Omnichannel is More Than a Buzz Word
By Joe Scartz, [email protected]
“Omnichannel” has become the buzzword de jour in retail circles lately and for good reason – ecommerce pure plays are now trying to do it too. Consumers are always shopping and looking for a way to trade product ideas, compare price and ultimately make the purchase via whatever medium works best for them, regardless of where they are.
You’ll read a lot of different definitions of “omnichannel” shopping but generally I define it as a seamless shopping experience where the consumer can move between digital devices, bricks-and-mortar locations and other outlets like connected kiosks or pop-up stores and find the same inventory at the same price with the same shopping cart and the same customer service. It’s an always on, always available shopping experience facilitated by a single retailer and shopped by consumers across several retailers.
This all started years ago but the accelerated move to “omnichannel” has been accentuated by the continued explosive growth in mobile and use of the shopping comparison apps popularized a couple of years ago by Amazon’s Price Check App, among others. In effect, the hastened move to omnichannel was forced by “showrooming” more quickly than it might have been without the in-aisle price checking phenomenon taking off.
Online retailers (some unauthorized) have continued to undercut the minimum advertised price (MAP) policies of many manufacturers and sell products at rock bottom prices through various online marketplaces. Retailers have responded to price wars with expanded inventory, price matching and better in-store and cross channel experiences. By moving to “omnichannel” strategies that take advantage of the best of each medium and, of course, by price-matching, retailers have been able to slowly fight back against insurgent ecommerce pure plays and this has resulted in, for the first time, some truly integrated “omnichannel” shopping experiences.
Mobile really enables “omnichannel” shopping and Macy’s and Best Buy are good examples of this. Macy’s is encouraging shoppers to scan their mobile app while in-store for more product information. Macy’s is also rolling out touch-screen check out kiosks in-store and running a TV campaign encouraging viewers to download their mobile app. Best Buy famously tore down the “showrooming” walls this past holiday season by calling their stores a showroom and inviting the process. They have heavily advertised their “in-store pick up” option through their shopping cart and elsewhere on Bestbuy.com.
Both massive retail chains are looking to engage the customer through personalized shopping experiences, relying heavily on CRM, unique offerings, spruced up bricks, technology utilized within bricks and consistent pricing and shopping experiences across platforms. Best Buy has also heavily promoted their price guarantee and has quietly rolled out an online marketplace where third-party listers can sell products via Bestbuy.com and increase their inventory without taking the inventory risk.
I recently was interviewed for an article in The Chicago Tribune that dissected the question as to why some online pure-plays were getting more into the business of bricks-and-mortars locations – permanent and pop up. The rationale for these moves by e-tailers is simple: 1.) shopping is an “always on” activity; second, 2.) expect to be able to find a great price anywhere; 3.) shoppers want to be able to browse and explore anywhere; 4.) brand awareness; and 5.) improved customer service.
In essence, mobile changed the game – first by inviting “showrooming” into the retail lexicon and second by introducing the masses to another buzz term “omnichannel.” Buzzwords or not, these terms reflect real shifts in behavior and the consumer shopping experience is getting better – fast.
Joe Scartz is the chief marketing officer at Digital BrandWorks, www.digitalbrandworks.com, a Chicago-based digital consultancy, which specializes in representing manufacturers in the digital marketplaces. He can be reached at [email protected].
Amazon Fire: M-Commerce Assumes a New Form Factor
I don’t mean for this column to become a running commentary on the latest goings-on at Amazon.com, but there’s no escaping the fact that after two decades, the e-commerce pioneer remains at the forefront of digital commerce innovation. One area where Amazon has particularly excelled is at creating new form factors for consuming its content and buying its goods, and the recent release of the Amazon Fire smartphone is the latest example.
Oh sure, Amazon Fire offers leading-edge display and sound features that should make it a competitor in the smartphone market regardless of its serviceability as a mobile commerce tool. However, Amazon is not releasing Fire to become the next Apple or Samsung. Much like the Kindle tablet, the Fire smartphone’s true purpose is to ease access to the Amazon digital marketplace from as many customer touch-points as possible.
Here are three key Amazon Fire features that specifically serve as mobile extensions of the Amazon.com e-commerce site.
Most significantly, a feature known as Firefly can recognize 100 million items, including physical objects such as CDs and books, as well as barcodes and QR codes, and even the sound of a song through the phone’s built-in microphone. Firefly can also recognize digital content such as TV shows and movies.
Conveniently, the phone includes a dedicated Firefly button that lets users instantly create shopping lists of goods and content identified by Firefly, as well as make instant purchases via Amazon.com. In addition, Firefly can perform helpful services such as pulling up a Wikipedia entry on an image of a piece of art and recognizing phone numbers and street signs.
But clearly, Firefly is designed to turn both the physical and digital environment of the Amazon Fire user into an extension of the Amazon marketplace. This is a brilliant move on Amazon’s part, and builds dramatically on the promise of its recently released Amazon Dash mobile ordering device. The impact Firefly will have on other retailers remains to be seen (bold prediction: it won’t be favorable to Amazon’s competitors).
Amazon Fire fully supports all Amazon Prime offerings such as Prime Music and Prime Video, as well as the Kindle Newsstand app for buying electronic publications. This is more of a predictable move and far less disruptive than Firefly, but nonetheless another sign that Amazon is seeking to “Amazonify” the m-commerce space as much as it can. Amazon Prime has about 20 million members who make a nice initial user base to target and may help speed up the spread of Amazon Fire in the smartphone market.
One of Amazon Fire’s many “cool” features is a 3-D interface with a head-tracking system that uses four cameras with a rolling shutter to provide a continually changing 3-D view as the user tilts the phone in different directions. This feature has broad appeal beyond mobile shoppers, but it’s no accident that during the Amazon Fire public launch event, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos demonstrated an app that allowed the user to sort through dresses as if they were in an actual 3-D space.
The more real a customer experience Amazon Fire can deliver, the more utility it will have as a mobile commerce tool. Unlike most other mobile commerce tools, Amazon Fire steers consumers to one particular destination.
Bass Pro Shops to open 145,000-sq.-ft. store in upstate New York
Victor, N.Y. — Bass Pro Shops announced plans for a new Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Victor, New York, which is part of the Rochester metro area. The 145,000-sq.-ft. store will be the primary anchor for Fishers Ridge, a 96-acre mixed-use development. The store has a tentative opening date of 2016.
This will be the company’s third store in New York, as it currently operates stores in Auburn and Utica. This will be the first large-format store in the Empire State.
“Placing our new store at this highly visible location near the New York State Thruway will allow us to bring Bass Pro Shops’ low prices and famous friendly, expert service to better serve the region’s sportsmen and women, as well as the many visitors to this area each year,” said Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops.
The Victor Bass Pro will combine retail, entertainment, conservation and outdoor education. It will feature a nautical-themed, Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl & Grill, which combines casual dining with bowling. There will be 12 lanes, offering customers the chance to feel like they are bowling under the sea.
In keeping with the retailer’s hunting and fishing heritage, the outdoors feel will be brought indoors through massive log and rock work, large indoor aquariums and water features stocked with native fish species, as well as an extensive collection of museum-quality fish and wildlife mounts. Historic photos and exhibits will pay tribute to the region’s great outdoor heritage.
To see the Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl & Grill, click here. www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwMxwQuaz1w&feature=youtu.be