Why are we still talking omni-bollocks, when we should be talking retail?

Why all the jargon?

Why all the omni-channel cliches and the multi-channel job titles? Why all the endless debates about whether digital is right for a brand or not, or digital versus in-store?

We all know by now that digital thinking can’t be siloed.  

That it works best as an active and integrated part of the retail mix, supporting and complementing the whole shopping experience.

So, why are we still going on about it?

Well, amazingly, at the retail and digital conferences I attend and speak at, these same old debates do seem to rumble on.  

There is an old guard who are still in denial, who need convincing that digital is not simply eating away at bricks and mortar profitability.  

Marketing teams are still asking us for help to sell in joined up digital thinking to their senior management.

So if we’re still banging on about "omni-channel" and "digital transformation" maybe it’s because the focus remains within silos and those lessons don’t seem to haven’t been universally adopted.

Are we making digital sound too complicated?

But maybe we’re so bound up in the omni-channel rhetoric and jargon that the digital world is simply not making the case well enough. 

Maybe the problem is the new media age punks chasing or being given the latest cool-sounding job titles and spouting the latest omni-bingo terms. 

Maybe we aren’t telling the story clearly enough. Ironically, maybe it’s the focus on digital itself that’s misleading.

We need to remember that BHS, Austin Reed and the rest did not collapse because they failed at digital, they collapsed because they failed at retail.

It’s just retail

Digital is not replacing real world sales but lifting performance and building profitability across the board.

It is simply helping retailers to sell more product in more ways than ever before.

From click and collect, to location-based services and mobile, in 2016 we are seeing digital more and more bridging the gap between the physical and virtual world.

It is breathing life into the whole retail sector and making it a formidable force in the economy.

Where’s the proof?

Online retail is continuing to expand; experts are forecasting more than 18% growth in 2016 alone.  

But total retail spend is also on the increase from £13.3trn last year to a projected £13.7trn in 2016. 

Smart brands are realising that all of their real estate (digital and physical) are assets that can work together to drive customer satisfaction and profitability.

So, bricks and mortar retail is not dead?

No, but digital has killed off the idea of the convenience store because physical retail is no longer a ‘convenience’. 

We’re no longer popping to the shops because it’s the simplest thing to do. Online is now by far the easiest way for consumers to transact.  

Digital is what we turn to first in the buying cycle and remains their to assist in every aspect of a real world purchase, too,

Digital retail is not eating the lunch of their bricks and mortar operations, it is redefining what those operations are for and how they work.

The mobile revolution changed the world

In the story of mobile we can see the way a single digital channel has reconfigured the entire shopping experience. 

Of course, it’s become a powerful retail platform in its own right, it now accounts for one-third of the retail sales in the US (source: Internet Retailer). 

But mobile has become the ultimate shopping assistant in real world sales, too. Mobile is the operating system that navigates your customers to your physical store. 

Today there are 34 times more ‘find my nearest’ requests made on mobile than there were in 2011, according to Google. 

Mobile is the operating system that makes the consumer more knowledgeable about the product they are about to buy.

Already this year consumers have spent 100m hours watching ‘how to’ videos on their handsets, while 82% of consumers have turned to their smartphone for advice before making an in-store purchase.

This isn’t a channel that’s driving customers away from shops!

Destination Retail

But one thing digital is doing is placing a new emphasis on retail premises as ‘destinations’ in their own right. 

With luxury brands leading the way, stores are becoming more attractive as places to spend time and money. 

They offer location-specific experiences, they build loyal communities and relationships, precisely because they do so in the real world.

And it’s easy to see how digital experiences can be built around those communities, through apps, notifications, concierge services and the like, to help evangelise brands and create further real world and online sales.

Death to the buzzword!

As digital marketers let’s tell our stories without resorting to buzzwords, jargon and other omni-bollocks

It’s getting us a bad reputation and switching people off.

Consumers don’t see themselves as ‘multi’ or ‘omni’ anything, they simply want to choose the most convenient way to shop at any particular moment. 

They are becoming less patient and more demanding. They expect retailers to provide a connected and on-demand shopping experience - anytime, anywhere.

Digital channels are key to these new customer experiences, but they are part of an organic whole.

Forget about the digital fairy stories, what’s important is what makes consumers tick and what makes them buy - wherever and whenever. 

If we focus on those things we’ll really help the total retail sector continue to grow.

Chris Bishop

Published 14 June, 2016 by Chris Bishop

Chris Bishop is Founder & CEO of 7thingsmedia and a contributor to Econsultancy. He can also be found on Twitter and LinkedIn.

17 more posts from this author

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Comments (2)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

Source of that 34x figure. Good article BTW and it's from April 2015:
"Google search interest in "near me" has increased 34X since 2011 and nearly doubled since last year. The vast majority come from mobile—80% in Q4 2014."

https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/i-want-to-go-micro-moments.html

over 1 year ago

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Simon Swan, Head of Digital Marketing at Met OfficeEnterprise

Great post Chris - Changing organisations mindset and putting the customer at the centre of the conversation should eliminate the unnecessary jargon!

There are already a number of initiatives that have be born through the digital retail redefining bricks and mortar operations e.g.

Same Day Delivery - working together (offline and online) has provided a better customer experience through the delivery of products on the same day - just take a look at the start-ups such as Instacart and blablacar

Click & Collect - Convenience and speed of delivery for the customer to purchase an item from a store’s website and collect the item from their high street store, eliminating the need to take out personal time

Identifying customer pain-points, turning these into opportunities whether "online of offline" is the real opportunity

over 1 year ago

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