The omni-channel consumer is shaping the future of retail.
80% of shoppers check prices online, a third of them using smartphones or other mobile devices while inside the brick-and-mortar store.
The line between online and offline shopping has become so blurred that Macy’s, an early leader in omni-channel merchandising, now refers to itself as an “omni-channel retail organization operating stores and websites,” according to an annual report from the company. In fact, Macy’s no longer breaks down its sales by channel.
Some go so far as to say that the term “e-commerce” should be abandoned altogether because it’s all simply “commerce.”
From mobile devices and desktop computers to social networks and online reviews, informed consumers know how to get information on products and complete transactions across multiple channels. Smart retailers are adapting to consumers’ desire to approach their shopping experience from a variety of angles and are finding ways to reach those consumers in real time.
Recognizing the importance of this new trend, Walmart has introduced guidelines for suppliers to provide a seamless omni-channel experience. Among other things, suppliers are now encouraged to provide photos and a description for all SKUs sold in-store for use on Walmart.com.
As with any major new initiative, suppliers have many questions and concerns. A number of these came up the recent Dotcom Conference in Bentonville, AR. Specific questions touched on in-store food categories and their relative lack of content, the look of Walmart specifications, the relationship between Walmart and content providers, and new Dotcom-related fields that will be added to Retail Link.
A particularly pertinent question was posed by a supplier who sells a heavy, hazardous waste item in Walmart. He wanted to know why, when the product cannot be shipped directly to the consumer, he should do anything more than the bare minimum to make information on his product available online. No doubt other suppliers are in a similar situation, selling goods that don’t lend themselves to typical online sales.
A representative from Walmart answered the question this way: “If the item is for sale in a Walmart store, more online information will give the customer the option to research online, potentially increasing the in-store sales. Less information about the item could give an incomplete picture of your product.”
An online presence is critical in an omni-channel environment, even for items that will most likely be sold only in stores.
Suppliers interested in learning more about this important topic are invited to attend 8th & Walton’s two-day workshop, “Managing the Omni-Channel Experience.” This workshop will address these questions and more:
- What is the significance of Omni-Channel to my business?
- Why is online presence so important?
- How do I optimize my online presence?
- What is rich content and how is it delivered?
- How do I manage my E-Commerce or Omni-Channel business?