Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Integrated Retail-How retailers are wooing customers through every communication channel?

While preparing for an interview, I have come across really good articles and whole different perspective on how companies build their strategies with the growing evolution of technology and how the gap between online sales and bricks and mortar sales is diminishing.

Online sales made up about $300 billion last year, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.[2]  It is getting hard to differentiate the channel from which  a particular sale was made. This has called for retailers adapting to a new integrated business model called omni-channel/integrated retailing. What is integrated retailing?

Integrated retail is an approach where the consumer experience is same through all the available shopping channels; i.e. bricks and mortars, catalog, online and mobile devices.

Companies like Apple, Nike and Toys “R” Us are way ahead of the pack in implementing this model, allowing customers to buy online and pick up at stores, browse in the stores and buy online etc. Retailers like Wal-Mart, Sears have implemented this model through Site-to-Store shipping feature.

Technology becomes the key component for the success of integrated retail. Sears CEO Louis D’Amboise has said that, "We believe the retailers who best use technology to integrate the customer experience across all channels will be the ones who win,"[1] The core of integrated retail strategy is Sear’s Shop Your Way Rewards program. Sears is building the rewards program to better connect with their customers.

As part of the strategy, Sears Holdings Corp has rolled out iPad or iPod devices to almost 450 Sears and Kmart stores around the country. Sales associates are given these devices to help customers access product information, order products online and check inventory for the products all at the shopping floor.

The biggest challenge the retailer will face is provide these services to users consistently. Raj Penkar, SVP and President, Supply Chain, Sears Holdings Corp state that, “For retailers like us who have both a brick-and-mortar presence and a strong online presence, the challenge and opportunity is to fulfill the promise of omni-channel, or what we call integrated retail. So we also need a flexible supply chain that can actually fulfill that promise.”[4]

Could you think of other ideas that retailers can adapt to the integrated retail strategy they already have in place?
Could you think of an innovative way, a retailer can reach out to a customer and ensure they buy the product in any channel of their choice?

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