Omni-Channel Retailing. Where to start?

16/06/2012 09:38

source : Carlos Dunlap

In what will become an ongoing series exploring omnichannel retail strategies, I’ll be pulling in and dissecting real-world examples of companies and campaigns which are both succeeding and failing, and which for one reason or another, can offer us something to learn & leverage.

To be sure, a true omnichannel approach is one that is going to be ever-evolving as new technologies continue to surface, as new touch points are identified, and as budgets are re-allocated toward this new orientation.  But for even the most progressive retailer in today’s world, the biggest issue (once the decision has been made to pursue omnichannelization) has to be where to start.  By definition this kind of a strategy covers all possible touch points & pathways, and it’s a radically more complex approach than the principals and well-tested methodologies that we have in place were built to handle.

To answer that I would point us to some of the early entrants into “omni-ness” who seem to be gaining some traction.

Discovering a pathway, Inventing a touchpoint.

Last year, UK retailer Tesco set out to analyze efficiencies in their South Korean unit (Home Plus) and to look for ways either a) work around South Korean’s notoriously fast paced & time-stretched lifestyles in order to gain more grocery sales, or b) leverage that pace instead of working around it.  Their ingenious answer was to quite literally bring the store to the consumers as travel en-mass to and from work each day.

By outfitting several of Seoul’s subway stations with large lifelike photographic displays of grocery store shelves with pictures of staple items such as fruit, vegetables and meat, Home Plus was able to insert themselves into the thought processes of hundreds of thousands of people during the peak dayparts when consumers were most likely to be thinking along those lines.  I would call this a smart move but certainly not revolutionary.

And then they did something really ingenious.  Each of the grocery items on the “virtual shelves” had an associated QR code that the customer could scan – right there in the subway station – and assemble a virtual shopping cart.  Payment could be made via their smart phone and, in some cases, the groceries could be delivered by the time the customer arrived home.

Did Home Plus’ campaign in and of itself achieve “omni-ness”?  I would have to say no.  But they came up with an effective touchpoint in an unlikely pathway and that, it seems to me, is a very good first step towards the ubiquity that omnichannel retailing seems to promise.


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