The Latest from 360pi

eTail West 2014: The Importance of an Omni-Channel Strategy

360pi summarizes the highlights and insights collected from retailers and vendors during eTail West 2014.

eTail West, as always, did not disappoint in terms of content and discussion. The panel sessions were especially interesting, containing a mix of perspectives from retailers and vendors alike, who talked about maintaining a competitive advantage, potential future trends, and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. In fact, 360pi’s CEO Alexander Rink participated on a panel at eTail West titled “Migrating from a Multi-Channel to an Omni-Channel Philosophy: Assessing Technology, People and Strategy”.

Omni-channel, total retail, and complete shopping came up in almost every session we attended, such is the level importance retailers are placing on this strategy. The number of omni-channel consumers is growing rapidly and they have very high expectations of how retailers should be engaging them (i.e. ads should be relevant across channels, site personalization, consistent price, etc.).

The consensus among retailers and vendors alike is that the omni-channel approach can be a great platform for revenue growth. So what’s the omni-channel silver bullet? There isn’t one! The panelists in MyBuys presentation generally agreed that an omni-channel strategy is very dependent on the type of retailer. For example, if you’re a retailer who generally sells big-ticket items, it’s unlikely that your customers will start making the same big purchases on their cell phones just because you released a cool app. Instead, it would make more sense for you to use mobile channels as a way to encourage or incentivize consumers to visit your store (e.g. your mobile app could include how to find the nearest store, opening times, coupons, and product/customer reviews). On the flip side, if you’re a retailer selling DVD’s, then the majority of consumers don’t need to see the product before buying it, hence a mobile store-front could be a terrific new sales channel for you.

The 360pi team spoke with a few retailers about what they felt were the biggest challenges around implementing an omni-channel strategy. One challenge that seemed most prominent was reporting. Today, retailers will often compare each channel side by side, using sales volume as a key measure. Unfortunately, this does not take into account how channels interact with each other. While it’s easy to track and measure a sale, it’s much more difficult to measure the impact that each channel has had on the overall buyer’s journey. For an example,  one particular buyer’s journey may be:

1) Consumer views personalized ads on their tablet. The ad takes her to the retailer’s tablet store-front, which recommends products based on the ad.

2) The next day, the same consumer checks her desktop to see where the store is located and then searches the product on a Comparison Shopping engine to see the price offered by the retailer’s competitors.

3) On her way home from work, the consumer accesses the retailer’s mobile site to get the store’s number, so she can contact a sales associate with a product question.

4) Finally, the consumer visits the store to make the purchase.

Should the in-store channel get the entire credit for winning the sale considering the consumer engaged with multiple channels before buying? In the scenario above, when the consumer made the decision to go to the store, in her mind the sale may have already been completed. In this instance, should multiple channels get credit for the sale? These are the types of reporting challenges that retailers and vendors were debating, so we’ll be watching omni-channel reporting debate with great interest.

One topic that required no debate at the conference was the on-going requirement for a successful omni-channel strategy to avoid the potential for significant damage to the brand. While omni-channel provides a retailer with an opportunity to reach and therefore win more consumers, it also means that there are more ways for retailers to lose them! ForSee provided some compelling statistics, which inferred that consumers who experience a poor shopping/brand experience in one particular channel, greatly reduces the likelihood of them buying from the retailer in another channel. If you’re looking for ways to improve your brand image, Brad Wolansky, CMO of the Yankee Candle Company, kicked off eTail West with a presentation highlighting just that.

Among many other things, 360pi helps retailers with omni-channel strategy, providing key insights into the ever-changing competitive pricing landscape. In fact, Josh Bultz, VP of Business Development and Strategic Partnership at Build.com, noted 360pi as a ‘great partner’ while on stage during his speaking engagement. Contact 360pi to find out what we can do for your omni-channel strategy going forward.

About the Author
360pi derives profitable insights from product and pricing big data to help leading omnichannel retailers, etailers, and brand manufacturers compete and win with shoppers. 360pi’s customer base accounts for over $US200 billion in annual product sales and includes Ace Hardware, Build.com, and Overstock.com, along with several Fortune 500 consumer products companies. With the majority of in-store purchases being influenced online, 360pi helps retailers and brands successfully navigate the multi-channel landscape with real-time insight into who is selling what, where, and for how much. Ultimately, 360pi customers make smarter decisions faster to drive increased revenues and margins across all channels.