Adopt omnichannel or bite the dust

Adopt omnichannel or bite the dust

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By Graeme Stewart

A new business model that could revolutionize retail shopping must be embraced by traditional stores if they are to survive and thrive. If they do not accept the new system, they could well shrivel and die as their more technology savvy competitors take over.

That was the chilling warning from an Ecommerce expert at the Mexico Internet Association’s annual conference held in Mexico City recently.

Sergio Solanot, President of US-based Entrepids, total commerce experts, told MexicoNow: “Omnichannel is basically a business model for retailers. It is a system that can provide a really unique experience that allows a consumer to buy what they want, where they want and how they want.”

Omni comes from the word Omnis, which means all or universal. Examples are often that a mobile app should match the design of a store’s website, which in turn should reflects the look and feel of the physical store. But what is key is that omnichannelism extends beyond a single brand. For the consumer, being omniscient is perceiving and understanding all product options through his or her electronic devise, and deciding what brand to purchase and how and where: at the store or at the store’s website or at a multi product distributor’s website.

Although Mr. Solanot’s comments refer to merchandise retailers, the omnichannel concepts certainly apply to most businesses such as service professionals and even public institutions; anybody that has a customer, user, any type of counterpart, should become omniscient to succeed in the future.

Solanot said: “The consumer is in control and has the right to choose, the power to choose, totally empowered by technology. That technology has brought about the change in which the retailer has to broaden his contact with the consumer and it is definitely the way in which retail is evolving.”

“It is a fairly new concept. As we see the evolution of the consumer behavior with the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, and then the smart phone and technology of all sorts that really have had an impact on how the consumer works. That’s when the seeds were sown and now we are witnessing the growth of the omnichannel which is a trend that really will have to be operated by retailers who want to be successful in the future.”

And he made his somber prediction: “The retail business world has to make the change to the omnichannel and those that make the changes can be very successful and those that don’t will probably be left behind.”

Letting that sink in for a moment, Mr. Solanot continued: “If you look at Mexico, you will find many retailers who have been doing business in a traditional manner for 150 years and what is going to drive this company forward for the next 150 years is this new business concept which is not only good for business but also is good for the economy.”

“With technology being such a phenomenal enabler, I see the omnichannel creating lots of competition, I see winners, I see losers but if any retailer wants to enjoy success, they must embrace this new technology.”

“The future for retail means big changes. Look at a country like Mexico; it has many businesses that are just right to take advantage of omnichannel. So the business evolution will depend on technology. The physical, bricks and mortar store that we see today is going to be gone within the next 10 years.”

“Big, modern stores like Liverpool or Palacio de Hierro have a good chance of being successful because they keep apace with new technology but their stores will be different. If we walk into one of their stores in 10 years’ time, I’m sure we’ll see lots more technology, a lot more integration of channels and we may even see a robot behind the counter.”

“We will certainly have more store attendants that are very well versed in technology and very well versed with everything that’s online. Those stores have everything they need to be successful.”

“But for those who don’t embrace this change, for those who do not understand the consumer, they stand a risk of just disappearing.”

“However, there are a lot of entrepreneurial minds that will come up with innovations and you see all the time companies here and there that come up with innovations that catch on and spread like wildfire. Those guys are coming into the market and disrupting retailing but I also think there is a big advantage for traditional retailers with a large customer base that have the assets to embrace omnichannel and other new technologies and they can look forward to a bright future.”

“But if they don’t, the only direction I can see for them is down.”

Only days after Mr. Solanot made his address at AMIPCI conference, Newswire reported that Genesys, the market leader in omnichannel customer experience and contact center solutions, would host a global webinar to provide a strategic approach on how companies could evolve their contact center technology to meet the unique needs of today’s digitally driven consumers.

Digital interactions between contact center agents and consumers will continue to flourish, with more than 50% of customer service interactions in 2016 being digital in nature, according to a recent report by Dimension Data.

The fast-growing requirement for companies to engage in digital interactions with customers has far surpassed traditional voice interactions. Today’s consumers prefer instant messaging, chat, video interactions and social media over traditional voice interactions, the survey found.

In the webinar, entitled “2016 Trends in Digital Customer Service: 5 Steps to Help You Get a Head Start,” customer experience expert Lisa Abbott, director of product marketing at Genesys, and contact center industry analyst Sheila McGee-Smith, provided insights and a step-by-step approach to help companies implement an omnichannmel contact center technology to handle digital as well as voice channels.

“Keeping up with digitally driven consumers will be the greatest challenge in 2016, so contact centers must address digital transformation now,” said Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst at McGee-Smith Analytics.

And more than half (53%) of respondents in a survey conducted by Vista Retail Support, a retail technology support and IT services business, say going online via their smartphone is the first step they would take to access product information when they are in a store.

For 44%, the smartphone is where they look for discounts or to compare prices. Only 32% would go to the product on the shelf for information and just 9% would ask a sales assistant.

“James Pepper, Technical Services Director at Vista Retail Support said: “In a crowded store, lack of information and slow service can lead to frustration among shoppers. Store operators need to put technology at the heart of their preparation.

“Retailers need to adopt every method available to make sure shoppers keep coming through their doors. The smartphone is becoming an indispensable tool for many shoppers as they go online to check prices, download information or look for offers and discounts.

“This makes a slick omnichannel experience and installation of completely robust in-store connectivity a necessity for retailers, along with technology such as contactless payments that will cut queueing and ease the customer journey at a stressful time.”

It’s all a far cry from the mom and dad store down the street, that’s for sure.