Mobile and data are key to omnichannel

PHILADELPHIA—When thinking how to strategize for omnichannel, Abercrombie and Fitch, Walgreens and Fanatics all put mobile first, but for varying reasons. With mobile in the mix, these retailers also have the opportunity and challenge of dealing with much more data. 

Mobile first for Abercrombie was a natural choice based on its customer base: teenagers. This group who used hang out at the mall, are now spending most of their time on digital devices.

As a result, Abercrombie's digital strategy starts with the smallest screen, the smartphone, and works its way up to tablets and then computers, according to Billy May, Abercrombie & Fitch's senior VP of digital, e-commerce and corporate development. "We try to feature rich content in a way that drives shoppers to explore more, everything is touch-enabled and focused on friction-less shopping," May said at the Digital Summit 2015.

For Walgreens, the mobile app may not have been the most obvious go-to strategy. However, according to Deepika Pandey, global VP of digital marketing, media and customer experience at Walgreens, mobile was a priority for Walgreens from the beginning—and the strategy has paid off.

Walgreens' multichannel customers spend three to six times more than store-only customers, although the omnichannel strategy overall is driven by stores, according to Pandey. She said the team is constantly thinking of ways to use online and mobile to drive in-store traffic, then how to transform the in-store experience to be consistent.

For example, Walgreens' recently redesigned its app to display the most popular features in a list, replacing the former, busier tile format. The app also displays a different home screen if the user is in a store, including specific store information, personalized offers, inventory and paperless coupons, Pandey said.

On the other hand, Fanatics CEO Doug Mack placed emphasis on a mobile optimized website over a mobile app. As the largest licensed sports merchandise retailer, Mack said, "Sports fans always have a second screen nearby."

Mack and May also both noted the power of data, much of which comes from devices. May said Abercrombie uses around 80 attributes to characterize a customer, and that targeted messages based on those characteristics work nearly 15 times better than generic messages.

"Data is marketing," Mack said. He showed a heat map of sales in the U.S. during a big game. Certain regions began lighting up at halftime, and at the final buzzer, the map exploded with large regions lighting up across the country. Fanatics is building specific fan profiles based on sales data, favorite teams, geolocation and social feeds in hopes of creating hyper-personalized moments for fans.

Data doesn't necessarily make marketing and selling easier. Retailers must figure out which data points are important and which composition will create a meaningful customer profile. "Those who solve this data challenge first will have an immense competitive advantage," Mack said.

See all FierceRetail's 2015 coverage.

Related Stories:
Social media and POS data key to fast-fashion insights
Google, Target data shows mobile search ads drive in-store sales
Fanatics to host NBA flagship store
Walgreens partners with health care provider for 25 in-store clinics
Abercrombie returns to logos to woo older millennials