Drafting an agile multi-channel customer engagement strategy based on data would be the key imperative for retailers. Retailers are realizing that the attention span of the customer is going further down continuously. A strong analytics layer which allows for contextual engagement of the customer in real time will be a critical success factor in operationalizing any customer centric strategy.

We at Ma Foi Analytics believe in coming up with creative tools that empower retailers to engage with the customer meaningfully, and in real time. For example, our in-store customer feedback capture tool Servesmart is a simple and yet powerful means to capture customer expectations. In its simplest version, Servesmart tracks customer experience against customer expectations and through an embedded analytics layer on a tablet device, prompts the store associate to act in a certain way to manage experience.

In its more evolved stage, Servesmart interacts seamlessly with the POS system and transactions databases through web-services. This allows for personalization of product recommendation, dynamic pricing and customization of on the spot offers. The device in the hands of the store associate empowers her to further service the customer meaningfully. It allows for both discovery, and delivery in an omni-channel world.

It’s a Big Data Situation

Retailers also need to come to terms with the volume, velocity and variety of the data generated through omni-channel interactions. In other words, retailers need to recognize that it’s a big data situation, and put in place systems and processes commensurate with the scale. Partnering with analytics companies providing swift analytical layer along with management of the massive data infrastructure, would be a winning move at this juncture.

Vishal Sinha, Senior Manager, Ma Foi Analytics

connect with me on twitter @tovishalsinha