Business Standard

Book Extract: Integrated shopping

Most retail functions are organised into competing silos. To provide omnichannel experience, companies must first reorganise their own businesses

Kit Yarrow 

Consumers are aching for a seamless, experience across all of the channels where they explore, research, purchase, and share. Nearly half of respondents in a recent Accenture survey believe that the best thing can do to improve the shopping experience is to better integrate in-store, online, and mobile shopping channels. According to the study, regardless of their original shopping touchpoint- in-store, online or mobile-consumers expect their interaction with to be a customized, uncomplicated and instantaneous experience.

Ken Nisch, chairman of the retail design and strategy firm JGA, is one of the most influential people in retail design. According to Nisch, "There's a dance between mobile, Web, and bricks and mortar. It shouldn't be about who gets credit. Every experience is an opportunity. For example, the store's role in that dance is increasingly seen as pull marketing, that emotional connection that's more powerful than simply selling." Nisch uses the North Face, one of his clients, as an example. Customers can plan trips online, connect with athletes in-store, and receive offers on their mobile devices. Each medium reinforces the others. As Nisch says, "There's a dynamic, symbiotic connection between all three." During the nascent years of online shopping, tried to comfort wary shoppers by creating an online environment that mimicked aspects of in-store shopping - like shopping carts. Today nearly 60 per cent of consumers say their overall favorite way to shop is online.

The opportunities today are in applying online successes to in-store environments and in better integrating every shopping experience, whatever the medium. For example, communities can be created online and in-store, each experience of community designed to reinforce the other. And both online and brick-and-mortar stores can simultaneously be places to buy as well as powerful brand-building communication tools. Most notably, consumers want a more technovated in-store shopping experience: they want all the benefits of online shopping brought into stores.

Many retailers are scrambling to catch up to consumers in offering an experience. "Consumers move far more quickly than organisations," says Dave Hogue, former VP of user design at the digital agency

The challenge for most retailers is that they're organised into competing silos of expertise. Integrating the experience for consumers means reorganizing the business. Jason Goldberg is VP of strategy for the digital marketing firm Razorfish and on the board of directors, the digital division of the National Retail Federation. To his many fans and followers, he's known as "retailgeek." Goldberg has a three-part strategy to achieve the omnichannel integration consumers are craving.

Set up new success criteria and metrics: "You can't change siloed behaviors until you have new ways to measure happy success stories across channels. You have to give credit along the line rather than to only the point where the final transaction took place. That's how people interact with retailers; they're influenced across channels. Leaders are getting better about talking about the problems, but the metrics are still the same in most retail organizations. Divisions within companies are not only typically not aligned, but often they're in competition with each other - even adversarial because of this competition."

Designate an omnichannel leader: "With a VP of marketing, a VP of e-commerce, a VP of retail-who owns the customer experience? Companies that are restructured around a holistic consumer experience have greater integration and accountability. Macy's, for example, has a chief omnichannel officer, a very senior role with responsibility for an integrated customer experience."

Take an inventory of all the places your customer experiences your brand. "For many, that list will start with only a website, store, and call center. But your customer may also comment about their experience on Twitter, learn on Facebook, search on mobile, and so on. Customer journey mapping gives you the chance to figure out the good and bad of every aspect of the customer's experience with the brand. Invariably this becomes a horrifyingly long list."

Reprinted with permission from the publisher. Copyright 2014 All rights reserved.

Author: Kit Yarrow
Publisher: Wiley
Price: Rs 599
ISBN: 9788126550258

Businesses must encourage consumers to champion their products on social media platforms: Kit Yarrow
Kit Yarrow
It is simply old school to think that tooting your own horn is as effective as encouraging your consumers to do the talking for you , author Kit Yarrow tells Ankita Rai

The Gen Y want seamless shopping experience, irrespective of the touch point they use to connect with brands. How can brands connect and engage with them?

It is not only Gen Y that's tech savvy. Technology impacts nearly ever consumer - not just in how they acquire information about brands and how they choose to buy - but also in how their use of technology has impacted their psychology. For one thing, we simply get bored more easily and crave richer, more engaging experiences and products. So, I suggest "ramp up" everything that you do - more product turnover, more exciting campaigns, more intense and largely visual messaging and so forth. Understand the power that technology has given to consumers.

Businesses need to encourage consumers to champion their products and brands to others through social media, representation on websites and social media platforms, contests and through ratings and reviews. It's simply old school to think that tooting your own horn is as effective as encouraging your consumers to do the talking for you. Marketing has to catch up to this new psychology.

sites are doing much better when it comes to customised offerings and intelligent, analytics-based product suggestions and so on. What are some of key things brick-and-mortar retailers can learn from online sites?

This is a gold-mine of opportunity for retailers. I'm right now in the middle of a large research project and I've talked to scores of shoppers about how they integrate in-store with online shopping. In a nutshell, they want the easy sorting, fast price comparisons, inventory transparency and ratings capabilities in stores.

They want to go to a store, they want to touch a merchandise and make immediate purchases - but they find the experience frustrating because it is clunky and slow compared to online shopping. There are many platforms that can be incorporated into brick-and-mortar stores such as the digital signage, interactive ratings devices, faster checkout and many of the other things that consumers love about online shopping. The stores that do this, even in a rudimentary way, are truly admired by consumers.

KIT Yarrow
professor psychology & marketing, Golden Gate University

First Published: Mon, September 15 2014. 00:11 IST