Two weeks ago I attended Shop.org in Denver. As I walked around the expo hall, I was struck by a change in messaging. A number of vendors are now talking about “omni-channel.” I was not surprised. The wave of digital integration from mobile, tablet, websites and stores is underway and picking up momentum.
Besides the change in language, there were other indicators that integration is top of mind for retailers. Probably the largest was the interest in integration between mobile devices and stores. Not surprisingly, everyone seems to want the “Apple experience.” That is, enabling in store agents with digital devices to assist and transact business with customers without a podium and a cash register.”
In his keynote presentation, Jamie Nordstrom really brought this home. Nordstrom is viewed as a leader in retail online integration and they will not have any fixed POS islands in their stores in a few years as they move toward digitally-enabled sales associates. Another indication of the popularity of this topic, I sat at a lunch roundtable on multi-channel integration. The hosts for the table were from The North Face and the digital vendor who created their mobile application. They were talking about how the mobile application gives users access to store inventory. Sitting at the table were retailers from Levis, Adidas, and more. Everyone was talking about digital enablement of their retail stores with iPads. I was struck by the fact that even though there was no room at the table, people were standing and pulling up chairs to listen. This was the only table where I saw that happening. Vendors and retailers are singing the same song and iPads are clearly making their way into stores. With market leaders sharing their strategies and others taking baby steps in the right direction, it would appear that omni-channel is quickly becoming reality.