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Omnichannel the hot topic at NRF 2019

By Kristopher Fraser


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The world’s tech, finance, and entrepreneurs collide every year at the National Retail Federation conference. The buzzword this season was omnichannel. As retailers work to integrate everything across all their platforms from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce, tech companies, consultants, and investors are responding rapidly.

Swiss outdoor brand Mammut has collaborated with Smartrac, an RFID and IoT pacesetter, making them one of the first outdoor brands with NFC technology and one of the first sports brands with an experience concept underpinning this specific technology. RFID is radio frequency identification. Smartrac enables products to have digital recognition through NFC tags. “Omnichannel is the subject for retailers,” said Karen Fabri, head of corporate communications and marketing at Smartrac, to FashionUnited. “Consumers are going digital, and it is inevitable. This is across the board from baby boomers to millennials. They want to have enhanced services and consumer experiences. What Smartrac provides to customers massively supports that.”

She added that, “Consumers want to have instant information and enhanced consumer experience. Looking forward if you combine offline and online words, and this is growing fast. Retailers and brand owners are reacting to that, so RFID technology and our products support that.

With Mammut, a smartphone app can be used to tap on a product’s NFC touch point to deliver digital content and services to customers throughout the product’s lifetime.

Digital performance company Riverbed recently published the results of its Riverbed Retail Digital Trends Survey, exploring the insights and perspectives of consumers regarding the digital retail experience and what they desire from retailers to stay engaged, loyal and satisfied. The global survey of 3000 consumers from across the United States, Australia, and Germany reveals that brick-and-mortar retailers are more apt to grow and maintain a loyal customer base if they invest in the digital experience they offer shoppers both online and in-store.

89 percent of respondents said a positive digital shopping experience impacts brand loyalty just as much as their prices, and 79 percent believe brick-and-mortar retailers have a short, three-year window to provide shoppers with digital experiences in order to remain competitive.

“About half of customers in our survey said they visited a physical store for the first time after having a really positive online experience,” said Subbu Lyer, CMO of Riverbed, to FashionUnited. “Not surprisingly 60 percent of those customers were millennials. If they like the online experience with a particular brand, then they are going into their stores. If you don’t have a good digital experience, then you have that car dealership problem where customers won’t even come to your store.”

Customers are looking for experiences to bring them into stores including things like automated checkout, over preference for talking to a human. 60 percent of customers going into a store would prefer to purchase things without having to talk to someone. However, this is different for luxury goods, where customers expect more of a VIP and one-on-one client experience. It is still possible for brick-and-mortar to live alongside e-commerce, believe it or not. “Customers want everything they can do in a physical store to be possible online, and vice versa,” Lyer said to FashionUnited.

One of the key components of an omnichannel approach is loyalty programs. Mike Grimes, president of Ecrebo, has created a product for total receipt marketing that turns POS receipts into targeted media with no IT burden.

“Our product is very beneficial to retailers seeking an ominchannel approach because most retailers are still stuck with paper engagement,” Grimes said to FashionUnited. To that end, Ecrebo is able to do things like create QR codes on receipts to help drive digital usage. With all smartphones able to scan QR codes at this point, it can send customers to a website via scanning their receipt, and it can go to website with all their transaction and loyalty information. Some incentive could be given to engage digitally such as offering a discount for first time use, using paper receipts from in-store to drive digital traffic.

Ecrebo also has been great in helping customer retention. When customers leave a store, they have offers for discounts and promotions in their face in a way that e-mails and other forms of marketing don’t.

Tulip, a mobile application provider focused on empowering workers in retail stores, has helped sales associates digitize their customer service abilities. The company recently announced a partnership with Google Cloud to help stores use the platform to help with analytics and curating the shopping experience for individual customers. By analyzing data from Tulip’s in-store mobile applications, retailers will be able to use machine learning to uncover customer insights and sales opportunities.

The new Tulip solution will make recommendations on when to connect with customers and how to engage with them with highly personal and relevant communications. For certain stores, where millions of dollars of their business is done via e-mail and a strong clientele model, programs like Tulip are helpful for integrating omnichannel, and being able to get customers in store based on their very specific shopping needs or tastes, and get them shopping online when new things become available.

If retailers expect to continue retaining customers, digital and brick-and-mortar need to coincide, it doesn’t need to an and/or approach. The future is omnichannel, and the future is now.

photo: via Nrfbigshow.com
National Retail Federation