Commerce, Anyway You Want It
By David Dorf on Mar 15, 2011
I believe our industry is finally starting to realize the importance of letting consumers determine how, when, and where to interact with retailers. Over the last few months I've seen several articles discussing the importance of removing the barriers between existing channels. Paula Rosenblum of RSR first brought the term omni-channel to my attention back in September. She stated, "omni-channel retail isn't the merging of channels -- rather, it's the use of all possible channels (present and future) to enhance the customer experience in a profitable way." I added to her thoughts in this blog posting in which I said, "For retailers to provide an omni-channel experience, there needs to be one logical representation of products, prices, promotions, and customers across all channels. The only thing that varies is the presentation of the content based on the delivery mechanism (e.g. shelf labels, mobile phone, web site, print, etc.) and often these mechanisms can be combined in various ways."
More recently Brian Walker of Forrester suggested we stop using the term multi-channel and begin thinking more about consumer touch-points. "It is time for organizations to leave their channel-oriented ways behind, and enter the era of agile commerce--optimizing their people, processes and technology to serve today's empowered, ever-connected customers across this rapidly evolving set of customer touch points."
Now Jason Goldberg, better known as RetailGeek, says we should start breaking down the channel silos by re-casting the VP of E-Commerce as the VP of Digital Marketing, and change his/her focus to driving sales across all channels using digital media. This logic is based on the fact that consumers switch between channels, or touch-points as Brian prefers, as part of their larger buying process. Today's smart consumer leverages the Web, mobile, and stores to provide the best shopping experience, so retailers need to make this easier.
Regardless of what we call it, the key take-away is that "multi-channel" is not only an antiquated term but also an idea who's time has passed. Today, retailers must look at e-commerce, m-commerce, f-commerce, catalogs, and traditional store sales collectively and through the consumers' eyes. The goal is not to drive sales through each channel but rather to just drive sales -- using whatever method the customer prefers. There really should be just one cart.