When the very first book was sold on Amazon or Flipkart, the term omni-channel hadn’t even been coined yet. E-stores were taking baby steps and the number of channels to reach out to customer were limited.

Today however, the situation has taken a paradigm shift. If you’ve watched the movie Minority Report, in one scene Tom Cruise sprints through a futuristic shopping mall. He is surrounded by realistic and interactive displayed ads. As the shot progresses a sensor discreetly scans him while a futuristic Gap store enquires if he still likes the top he purchased earlier.

I’m not so sure if this can in the true sense be considered ‘futuristic’ any more. As the fast paced technology keeps galloping ahead, multi-channel retailers who operate both e-commerce and in-store are not far behind. Think of brands like Urban Ladder who now use wearable technology to enable customers to convert on any channel. Why? Because shoppers who buy in-store and online are their most valuable customers. Even e-commerce giants like Flipkart aren’t far behind, who has launched 20 pick up stores across the country where customers can collect their shipments at their own convenient time.

How does this help? This invariably resolves delivery efficiency challenges as well as provides a fringe benefit to Flipkart, that the customer exposes his package to a larger audience at the workplace than what would happen at home. To further substantiate  why this is a good move, here are just a few of data points:

      • 73 percent of consumers feel information about in-store stock level to be critical to decision-making, while only 31 percent of retailers offer that information
      • 49 percent of consumers want in-store pick-up for items purchased online or via mobile, but just 38 percent of retailers offer this service
      • When in-store pick-up is available, 42 percent of shoppers want to pick up their item within an hour, and only 59 percent of retailers are capable of fulfilling that expectation

Now, picture this: When a customer enters the pick up store to collect his order, he is asked for his customer number. When this information is entered, it can be seen that the customer has already made online purchases in the past month. Based on the amount, the sales team receives a notification stating that the customer is in line to get a fifteen percent discount on any purchase made on that day.

When the customer is at the pick up store to collect a brown jacket in medium size that does not necessarily fit him, he is then lead them to the right rack in store. Additionally, he is provided with product information and positive customer opinions. He is also shown a pair of jeans as a potential cross sell opportunity, as a recommendation.

Note how different this is to the previous scenario. The pick up store now serves as a look up store simultaneously. Here, the difference is that customer has a superior shopping experience and can leave the store fully satisfied. This further strives to blur the lines between the online and offline experience.

Each of these capabilities is vital for seamless retailing. As customers expect retailers to provide consistent and contextual services across every channel and interaction, retailers need to adopt new ways that enable this critical transformation to omni-channel customer engagement and service. Even services such as providing a shipping discount when a customer picks up his order from a pick store located at a convenient mall, apartment or corporate parks is a great idea. A prime focus on omni-channel retailing enables retailers to create a more consistent consumer experience across online, mobile and in-store channels and ultimately increases their brands’ relevance to their customers.

What do you think? Would a pick up store be a great idea to simultaneously serve as a look up store?

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