All sales must be customer-centric

Palm Springs, Calif.—The word "omnichannel" seems to be losing favor among retailers, as suggested by Wednesday morning's keynote at eTail West, which focused on the importance of staying competitive in a multichannel retail climate.

Representatives from Sur La Table, The Disney Store, HSN and Ivodo are instead becoming more comfortable uniting their multichannel retail strategies within a single customer-centric focus, while maintaining an emphasis on distinctive strategy.

"Omni means 'all' and to say we have one strategy across all channels is wrong," said Kevin Ertell, senior VP, digital, Sur La Table. "We're focused on making a great customer experience in each channel and then bringing them together."

The panelists all agreed that retail employees must remain hard-driving in sales to keep stores competitive, which has become increasingly difficult as the lines between channels blur. For instance, if a customer orders online and picks up in-store, is the credit for the sale attributed to the online platform's convenience or the brick-and-mortar sales associate who helps the customer?

For The Disney Store, the incentive for sales associates to rack up conversions in-store remains strong, even if the final purchase is completed online.

"When our customers shop online and in-store, they spend more money in each channel, so this one view of the consumer is beneficial to all," said Elissa Margolis, senior VP and general manager, The Disney Store.

The panelists agreed that the struggle to make the in-store sale can be alleviated if retailers start thinking of customer conversion opportunities more comprehensively. "We know that 92 percent of our customers shop somewhat in-store and one-third shop only in-store," said Ertell. "Everyone realizes the impact of how this all works together."

In order to instill a strong view of the brand with the customer, retailers need to be focused on building a better connection between platforms. According to the 2015 and Forrester Research State of Retailing Online report, building a multichannel platform was the second-largest priority among retailers behind mobile. Of those surveyed, 45 percent wanted to invest in strategies focusing on buy online, pick up in store; ship-from-store; and increased inventory visibility.

"At first we wanted that experience online to be similar to what's happening in-store," said Craig Wax, CEO, Invodo. "But for many customers the online experience is now better than in-store, so now we're flipping back to how can we focus on making a better in-store experience to mirror online."

Beyond the need for a holistic view of customer conversions, the panelists also spoke to the importance of original content. With so many channels, building new and interesting content is a must and can range from mobile videos to emails with cooking recipes. But creating enough interesting content that shoppers actually want can be a real challenge for retailers.

During another eTail West panel, Frederick Lecoq, senior VP of marketing and commerce, FGL Sports, talked about the massive amount of content his Sport Chek stores need to produce in order to keep up with its digitally transformed stores. The retailer recently opened a location in West Edmonton with 470 screens and 200 channels, so there has to be a dedicated team keeping up with the ever-changing content.

"It comes down to experience and differentiation," said Margolis. "We sell a lot of our products through Amazon. But at The Disney Store, we have exclusive content and we're storytellers."

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