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Internet Retailing Expo 2014: Review

I attended the Internet Retailing Exhibition a couple of weeks ago with the intention of finding out more about omnichannel in the retail arena. There is a lot of noise about the influx of ‘omnichannel strategy’ right now and the potential benefits within the retail landscape, but what I wanted to know was where we are in the evolution from multi to omnichannel in reality. Mobile is a fundamental element within the retail engagement mix and it’s the obvious tool for facilitating an omni approach, so I was interested to see how it is being used.

It would appear from attending seminars that took place during the event that big players such as Google, Tesco and BrandAlley are keen ambassadors of the theme of omnichannel and are talking about its processes fluently, without explicitly addressing it as ‘omnichannel’, a new and exciting buzzword, this might be because for some businesses, this has been a natural progression and they have simply evolved with the times.

Speakers touched on the importance of mapping out the communication process, so for example, an SMS is sent to the customers phone enabling them to buy an item, as well as providing the opportunity to collect from the store, with an email then being sent to say thank you for purchasing with them, providing an end to end experience

Whether talking about the current state or future of retail, it is clear that it is a very prominent part of the discussion when it comes to dealing with process of attracting consumers. In practice, however, I still think that even though it’s being talked about confidently, there is still a blurred line between the practice of multichannel and omnichannel for many retailers because in reality there is still a transition taking place between the two, adjusting and fine tuning the multichannel process into a seamless, omnichannel presence. However, I fear that retailers are already behind and need to start adopting omnichannel principles soon to meet increasing consumer demand.

For example, it’s estimated that more than five million UK consumers opt-in to receive mobile messages from retailers, however, research recently conducted by Oxygen8 shows that nearly half (42%) of GB consumers don’t feel any of the marketing communications they receive from businesses via their mobile devices are relevant or useful and a further 44% find less than a quarter of the messages they receive of value. This is worrying considering that we are moving very quickly into an omnichannel world and given the amount of data that is available to brands, the scattergun approach should have been disarmed by now.

The importance of personalisation was also a very big area of discussion and understanding who the consumer is, what devices they are using, when they are using them and what they are using them for were provided as big pointers when it comes to assessing data and what can be learnt from it. Personalisation isn’t a new thing, but similar to the notion of omnichannel, it’s talked about a lot more than it is actually deployed by businesses.

As always talks around mobile payments were pitched as a waiting game, waiting for adoption from either the consumer, banks or retailers and that, as always, we are on the cusp of all of them happening at “some point soon”. Watch this space I guess, but could o-commerce be the next buzzword the watch out for?

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