Omni-Channel Experience Means So Much More Than Online Shopping
Blog: The Tibco Blog
Congratulations! You made it through another holiday season. The final numbers for the season are still coming in, but, according to the National Retail Federation, American retailers saw about a 2% year over year growth in shoppers during Thanksgiving weekend this year. That 2% represents about 3 million more customers starting their shopping before the leftover turkey had time to cool.
But the most interesting statistic is the widening gap between online shopping and in-store purchases. Consumers surveyed in 2015 by the NRF reported doing 41.6% of their Thanksgiving weekend shopping in stores and 42.0% of their shopping online—a mere 0.4% difference. This past year, that gap widened ten-fold with respondents saying they did about 40% of their shopping in stores and 44% online.
The growth in online shopping is fascinating, though it aligns with the trends retailers have seen as shoppers have sought more convenient, immediate ways to research and purchase products and services. The term “online” obfuscates the details a bit as well. Though the numbers for 2016 aren’t yet available at the time of this writing, the 2015 survey loosely breaks down how consumers purchased online. According to those numbers, 90.2% of shoppers made some of their 2015 purchases through a desktop or laptop computer at their home or office while 24.4% made purchases using a mobile device. I expect those numbers to shift dramatically in the final tally for 2016 given the widening online versus in-store gap.
Taken in aggregate, the NRF’s survey results demonstrate that retail is not a zero sum game. It’s not online against in-store as much as it paints a wider picture of how individual consumers interact with retailers. Diving into the categories of “online” and “in-store”, you find a multitude of channels—from end caps, pop ups, in-store online comparison shopping, and “express” shops in the brick and mortar universe to phone, tablet, voice interface (2017 is already starting off as the year of Amazon’s Alexa) and more in the online realm. The terms tossed around for this are “multi-channel” and “omni-channel”, but it’s really just the evolution of buyer behavior in reaction to the growing footprint of connected technology in our lives.
The smart retailers aren’t approaching this as trade offs—i.e. “We need to shift our budget to move more product online.” They see it as expanding their presence to wherever their customers want to be. Brick and mortar is far from dead—heck, even Amazon is opening actual stores. As customers seek to interact with retailers through a growing variety of channels, retailers need to be ready to react. They need to build platforms for their data and services that allow them to adapt their inventory management, warehousing capabilities, vendor relationships, supply chains, and everything else as customer desires change.
Retail has been on a massive digital transformation journey since Amazon first started accepting orders online, and it shows no signs of concluding any time soon. I’ll be hosting a webinar next week that explains the capabilities retailers need to cultivate—”Build Fast, Build Cheap”, “Maintain Consistency” and “Follow the Numbers”—in order to execute on a successful, adaptable omni-channel strategy. If this is your focus for 2017, I encourage you join me and participate in the conversation. If it’s not your focus… well, hopefully your business will still be around this time next year to continue the conversation.