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Back in August, Forbes ran a story detailing AT&T’s omnichannel change-up: their elimination of cash registers in lieu of tablet-based POS to all employees, a store culture centered around education and engagement, a side-by-side “personalized” experience. A seamless integration of technology and presence. The title of this article: “Is This the Future of Retail? AT&T Thinks So

Hang on a minute. We need to stop talking about the future of retail like it hasn’t happened yet.

This is the present of retail. The future is upon us. Customers already expect this. 51% of retailers polled by RSR Research says customer demand for cross-channel experiences outpaces their ability to deliver them. We expect the actual percentage is much higher than that. With the Millennials finally aging into some substantial purchasing power, the Boomers becoming more and more techno-savvy, and with more than 84% of retail customers participating in social media, your New Customer is going to demand omnichannel engagement, both inside and outside of your store.

Let’s look closely at these demands:

Things should be easy to find

The New Customer wants to be able to find the product they want, they want to ask questions about it from an educated salesperson, and they want other people’s advice about it. As the first real internet generation, these folk are information addicts. A new study shows that 97% of all consumers use some form of online media, with an average of 7.9 different sources of information for local shopping. With this information available nearly instantly at home, their tolerance for not being able to find prices, deals, reviews, comparisons, and capable help in-store is going to be lower than ever.

They want you to know them

The New Customer wants to be engaged with on a personal level. Take Amazon for example. More than 35% of all sales on the retail giant’s website come from personal recommendations made by the site’s own algorithms. They want to be targeted for deals and promotions based on the information they put out into the world. Retailers that are good at tracking and manipulating the data that the New Customer freely gives out is going to win.

They want to play

The New Customer is used to technology. They grew up with it, they live it and breathe it, but they are still fascinated by it. Stores that integrate touchable, working, impressive technology into their stores are outperforming those that don’t.

Build a Bear, a retailer that allows customers to design and build their own teddy bear, saw their sales shoot up more than 30% when they installed touch-screen displays that allowed customers to design their bears on-screen, even though the same customers could have a similar experience off-screen.

Retailers that play to these wants and expectations have a huge edge in differentiating themselves from their competition. Expect to see huge shifts in omnichannel engagement attempts this holiday retail season. Our prediction: the in-store experience is king. Whoever wins there will win the holiday.

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