The obvious obviousness of omni-channel

Sitting in sessions at last month’s NRF annual conference I might have thought a drinking game had launched where you would down a shot every time someone said “omni-channel” or uttered the phrase “seamless integration.”

Speaker after speaker–as well as subsequent press coverage–rattled off buzz-phrases, statistics and factoids regarding multi-channel consumer behavior as if this were some big new discovery or insight.

All this proved was one inescapable fact. There are two types of retailers in this world: those that have been paying attention and those that haven’t.

If you’ve been paying attention all of this has been obvious for years. If not, you are suddenly awakening to the cold harsh reality that you are behind. Perhaps way behind.

Any brand that has taken the time to understand consumer behavior already knows that consumers think brand first, and channel second. Any retailer that analyzes their customer data understands how digital commerce influences brick and mortar sales–and vice versa. Any company that has been willing to look, appreciates the large degree of cross-channel behavior that has been evident (and growing) for years.

It’s been more than 5 years since retailers like JC Penney, Sears and Neiman Marcus stated publicly that customers that purchase in 2 or more channels outspend single channel customers by a factor of 3 to 4X. In 2006–nearly six years ago!–my team did an analysis that showed that more than 50% of Neiman Marcus’ total sales (and a higher percent of profit) came from customers that purchased in multiple channels within a 12 month period.

The proliferation of robust mobile devices–smart phones and tablets–add more touch-points, new functionality and serve to further blur the lines between channels, while creating the need for more frictionless integration.

There is a big difference between a new reality emerging and your becoming aware of a reality that is already there.  And it’s dangerous to be confused about that.

Obviously.

 

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